Harvard Unveils Ellen Portrait

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A full-length portrait of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been unveiled by authorities of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts, United States of America.

According to a dispatch from Cambridge, the full-length portrait is an amazing likeness of the Liberian President. It shows her dressed in her favorite color, green, draped in a beautiful green and gold sash and matching skirt made from cloth woven in Liberia, and her signature head-tie, also green, with a gold-jeweled brooch. The attire is accented by her signature single row of pearls and a pin of the Liberian flag, the Lone Star.

The unveiling of the Liberian leader’s portrait was part of the campaign launch for the Harvard Kennedy School, known as IDEASpHERE. President Sirleaf is a distinguished alumna of the School’s Edward S. Mason Fellows Program (MC/MPA 1971). The portrait was unveiled at a ceremony on Thursday, May 15.

The portrait which was painted by Artist Stephen Coit, himself an alumnus of Harvard, is to hang in Library of Kennedy School as an inspiration to future generations of Kennedy School students, authority said.

The unveiling took place at a private reception in honor of President Sirleaf, hosted by the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP), one of Harvard Kennedy School’s Research Centers.

The dispatch says that as President Sirleaf arrived at the Malkin Penthouse, in the Littauer Center Harvard Kennedy School, adoring supporters, mostly women, surrounded her to wish her well and thank her for all that she has achieved in her career and life. Everyone sought a photo with HKS’s most illustrious alumna.

Being astonished by what she saw, there was a loud “Wow! From the Liberian President, reacting to her amazing portrait.

She went on to say: “A big thank you. Words cannot express the honor that I feel, and through me, the honor extended to women in Liberia, women in Africa, and I daresay women in the world, for the role that we all continue to play.

I want to thank Jenny Mansbridge; she was a driving force behind this; Francine Lefrak; you, Dean Bohnet, who I’m told started the whole program of IDEASpHERE that we will all be participating in so many events.

“I said to Stephen Coit, ‘How did you do it?’ I have to say that he sent me a note on the experience we shared when he did the painting. Am I right it’s a painting? What he captured in the note he sent me really was a story of my life’s journey, because he talked about darkness into light, humility in the midst of turmoil, perseverance, courage. Thank you.

“I’m so deeply honored to join the other three persons which you mentioned, sterling women – I need to learn more about them so that I walk properly in their footsteps. And to all of you – the Women and Public Policy Program, the Women Leadership Group – that have really supported these events.

A few of you I had the opportunity to meet before and interact with. Just being back here with you is what keeps me going; that’s the motivation and the inspiration when I can join all of you who have had such a big part to play in the success that I’ve had. And so, thank you all; it’s been a wonderful occasion. I go back home, almost walking on water. Thank you, Dean.”

Earlier, in his welcoming remarks, Dean Ellwood said the event was to honor a most remarkable graduate and its only Nobel Peace Prize winner. She was an amazing leader who took over a country with many challenges, and had done an amazing job to make things work.

With women like President Sirleaf, he believed there was hope for the world, after all. The commissioning of the portrait, he said, was also to make things right by including the portraits of more women at Harvard especially that of the Harvard Kennedy School’s most distinguished graduate.

Dr. Iris Bohnet, Academic Dean and Director of the Women and Public Policy Program, thanked the people who had made the commissioning possible: Professor Jane (Jenny) Mansbridge, Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, founding faculty Chair of the WAPPP, and the leader behind President Sirleaf’s portrait,

It was in September 2012 that Dean David T. Ellwood, Dean of the Kennedy School, informed President Sirleaf that HKS wished to commission her portrait to hang in its Library as an inspiration to future generations of Kennedy School students. Upon her acceptance, the School commissioned Mr. Coit, also a Harvard alumnus, to create a full-length portrait of Liberia's and Africa’s first female President.

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