President Joseph G. Herring, officers and Members of this distinguished organization, President Emmanuel Smith and members of the national board, distinguished guests present, fellow Liberians, ladies and gentlemen- friends:
It is both an honor to join you today on this historic occasion marking the inauguration of a new leadership, poised to steer the ship of destiny of UNIBOA – AH MUN BEDO in Maryland. It is also a pleasure to stand in solidarity with this great organization which represents an historic culture that transcends many county lines, forming a belt that surround four counties – Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Margibi, and Montserrado – in a regional union of ethnic kinship which can otherwise be referred to as the THE BASSA NATION.
The Liberian nation is defined by many ethnic groups but I can say tonight with facts and conviction that the Bassa nation stands tall among the ethnic groups of Liberia when it comes to her contribution to the history, culture, and political landscape of Liberia. Indeed, Bassa has produced many great Liberians – from politicians, to cultural artists, diplomats, doctors, engineers, educators, and of course – the long list of eminent lawyers.
I must commend you for the wise selection of the theme “Working together to win it together” The fact that we are gathered here together- the fact that many have subscribed in membership to this great organization- the fact that we share a common patrimony, signifies at least the desire to work together. But how do we win it together? To win it, my friends, it takes a leader with a vision – a transformational leader who is endowed with the passion to initiate meaningful action to achieve advancement for his or her people. This leads me to the topic of my message to you today: Leaders Without Vision – The Root Cause of the Liberian Crisis.
Most reference books would define a leader as a guide – an individual selected and trusted to steer a group to achieve their desired ends – one responsible for the survival and safety of a group – Like a parent to family. The Bible often likens a leader to a shepherd who guides his sheep to feed in green pastures, quenching their thirst by the rivers and streams. Allow me in a few minutes to illustrate the virtues of a good leader in the sense of a designated driver, selected and trusted by his peers to lead them with a sober mind to their desired destination – having responsibility to a large extent for their safety.
A good designated driver, who takes his role of leadership seriously, would get the group together and remind them of goals while selecting the most competent amongst them to assist him in the front seat. He would first secure a roadmap by means of an ordinary map, GPS, map-quest or even a scribbled outline. As a good leader he would then ensure that the vehicle is basically equipped, having sufficient gasoline, spare tires and jack. He would even go further to check out the traffic, weather reports, and possible alternate routes. With this kind of leadership, the group is bound to find itself smoothly on a superhighway, riding on cruise control to the land of their destiny. In other words, a leader who is conscientious and committed to succeed comes prepared with a plan – never neglecting the basic needs and aspirations of his people.
But on the other hand, there exist a different breed of leaders. Those who are the ones whose interests are not focused upon “working together to win it together.” Their self-conceited modus operandi is rather focused upon working to win it for themselves. Those are the shepherds who instead of leading their sheep to green pastures and flowing streams, would recklessly take them to the wilderness to die of hunger and thirst, simply because of their own quest for fortune and fame. Those are the leaders who would dare to take the drivers’ seat unprepared, and without a roadmap or plan.
In the last 34 years, the progress of our nation Liberia has suffered tremendous stagnation characterized by a series of devastating experiences because of leaders without a plan. Yes, indeed, we have had our share of bad drivers without a roadmap. It started with the one who seized the wheel even though he did not know how to drive. Predictably, he ran us off the road after 10 years of adventure, causing panic and confusion. We then took our chances from one miscellaneous driver to another for seven years – taking us from one dead end to the other. We though we solved the problem when we gave the wheel to the chief agitator, who took the wheel and ran us over the cliff – taking the lives of so many of our love ones. And finally, after finding our way out of that wreckage, another driver, who professed to have so many credentials, has led us into a valley of the shadow of death, facing a hopeless situation of disease and distress simply because of the lack of a plan or appreciation for preparedness. Yes, that is the story of our nation.
What we need to forge ahead as a nation, and finally achieve our destiny as people, is a committed leader, imbued with a vision of progress, and a mission for transformation. What we need is a leader with the ability to inspire his or her people to rise up on their feet from a hopeless state of complacency to achieve their God-given potential.
With a plan for progress sanctioned by the will of the people we can transform that vision into a mission, and then we can declare with true conviction, that we are ready and willing to WORK TOGETHER TO WIN IT TOGETHER.
Let me admonish you, my fellow Bassolians, that in this struggle “to win it together”, we cannot gave up on our nation. Let us keep Liberia close to our hearts. It is true that the unfolding events of recent decades have been challenging to our sense of endurance.
Decade after decade, we have found ourselves dressed up in the morning in cloaks of hope, only to go to bed in shredded garments of distress and frustration. If I was asked to write the story about my experience as a child, and millions of others like me, who grew up in Liberia during this turbulent era, the title will certainly not be “THIS CHILD WOULD BE GREAT – It will be properly labeled “shattered dreams, wounded hearts and broken souls.” Sad but true – That is the legacy that those before us has left for us to grapple with. But something deep within me tell me those shatter dreams can be transformed into bright hope for tomorrow if we come together and believe that we are in this together. The famous poet, John Dunn put it right when he said:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
The turbulent storm of destruction has had its way with us. The rude awakening of this disastrous epidemic has brought us to our knees, but no, we cannot give up. From one era of distress to another, our nation has endured. Yes, we were shaken by the forces of instability at the hands of one tyrant to the other. The relics of infrastructural destruction, coupled with devastating socio-economic woes are scars that we will bear for years. And yet, we have still endured. Even in this moment of untold human suffering brought by a deadly epidemic, I can say with faith, that with God above, we will still endure.
We will endure because sooner or later, the scars will heal, the broken walls will be mended together again, and the wounded hearts torn apart by tragedy and pain will be healed again. It may seem long, but when the night of healing is complete, we will see the dawn of prosperity. Our star will shine bright in the horizon – AND Liberia shall rise again.
With the winds of adversity behind us, besides us, and stirring ahead of us, we must build courage to forge ahead. With this kind of resolve, I’m certain that we can enter into a new era of progress. So, out of adversity, let us reap advancement, out of frustration, let us muster the will of determination, out of this moment of pain, together, we can make gains. Together, only together, we can turn this dark night of tragedy into a bright morning of triumph.
Yes, Ah Mun Bedo, Liberia shall rise again because we can work together to win it together.
I THANK YOU