Minister, Dr. Edward B. McClain – Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to the President of Liberia, was a dedicated public servant, a true patriotic, selfless and superb technocrat.
He was the “shock absorber” in the Office of the President who gracefully calmed the storms with unexpected, but great sense of humor so that the president wouldn’t have to deal with them.
Minister McClain was a devoted servant who worked for his country even during the peak of his illness. The last time I saw him was in April this year, when I took a token of my appreciation to him for his work. As usual, he greeted me and offered me a seat. Then I noticed he had an oxygen tank attached to him while he worked as if nothing was happening to him. I was shocked to see that level of commitment to duty. I gave him his gift, which was a desk clock with the inscription: “Dr. McClain, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. Thank you.” I told him that seeing him work and keeping his sense of humor while he was so ill made me to appreciate his sacrifice to our country even more. Little did I know that I was speaking with him for the last time. I am thankful that I was able to give him his flower while he was alive.
The shared many jokes, but I remember two that caught me off guard:
1. I wrote the President a letter and took it to his office. I wrote HE (the abbreviation for Her Excellency) in addressing Madam President. Dr. McClain knew that was what I meant because he had seen that a million times; but in his usual jovial fashion, he took a quick look at the letter and asked me: “Madam, did you read what you wrote? Taking him seriously, I said, “yes.” Then he asked “ooh so you really meant to refer to the first female president of Africa as HE and not SHE?” It was so funny because it is not just what he said, but how he said it.
2 I remember calling him about a serious concern I had and decided to discuss it with him. When he found out that I was serious and somewhat uneasy about it, he asked me to hold on for him to grab a notepad and a pen. He listened to me until I paused. Then he asked me: “all that talking that you are doing there, do you know something even bigger has happened to you? Do you know what has happened to your Nimba County?” His questions took my mind off the issue I was discussing with him and I asked: “What has happened to Nimba?” Dr. McClain replied:
“Grand Bassa County has just whipped Nimba County in a football game.” I laughed so much that I completely calmed down. That’s the kind of person that Minister McClain was.
Dr. McClain was not just a dedicated public servant. He was a man who worked hard, but kept a low profile. I never heard him out there boasting about his qualifications, or bragging about his ability to speak a number of international languages. He never complained of being tired to work.
Dr. McClain ate at his desk and always offered those around him whatever it was that he was eating.
I will certainly miss him, not only for the work he did for our country, but also because he was one person in the Office of the President who could relate to me – receiving and returning my calls. Such patriotic, committed and selfless people are hard to find. This is one of the reasons why he will be truly missed. Truly, a national hero has fallen. But I am glad that, at least, I was able to let him know that his deeds and work were appreciated.
Doc, thank you again. Thank you for your contributions to your country, Liberia. Sleep well, and goodbye, Doc. May your precious soul rest in peace.