The National Orator at the 167th Independence anniversary of Liberia, Dr. Elizabeth Davis Russell, has proposed a “New Order” that when followed, will help bring Liberia out of its current state of backwardness as wells as ensure infrastructural and human development.
Speaking at the independence celebration on July 26 at the Centennial Pavilion in Monrovia, Dr. Davis-Russell, who is also the President of the Tubman University in Maryland County, proposed a module of stewardship challenging the common practice of leadership that is often built upon self-aggrandizement. She spoke on the theme, “We Must Bring About Transformation.”
The veteran educator called for the transformation of minds, attitudes and behaviors if Liberians are to rebuild their country collectively, observing that in the face of competing priorities of infrastructural development, education and healthcare, it is of the utmost importance to seriously focus on the human factor to bring about the transformation Liberia.
Davis-Russell outlined three levels at which this transformation of attitudes and behaviors, which Liberia direly needs, must occur. She named family, education and society, adding that it is imperative that each level reinforces the other. More emphasis was, however, placed on the society, which belongs to everyone.
The society, which she called the third level of development, must support the family and education by setting and adhering to norms that are based on excellence, integrity, civility, ethics, civic virtue, dependability and trustworthiness.
The National orator said dependability and trustworthiness must be the new order of the day and every day.
“We must practice personal responsibility instead of trying to pass blame for not doing what we were supposed to do. Change will not come easy, but we must remain steadfast and hold ourselves and others accountable.”
She warned that if Liberians do not change, Liberia will become obsolete as the dinosaurs while others speed by, adding, “Let us remember the words of the national songs which proclaim a new day.”
Dr. Davis-Russell indicated that society must also reinforce the fact that there are consequences through rewards and punishment, reiterating that Liberians, small or big, should begin to take responsibilities for their actions.
“In the words of the national anthem we sing the words “of valor unpretending”. If we search our Thesaurus, we know that other words for valor are courage, bravery, spirit, nerve, heroism, fearlessness, boldness, gallantry,” she explained.
The TU president, who is also a professional psychologist, noted that Liberians must use courage, bravery, spirit, nerve, heroism, fearlessness, boldness and gallantry to change their perceptions of themselves, and their attitudes about what they can do for themselves, adding, “ We must battle mediocrity and set excellence as the standard in our schools, workplace and in society generally.”
The veteran educator, who has spent over 35 years in the profession of offering higher education, said Liberians must eschew dishonesty and corruption and imbed integrity in all actions, no matter how small.
“Public servants should not ask for money or favors under the table to do the people’s work. Our interactions with one another should be characterized by civility. We may disagree, but we do not have to be disagreeable. Ethical behavior should be the norm rather than the exception.
Love of nation should supersede ethnicity and other affiliations that are used to divide; each child must learn what it means to be a citizen; with all of the rights, privileges, obligations, and responsibilities,” she said
She indicated that Liberians must understand that in order for Liberia to succeed, each one must do his/her duty regardless of what it is, because others depend upon us.
“We cannot afford to have bench warmers — that is, people who sit in offices or under trees and do nothing but collect a paycheck. We also cannot afford to have minimalists, those who perform the least of what is expected and nothing more.”
“We must examine our labor laws that permit those minimalists to work the system by working only 15 days a month knowing that they will get a paycheck for the whole month. We need workers who demonstrate the value and passion for work,” she noted.
Dr. Davis-Russell noted that the family, which is the unit that gives each and everyone an early sense of who he/she is and provides people with the foundation of values that prepares for the broader society, has been destroyed as a result of 15 years of war.
She explained that the family provides comfort, security and a sense of worth. It is also the holder and transmitter of society’s norms. Yet two generations of Liberia’s young people have no family.
“They raised themselves; and for many, their moral compasses are non-existent. And so they mistake brute force for acceptable means of achieving what they want. It is not too late for many of these young people. The schools, colleges and universities must become in loco parentis. That is, they must become surrogate parents on site,” she asserted.
The TU boss said young people must engage in values clarification, provide structure, and correct misbehaviors by serving as models of what is appropriate.
At the occasion, Dr. Davis-Russell was admitted into the Star of Africa with the Grade of Grand Band for her numerous contributions to Liberia and the world.
Former Chief Justice, Cllr. Johnnie N. Lewis, was also admitted into the Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers with the Grade of Knight Grand Commander.