Bentol City, capital of Montserrado County, the birth place of the late President William Richard Tolbert Jr. where his homestead is located, was on May 11, 2019, the venue of celebrations marking his 106th birth anniversary.
The well attended occasion brought together several high profile dignitaries, including former government officials, diplomats, educators, relatives and friends at the renovated homestead, also known as the ‘Lion House.’
The Tolbert family has repurposed the homestead as a museum, library, and a leadership and development institute.
In remarks at the grand opening of the renovated Lion House, Mrs. Christine Tolbert Norman, the daughter of the late President Tolbert, called Liberians at home and abroad to shun violence, rather seek peace as the surest way to develop the country.
Mrs. Norman said considering Liberia’s past history, dating back to the 1979 ‘rice riots’ and its aftermath effects, it is about time for peace, dialogue, development and reconciliation to prevail among Liberians.
At present, Mrs. Norman serves as senior consultant of Restoration of Education Advancement Programs (REAP). She cautioned Liberians not to take to the streets in protest, but to reason together and reconcile, build, love and cherish by responsibly handling their differences. She added that the people of Liberia, particularly the youth and young adults, cannot afford any setback regarding peace, security and development.
She warned Liberians against the vices of ethnicity, divisiveness, hatred and “the native” and “Congo” mentality that could undermine the development, growth and progress of the country.
In 2003, Mrs. Norman recalled her inspiration by God to leave her refugee home in La Cote d’Ivoire to return to Liberia and organize an education program to benefit Liberian students.
“During my time in the Ivory Coast, I served as a full-time teacher at the American International Community School of Abidjan (ICSA) for 16 years. I also decided to compile and publish some of the speeches delivered by my late father at different stages around the world,” she said.
In 2003, upon returning home, she established an NGO, Restoration of Education Advancement Program (REAP), primarily to provide educational opportunities, giving enlightenment and empowerment to vulnerable youth and young adults.
Mrs. Norman also extended thanks and appreciation to all Liberians, friends and relatives that turn out to grace the 106 birth anniversary of late President William R. Tolbert Jr. at the Lion House in Bentol City, outside Monrovia.
Earlier, Mr. Stephen A. Tolbert Jr. said the goal, mission and objectives of the ‘Lion House’ are to collect documents, restore and protect the works of the late President Tolbert, especially the speeches at different conferences.
Mr. Richard V. Tolbert, former chairman of the National Investment Commission, said the occasion was not intended to relieve the grief, despair and attending sorrow that characterized the death of his uncle, but to honor the dignity of a “visionary leader, father, uncle, nephew and great statesman that exemplified the oneness of purpose.”
Former Foreign Minister, Olubanke King Akerele, said that such occasion should remind Liberians that unity and reconciliation should be the cornerstone for their unity to build their trust and confidence.
Madam Akerele called on Liberians to consider as the development, growth and progress of the country by working together as people with one vision and destiny.
Tolbert Nyensua, Deputy Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, cautioned Liberians to always champion the cause of removing governments from power in a civilized method in keeping with tenets of democracy and not violence.
“We should always use the ballot box to replace our leaders and not through upheavals, protests and demonstrations,” Nyensua cautioned Liberians.
University of Liberia president Dr. Euphemia Inez Weeks, said the UL administration is working on a special program that will be looking into the legacy, vision and dreams of the late President Tolbert.
In a related development, one of President Tolbert’s daughters, H. E. Willye Mai Tolbert King, Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire recognized and named some Liberians that were expected to be honored for their outstanding roles and contributions to the state, church and humanity in Liberia.
Meanwhile, other prominent Liberians who graced the celebration of the late President Tolbert birthday were former Education Minister, Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, former Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Elias Shoniyin, and scores of relatives from home and abroad.