|President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
On Tuesday, September 12, 2006, Clark Atlanta University
conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree on Madam
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first democratically
elected female president. The award ceremony was attended
by an estimated 1,900 people, which included the CAU
family, a host of local dignitaries, corporate executives
and the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta
(LAMA), headed by its President, Mrs. Sue Yancy-Williams.
The two historical institutions, Atlanta University
(founded in 1865) and Clark Collage (founded in 1869)
consolidated in 1988 to become Clark Atlanta University
(CAU). CAU is the largest of the United Negro College
Fund institutions. It has an enrollment of nearly 4,500
students. It is considered the only private, historically
black college or university classified as a Research
University. CAU is also ranked high among the best buys
in American higher education by National business and
The Liberian President, now Dr. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf,
was invited by the university to serve as the keynote
speaker for its fall convocation.
The chairwoman of the university's Board of Trustees,
Juanita Baranco referred to President Johnson Sirleaf
as "a strong symbol of courage, perseverance and
leadership for men and women all over the world."
Another member of the Trustees highlighted that among
the President’s achievements was - in 2006, Forbes
magazine named her 51st in the list of the 100 most
powerful women in the world.
During President Johnson-Sirleaf’s keynote address,
she said, “I am deeply touched by the invitation
and the honor bestowed upon me and my country. I am
glad to be back in Atlanta," she told the crowd.
In May, President Johnson-Sirleaf came to Georgia to
attend the high school graduation of her granddaughter,
Jenelle Elsa Sirleaf of Acworth, Georgia.
In her address, she noted that the history of Clark
Atlanta University and the history of Republic of Liberia
were somewhat similar; Clark Atlanta University was
established for educating “Negroes”, while
Liberia was established for blacks seeking freedom.
She stated that while the intent of establishing Liberia
as a place of refuge for blacks was honorable, there
were serious injustices that were done to the indigenous
population, which eventually led to Liberia’s
civil strive. But in spite of these unfortunate circumstances,
Liberians as a people, are determined that “Liberia
indeed will rise again!”
She added that education and foreign investment are
crucial to rebuilding the nation, which has been devastated
by the civil wars, and that the government is working
to rebuild the schools that were destroyed and to educate
Liberian young people, many of whom never attended school
during the civil wars.
According to her, "No country in the world has
ever developed without an educated work force. Those
countries that function best have gender equity through
equal access to education."
She called on CAU and American leaders to help by providing
scholarships for Liberians to study in America and to
support such initiatives that will enable Americans
to work and teach in Liberia.
Liberia is a country with long historical ties with
the United States. It was established in the 1820s as
a home of refuge for blacks who were declared undesirable,
therefore, not needed in the United States. Today, the
U.S. is the country's top partner, responsible for restructuring
the country's army and security.
President Johnson-Sirleaf appealed to Atlanta's business
community that, the country's "Open Door"
policy and abundant natural resources, i.e., gold, diamonds,
forests and iron ore could provide mutual benefits for
investors as well as her country.
2006 by The Perspective
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