Dear Fellow Compatriots:
The moment came. I squinted trying to see if my television and eyes were not playing a game of optical illusion on me. I squinted again and again trying to capture the full moment. It was incredible. It was surreal.
Then, the Master of Ceremony announced the first Recipient of the Award: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. The second Recipient: Ms. Leymah Gbowee of Liberia. At this juncture, my eyes started to well with tears. Fortunately, I had no visitors with me at home. Those who know me know that I am not want to give in easily to tears. But this was a moving, historic, and special occasion, one for the ages! It was an occasion that I never thought I would witness in my lifetime. But it happened – and the joy overwhelmed me.
I also don’t easily invoke God’s name because I am reminded “Not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain”. But this was also no vain occasion or matter. To have the President and another citizen of a country which had been condemned to 100 years of recovery period rebound and repair its image so quickly was incredible and unique and unprecedented. So, it was an historic moment. It was also a unique history for two Liberian women to be awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. So, I said quietly, “The Lord be praised!” And tears flowed more. Now don’t think I am weak or an emotional middle aged man. But for sitting Liberian President and an ordinary Liberian lady both to be awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize any feat that I imagined could be accomplished by this generation of Liberians? Nothing beats the Nobel Prize: the prestige, the honor – and the international recognition.
Then, it was time for the Nobel Lectures to be delivered. Both Liberian Recipients are incredibly gifted Orators. President Sirleaf has the special gift of making a badly written speech sound like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Second Inaugural Address or John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: confident and eloquent. I am a witness to this. In her Lecture, the President paid tributes to women everywhere – and even to Liberian soldiers in whose care she was placed as a political prisoner. What magnanimity? What great act of forgiveness? You imagine that I would still be crying, ehn? No. I was absorbing every word the President uttered. Oh, what a speech! What a picturesque and historic moment!
Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee was similarly eloquent. It was a moment to put on the pause bottom – and just behold. What a day, Liberia? Who among us believed that this would ever happen? But it has. And praises firstly go to God Almighty. Secondly, of course, to President Sirleaf and Ms. Gbowee. In Journalism, I was taught that a “good picture is worth a thousand words”. In terms of the international public relations bonanza that would accrue to our country, think of increased tourism activities, think of increased foreign capital investment, think of the special recognition that Liberians and Liberia will henceforth receive from the international community. Just imagine the number of people who will want to come to this small country that produced two Nobel Laureates at literally one blow.
My Fellow Compatriots: The challenge is not that these positive developments will occur. The real challenge is whether our agencies of Government charged with tapping into such opportunities have the creative vision to do so.
As two great Liberians were being internationally recognized and distinguished for their advocacy for women and peace generally, a group of young Liberians was at the EU Monrovia headquarters burning the Norwegian Flag because of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Sirleaf. Was this a “copycat” action or was it designed by the political opposition to detract from the achievement of this day? Seems so. However, if it were an act of free expression, then, of course, the credit would go to President Sirleaf who has created the democratic space for Liberians to speak free and to exercise their democratic rights. A good reason for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the President, I believe, because only a free democratic society would a group of citizens engage in such actions without consequence.
My Fellow Compatriots: nearly forty years ago in August 1975, former Methodist Bishop Bennie D. Warner was inaugurated as Vice President of Liberia to succeed late Vice President James E. Greene. When Bishop Warner delivered his inaugural speech, he made a timeless and profound statement: “What’s wrong with Liberia,” the Bishop said, “is Liberia”. Thirty six years have come and gone, but Bishop Warner’s words reign true today as they did on that August day. The irrefutable fact is that Liberians are their own worst enemy. We bring down our country. We bring down our fellow citizens. Often for political and irrational reasons. We just don’t seem to this country. We also do not see any good coming out of Liberia. We do not appreciate any good that comes out of this country.
Many of us Liberians hate our fellow Liberians only because they are our fellow citizens – and we show it in the workplace and in social organizations. We prefer to give contracts to non-Liberians because we do not want to see our fellow countrymen benefit and prosper. Why? Why? Why all this hatred? Why do Liberians hate Liberia so much? I travel to other West African countries and I am amazed how fellow west Africans love their countries and their countrymen. Why can’t we? Is it politics? What President Sirleaf and Ms. Gbowee have accomplished for Liberia, the total national budget could not pay for it in dollar and cents. Rather than thanking them, praising Almighty God for making it all possible, and celebrating our new bright light that has been shone on our country, we try to bring down not just President Sirleaf and Ms. Gbowee, but also our country. But this shall not happen!
My Fellow Compatriots: It is time that as a free nation and people, we stand up against those who want to keep our country down by their utterances and their unpatriotic acts. This is our country, too. And I know, rather I am convinced that there are many more good Liberians who love this country than the fingerful of Liberians who hate this country for selfish and irrational reasons and want to tear it down. The way to demonstrate our love for Liberia therefore is to show up at the airport in unprecedented numbers to welcome and congratulate our two Nobel Laureates for 2011: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ms. Leymah Gbowee.
HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS MADAME PRESIDENT AND NOBEL LAURETE! HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS, MS. GBOWEE! You both have made our country and all of us proud! We salute YOU!
In Union Strong, Success is Sure!
Morris M. Dukuly, Sr.
Former Speaker/Transitional Legislative Assembly/1994-1997