President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told graduates of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies of the Cuttington University that the knowledge acquired, the values of integrity and hard work that were instilled in you here will forever be with you.
The Liberia leader said the graduates can be proud of having received quality education with strong basic values.
“What you have learned here, over the past years, will be with you for the rest of your life. You must be proud to be the recipients of knowledge from one of the best institutions of the nation. It will be up to you to put that knowledge to the service of your country and humanity and for self,” she urged.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the President Sirleaf spoke on Saturday, August 5, when she addressed the 11th Commencement Convocation of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies of the Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County.
She thanked the Cuttington University family for bestowing on her the honor to serve at this year’s commencement convocation.
She recalled that this great institution was born out of a carefully thought-out missionary consideration to inspire integrity, theological orientation and professional disciplines to prepare young people for the world.
President Sirleaf thanked the faculty, families and all the support system that has allowed the young people to study over the years and reach this far.
She said the graduation marked a concluding chapter of their lives.
“You will be joining the thousands of youths across our nation who will be looking forward to the future, who will face the challenge of employment, the challenge of choice in selecting the next leadership that will respond to your needs and demands,” she admonished.
President Sirleaf challenged the graduates that as they ponder the future, they will focus on the economy, on the potential for generating the growth to meet the needs of a young population - with 60 percent under the age of 35 - and will question if truly we can meet the requirements of an expanding and rising nation.
“Liberia, our country is a small country, richly endowed with natural resources, including plentiful rainfall and a sparse population. But over the long period of our history we have remained constrained, historically vulnerable to external factors due to a heavy dependence on primary products sold in international markets.
“These historical constraints have continued to this day and exacerbated by the social imperative of carrying the cost of large public sector employment that crowds out what is required for public sector investment. Additionally, we face limitations in monetary policy imposed by a dual currency regime,” she historicized.
President Sirleaf recalled that “in 1983, a USAID Country Development Strategy pointed to another problem, a hierarchal organization of our society, lacking in shared values with primary loyalty to self, family, clan and patrons. These social value over time, have developed a Liberian persona of conservativism and systemic resistance to change.”
In her recollection, she said: “We inherited a difficult situation, destroyed infrastructure, dysfunctional institution, a displaced population, a sense of despair devoid of hope. But we had faith in the power of the people to rise to the challenges, to show resilience, courage and strength in the collective effort to start the road back to recovery.”
She went on: “In September 2013, the core team of the National Millennium Corporation Development Project, in a report noted, despite the massive destruction wrecked by war and the numerous challenges of institution building, long-standing social challenges, human capacity deficiencies, infrastructure constraints and patterns of abuse of public resources, Liberia has embarked on a sustained path of economic recovery.”
Contrarily she added: “Today, we have weathered the storm, the shocks of declined commodity prices, effects of the Ebola disease, and the withdrawal of UNMIL. We can say with conviction and confidence that economic growth is on the rebound. We have recovered from the 0% growth rate registered in 2014 to over 3% in 2016. Our GDP of US$750 million in 2006 is now US$2.1 billion. Both indicators are too low, but a clear indication of progress.”
Amid eleven years of peace, she said, “we have provided the cornerstone for the foundation that has been built under every area of our reform agenda –more power, more roads, better education, better health, expanding agriculture, increased trade, more effective governance.
“The progress is significant and the potential of reaching the goals set forth in our Agenda for Transformation and Vision 2030 realizable. But this is not enough. We must walk away from the binding chains of selfishness, dependency, indiscipline, dishonesty and yes tribalism,” she noted.
In a passionate admonition, President Sirleaf said: “Graduations are, indeed, special; a time when we gather, as educators and students, family and well-wishers, to celebrate the achievements of our children or other relatives, who have reached an all-important milestone in their lives. We celebrate because education is the cornerstone of the development of any nation, most especially in post-conflict country as ours.”
She said the Cuttington experience has given them quality in education and quality in values; preparing them to mount the pulpit, occupy an executive desk, establish a business, manage an educational institution, or pursue a political career.
She added: “These values should position you for the competitive and challenging job market that is ahead of you” and challenged them to reach out and share their knowledge by mentoring and tutoring; by creating after school programs; getting involved in your community; and developing community service projects for the creation of safe and clean public places.