The first commencement speaker for the 96th commencement convocation of the University of Liberia (UL), Dr. Kimmie L. Weeks, said that obtaining higher education in Liberia is no longer determined by a group of people as it was done in the past when the privileged few were given the right to enter tertiary institutions.
He indicated that the paradigm is now shifting and as such, those who now have opportunities that were denied others decades ago must make maximum use of them in order to improve their lives, and become blessings to their country and the world.
“Gone are the days when certain people used to determine who goes where and who does what. Now everyone has the freedom to determine what they want to become depending on their aspiration,” Dr. Weeks said.
Dr. Weeks’ comments were in reference to the discriminatory treatments that were meted against Liberia’s majority, classified as indigenous, by the Americo-Liberian settler group from the US A and Caribbean nations who held power and controlled every sector (social, political, economic and educational sectors) of the Liberian society.
Speaking at the first of six convocations, Dr. Weeks said Liberia is now a more diverse and more integrated society, presenting better opportunities for everyone to fulfill their dreams.
He indicated that a person’s family background and wealth, tribe, or religion should not determine what the individual wants, but rather the legacy should be determined by how one influences their environment and impacts the lives of others.
“This class of 2015 could be the greatest class to walk out of the walls of UL. This is not by the lucrative jobs that you might get, or the highest you might go in your educational sojourn, but by the level of impact you have on your society and the number of people you influence positively,” he said.
Dr. Weeks noted that the future that everyone speaks of is without form and it takes one to shape and prepare its form, as was with the world when God decided to begin his creation.
“All of our futures are without form. Nobody here knows what their future is like. So it is in our power to shape our destiny. That is why it is often said that we were created in the image of God. He created the world out of nothing. So we have to make our blank future into something,” he said.
The graduates represented many fields and disciplines, and Dr. Weeks, who is also the Board Chairman of Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), noted that they have the potential to make Liberia and the world better.
“The potentials you have to make the world and Liberia better places to live are immense. Each of you has in your hands the power to change Liberia,” he told the ecstatic graduates.
He said the essence of blessings, which he described education to be, is impacting the lives of many people.
He said the country’s deplorable conditions and the impoverished state of many of its citizenry cannot be changed by any government or amount of resources that the country has, but rather the contribution that everyone is willing to make to the development of the state.
“The key to changing Liberia’s deplorable conditions is not this government nor the next one, but the collective contributions of individuals like you and me,” he said, “there are not too many Liberians who are willing to sacrifice or die for their country, but if we want to reach where everyone wants us to reach as a nation it takes a holistic and national approach. Together we can transform this nation,” Dr. Weeks told the graduates.
In her speech, the valedictorian of the class, Jugbeh Kpeh, said tertiary education is a critical component of human development, especially in Liberia, where the need is most because of the toll the fifteen year civil crisis had on the country.
Mrs. Kpeh, who spoke on the topic, “Importance of Tertiary Education in Post-War Liberia,” said the training of more young Liberians in formal education would help increase the level of manpower development in the country, “which would help close the current gap.”
The first convocation exercise comprises 401 graduates from the Liberia College, which includes the studies of the Social Sciences and Humanities.