The Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate and student leadership at the faith-based Cuttington University (CU), formerly Cuttington University College (CUC), in Suakoko, near Gbarnga, Bong County, have selected veteran Liberian journalist Kenneth Y. Best to address the 53rd Commencement Convocation.
Mr. Best, a 1963 CU graduate, is the publisher and managing director of the renowned independent newspaper, Daily Observer, published by the Liberian Observer Corporation.
He will deliver his speech on Saturday, June 28 on Cuttington’s main campus in Suakoko, near Gbarnga.
Best’s selection, according to faculty sources, is based on his concern for quality education and the growth and development of the Liberian society, where he has over the years, remained the “voice of the voiceless.”
As a prolific writer and a powerful speaker, Mr. Best’s speech is expected to center on societal ills, which over the years, have plagued the country, leaving Liberians poor, powerless and vulnerable.
Kenneth Y. Best was born on October 28, 1938, in Harrisburg, on the bank of the St. Paul River in Montserrado County.
He is a product of St. Patrick’s Elementary School on Snapper Hill, Monrovia, the Booker Washington Institute, where he was a member of the Class of ’59, graduating with a diploma in Agriculture. In 1960 he entered Cuttington, where in his sophomore year he was appointed editor of the Cuttington Review, a literary magazine, which he ran until his graduation in 1963.
Graduating on December 2 that year, with the Bachelor’s in English and Political Science, he was appointed the next day as Assistant to the Dean of Liberal Arts of the University of Liberia. In April 1964 he was called to the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs, where he started as an Information Officer. He later studied Journalism at the Berlin Institut for Publizistic in Berlin, West Germany and later at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, where in 1967 he received the Master’s in Comparative Journalism.
Returning home in 1968, he was appointed Director of Press and Publications at Information and in 1972 President W.R. Tolbert, Jr. appointed Kenneth Assistant Minister for Information in the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT).
Kenneth took the hand of his workmate at Information, Ms. Mae Gene Traub, in marriage on July 17, 1971. The couple has been blessed with six children, two foster children (five daughters and three sons), and nine grandchildren.
In December 1973 Mr. Best resigned his post at Information to become Information Director at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in Nairobi, Kenya. There he helped develop communication strategies for African churches and published several AACC publications. He was the co-founder, with the Information Directors of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), of the All Africa Press Service. The service produced a weekly package of news and features about African churches and nations. Mr. Best conducted journalism seminars throughout the continent in order to develop a cadre of reporters for the Service.
In 1980, he resigned his AACC post to return to Liberia to launch, along with his wife Mae Gene, the Daily Observer, Liberia’s first independent daily newspaper. The newspaper’s maiden issue was published on February 16, 1981.
In 1990 in the heat of the war it became impossible to continue publishing the Daily Observer, which had suffered great persecution under the military regime of Samuel K. Doe. Mr. Best and his family sought exile in The Gambia on August 1, 1990, and there they started a second daily newspaper by the same name, Observer. Though most people, including the seven journalists the Bests met in that country, did not believe that the country was ready for a daily newspaper. But the Bests persisted and launched their second daily on May 11, 1992. The newspaper took off in three weeks and became highly successful. But following a military coup d’etat, overthrowing the democratically elected government of President Sir Dawda Jawara, the Gambian Observer told the story of the coup to the world. However, when the newspaper started reporting on the human rights violations of the military regime, Mr. Best and several of his reporters were arrested and imprisoned, and a week later, on October 30, 1994, Kenneth was deported back to Liberia.
A week later he received an invitation to address a media conference at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. In January 1995 Kenneth and his family applied for political asylum. He remained in the USA for 11 years, and returned to Liberia in June, 2005 to re-launch the Daily Observer. The newspaper reappeared on the newsstands in three weeks, after 15 years of exile.