Welcome! This blog documents my experience as a Nancy Germeshausen Klavans Cultural Bridge Fellow with the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development during my studies at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The views expressed are solely my own and are written to share experiences, introduce issues, and initiate conversation. Thank you for reading!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Liberia at 160: Reclaiming the Future

This Thursday we took a trip to the city of Buchanan (a port city 90 miles outside of Monrovia) to join in the official national celebration of Independence Day. Highlights included a speech by the Independence Day Orator, who is selected by the President, and witnessing the President celebrate and dance with her supporters.

The President at the center of the dance party

The Orator for this year's Independence Day was Kimmie Weeks, a 26 year old advocate for children's rights in Liberia. Weeks fled Liberia at the age of 17 after attempts on his life by former President Charles Taylor for his advocacy work to publicize the government's use and training of child soldiers.

After addressing criticisms directed at the President for selecting someone so young, Weeks passionately proved that is not the years in the messenger, but the message of the words that makes a strong Orator. His speech focused on the need for all Liberians to contribute to development and called on President Sirleaf's Administration to focus on the future of its youth and children, ensuring their right to education and health care.

The room erupted in applause and yelling as he criticized the legislature's recent move to cut certain aspects of the national budget (including health) and redistribute budget funds into their own discretionary fund. In an environment where the newspapers have yet to bring much attention to this act of the legislature, it was quite exhilarating to hear it brought to the attention of the public, especially when it was directed at a room filled with members of the legislature.

Weeks's energy and dedication definitely gave me an inspirational jump start. In a country where every development issue is a serious one, the potential for Liberians to reclaim their future can often seem unreachable. Certainly the passion and skill of the "Iron Lady" President has been encouraging, but one woman cannot save a nation. After witnessing the determination and hearing the message of this 26 year old advocate, the possibility of transformation for Liberia seems a little more hopeful.

Happy 160th Liberia!

Yue Man and I at the ceremony

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Kimme Weeks sounds like a very strong person-one not afraid to stand up for what he believes.What an inspiration.