Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, The Honorable Minister of Defense, Hon. J. Brownie Samukai, Minister of Education Hon. Etmonia Tarpeh, Deputy ministers of education: other government officials here present, members of the legislature, members of the diplomatic corps, members of the fourth estate, our students, ladies and gentlemen.
I wish to begin by thanking the Hon. Minister of Education for having selected me as the keynote speaker for the 166th anniversary of the National flag of Liberia. I feel flattered by the honor for I believe that there are more deserving people to give this address. However, I accept the invitation with great humility in the service of our nation. I have been asked to speak on the theme: “The Flag, the symbol of the nation.”
Your Excellency, honorable ministers, Legislatures, and students; Today, is National Flag Day in Liberia. A Day we as Liberians can be proud of because it represents the day our national flag was first hoisted. It is a day of celebration and jubilation because it symbolizes our existence as a nation.
To give you a brief history of how the flag came into being, it was July 10, 1847 that our first President Joseph Jenkins Roberts commissioned a group of eminent, prominent, distinguished women, led by Susannah E. Lewis, to design a flag that will represent the spirit and hope of our nation. It was at this time that a new nation was born which became the promise land for the settlers. At the time of the establishment of the colony, the settlers and sponsor envisioned it to be a little black American in the vast continent of Africa.
The flag was not ready for the day of independence-July 26, 1847. On August 24, of the same year it was completed and delivered. Thus, August 24 came to be declared as Flag Day.
On that day, it was reported, that it was raining profusely as it is today. Yet Liberians from all corners of the nation came out to witness the day. This is a historic moment particularly for you the young people- a day to show your love for and admiration for the nation of Liberia.
It was also reported that Suzannah E. Lewis, the Chairwoman of the flag committee, rose up and proudly unfolded the flag which she then respectfully handed to the president after making a rousing patriotic speech. and turn over the flag to President Roberts. As you can see women have always played an equally important role in the creation and building of our nation.
The Liberian flag has three distinct colors, red, white, and blue. The blue square represents the African Continent and the White star in the blue square in the upper left corner represents the only independent Republic on the continent then. The eleven stripes on the Flag stand for the eleven signatories of the Declaration of Independence . (The legendary designs and colors of the Flag of Liberia give it an outstanding eminence amongst Flags of the world—this should make us proud).
From all indication this emblem fills the heart of every Liberian with a deep sense of belonging and pride. The colors white evokes a sense of wisdom (wisdom of the elders), blue signifies a desire for peace and tranquility and red signifies the courage and a readiness for self-sacrifice for country.
We love and admire the flag to which we pledge our enduring allegiance. We pledge that we will revere and adore it at all times and will stand willing and ready to make the sacrifices that our nation required of us in its defense. We are inspired by our banner to do our duty to God and country.
In Africa, there is a traditional belief in totems as symbolizing the ethnic groups to which people belong. Such totems can be specific animals or other natural objects. Any violation of the totem brings harm to the group. And so the flag to us can be equated with a totem symbolizing the nation of Liberia which we must hold in great reverence and adoration.
Growing up in Liberia but particularly during my school days, I remember that the flag was treated with a great deal of reverence and adoration by students, administrators and teachers alike. Its significance was revealed in the great esteem in which it was held by all. It was greeted with absolute awe. It was kept in a special place to be handled only by those designated to carry it. Not everyone was allowed to handle the flag.
The hoisting of the flag was always a special moment for me. For it engendered a lot of excitement in me as I joined other students in reciting the pledge of allegiance to it. The unique formation of various queues by students of various classes, the uniformity in our voices in reciting the pledge and singing the national anthem as well as the cautious manner in which the flag was raised always aroused within me a deep sense of loyalty, nationalism and patriotism.
The resonant of our rhythmic and melodious voices would fill the air with enchanting sounds that bring joy to our hearts anytime we sing the national anthem.
It was forbidden to drop the flag either mistakenly or deliberately. Dropping the flag was taboo and it was severely punishable irrespective of the station of the offender. Everyone was aware of the need to avoid dropping the flag. For as I had said before, the Flag is a totem of the nation and any act that violates the dignity of the Flag is believed to bring harm to the nation as it would bring harm to a people whose totem has been desecrated.
Similarly, in paying reverence to the Flag, no one may move about once the signal has been given by whosoever is in authority as this would be viewed as a gross disrespect of the nation. It was seriously considered to be “unpatriotic.”
During these occasions, as today, schools were recognized for excellence in dress code, erect posture in marching, taking the proper salute, and the promptness in showing up for the occasion of hoisting the Flag at the Executive Mansion, the residence and offices of the Liberian President.
Such discipline as was demonstrated is equally needed today if young people are to grow up to make their own contribution to the development of our country.
On this occasion, I wish to exhort you therefore, to show reverence for and adoration of the Flag which symbolizes our being as we did in my school days. There is an even more compelling reason to do honor to the flag now because of our recent past when the nation was torn by civil war shattering the bond that held us together. We wish to rekindle our pledge to honor and respect the nation of which we are part irrespective of the ethnic groups, tribe, or religion to which we may belong. We must remain Liberians united as one family striving to realize our God given potential.
This month, we are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the peace that was reached in Accra, Ghana-August 18th, 2003 to end the civil war. We must use this occasion to remind ourselves of the need for reconciliation and peace and to dedicate ourselves to the rebuilding of a shattered Liberia.
My appeal especially to you young people is to uphold the dignity and integrity of our nation. You are those in whom the future of our country lies. We therefore, expect you to plod on whatever the difficulties that may confront you. For only in this way can we Liberians be assured of a secure future.
Today, Liberia is lucky to have a government and leadership that is respected at home and highly thought of abroad. This gives us the more reason to be proud of ourselves on this day of celebrating the Flag.
Fellow Liberians, Let us follow the words of the song “The Lone Star Forever” which says: “The Lone star forever! The lone star forever! O long may it float O’er land and o’er sea! Desert it? No Never, Uphold it forever Oh shout for the lone-starr’d Banner, all hail!!!!