Let us first give praise and thanks to God Almighty because it is by His grace and goodwill that we celebrate our 169th Independence Day today.
Our country has gone through many changes in the past few decades. Some of those changes, long expected, did not live up to the full potential because they were marred by anger, frustration, and sometimes a deep sense of alienation that led to violence. However, because of the resilient people that we are, we have managed to move past those days. Today’s young Liberian will grow up with no experience of the trauma that the older generations including myself have gone through. We now have peace, we enjoy an emerging democracy, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am humbled to be a part of the leadership of the nation into this era of transformation, a process that will positively impact in every aspect of our society.
In the most recent past we have seen the reform of state structures and changing procedures, processes, and technologies to make existing systems more effective in doing what they were intended to do. Thus, our reform agenda included, first and foremost, building safeguards, so that we don’t slip back into the old habits that almost destroyed our country. By changing structures, a new political culture was launched. These days, when Liberians speak of corruption, national budget, press freedom, the rule of law, they do so freely and with an understanding of what these words mean.
However, this is not something that government can do on its own, no matter what amount of resources it has. The government can create the institutions and the environment, but every Liberian must take responsibility for transformation. It is a patriotic duty for every Liberian – whether in government or in the private sector, in urban or rural areas, old and young – to support the process.
What do we mean by transformation? By transformation, we mean doing things radically different from the ways they were traditionally done. For transformation to occur, the beliefs, values and culture of institutions must be changed completely. Transformation also involves changing the current rules, roles, and relationships so that the innovations – the new ways of doing things – can be embraced.
The first example of this is the issue of feeding ourselves – growing food that we eat, and eating the food that we grow. Our second is transforming our social fabric – our traditions, our values are taught less, and that is because the dislocation of our family structures has been one of the negative consequences of our civil conflict. Families broke down, and, in turn, family values broke down. We must bring back those moral and civil lessons that once made families strong.
The struggle to regain our dignity is the real reason behind our quest for transformation. As a people, we must renew hope and confidence in our own abilities to transform our country and shed the dependency syndrome that has gripped so many of us. Partnerships with the international community are good; they help us to build strong institutions. But we must not become overly dependent on aid; we must be able to do for ourselves and as proud Liberians. This is something that we can do if we join our forces together. We did it before, and we can certainly do it again!
I tell people all the time that I am proudly Liberian, the person that I am today is because of the foundation I obtained in Liberia. My formative years were spent in Liberia, I graduated from High School in Liberia, I was raised and learned my values by my parents in Liberia. Those formative years in Liberia prepared me to be able to travel to the United States to obtain advanced degrees and have a very successful career for almost 20 years. I explain all of this, not to impress you, but to inspire you and say that, if I could do it, ANY of you can do it. Liberia is responsible for the person I am today and it is because of my fond memories of Liberia that I decided to leave a successful career in the US and return to work in Liberia about 10 years ago. I have not regretted that decision for one minute! I truly believe that if we do not build our country, no one will do it for us!
We must accept and take pride in our native Liberia by being patriotic and nationalistic, putting Liberia first, above all else. We must take ownership of our communities and not wait for the government to do everything. We must respect our Constitution and the rights of equality of all people.
We are at a new juncture, Fellow Liberians. Having laid the foundations, we must now ensure that the new structures we put in place will stand the test of time, will not carry the same deficiencies of the past. In order to succeed, we must change our mind-set about the public good, the national interest and the greater good.
I call on all Liberians to take a moment and think about the future. I invite you to envision a greater and better Liberia. If we are capable of looking into the future, and if we are able to envision the better days ahead, then we can all put in place the mechanisms for success.
To everyone present, to Liberians and residents throughout our nation, to our compatriots in the Diaspora, and to our special guests, partners and friends, we extend hearty greetings and say a “Happy 26.”
May God continue to bless Liberia!