Tubman University President Elizabeth Davies Russell, in her enlightening, inspiring, instructive Independence Day Oration last Saturday, exhorted her fellow Liberians to meet all of the nation’s foes “with valor unpretending.”
And what are these foes? Dr. Davies did not forthrightly enumerate them; she only implied them. And she closed her stirring Oration by stating emphatically that we as a people must change our ways by practicing personal responsibility, instead of passing the blame for not doing what we were supposed to do.
She then gave this parting warning: “If we do not change, Liberia will become obsolete as the dinosaurs while others speed by.”
How many Liberians want to see Liberia become obsolete? Surely, none of us. But in order for that NOT to happen, we must combat, “with valor unpretending” all the foes that haunt and threaten our nation.
Speaking not as a politician, but as a psychologist which she has been for over 40 years, Dr. Russell declared that Liberia needs, more than anything else, the transformation of our minds, attitudes and behaviors. She listed 10 characteristics by which this may be accomplished. They are the attributes which a “servant leader” possesses. A servant leader is one who performs not as a master, but a SERVANT, serving in the highest interest of his/her people.
The first of the 10 characteristics is listening: the ability to listen to the views, opinions and cries of the people. What is the leader that does not listen?
The second is empathy, having sympathy, concern, compassion on one’s people, neighbors, citizens. What is the leader that is not actively, responsively concerned about the people’s plight, suffering, despair, distress?
Healing is the third—healing oneself and one’s relationships—in the case of the leader, the people—healing them of their ills, including poverty and deprivation. What is the leader that does not do that?
The fourth characteristic is general and self-awareness, which means taking care of oneself, others and the environment. What is a leader who fails to do that?
Fifth, persuasion, moving the people along in positive directions, not through coercion or dictatorship, but through urging, convincing. What is a leader that acts dictatorially?
Sixth, conceptualization, going beyond the day-to-day engagements, but looking beyond, thinking big, viewing the future. The Bible says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Foresight is the seventh. This, according to Orator Russell, means “understanding the lessons of the past, the realities of the present and the consequences of a decision for the future. What is a leader who fails this all important test of foresight?
Stewardship is the eighth characteristic of the servant leader. This means pursuing the greater good for the greater society. What is the leader that neglects the people in favor of the already rich and powerful?
The ninth characteristic of the servant leader is commitment to the growth and development of the people—deeply committed to their development and advancement. What is the leader that does not seek this for the people?
Finally, building community—giving rise to urbanization, or improving the people’s living conditions—housing, health, sanitation and endowing them with the blessings of modernity and modern technology and all the good that it brings. What is the leader that denies the people that?
To each of these characteristics we have asked what is the leader who denies the people this? The answer is obvious. Remember all the leaders of the world and of our own country who have performed, not as servants, but as masters of the people, neglecting, or failing to adhere to any of these 10 characteristics which Dr. Russell outlined in her Oration?
The Orator implicitly (unspokenly) replied that such leaders are, wittingly or unwittingly, foes to their own peoples and nations.
She called on Liberians to transform our minds, attitudes and behaviors if we truly want to see Liberia move forward.
We pray that all of us—not just our leaders—will work so conscientiously, so farsightedly and so patriotically that we will meet our country’s every foe “with valor unpretending” and move Liberia forward into a brighter, more peaceful, more prosperous future.