Liberia’s President Addresses Young Women in NYC

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in middle, at York College (Photo by Tess McRae via Queens Chronicle)

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in middle, at York College (Photo by Tess McRae via Queens Chronicle)

Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, recently made an appearance at York College as part of that institution’s observation of Women’s History Month, and advised young women not to “get distracted by obstacles. If you stay focused, usually you’ll achieve,” reports Tess McRae of Queens Chronicle.

The West African leader has had to confront the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in her country, which took more than 3,000 lives. She reflected on the crisis, which has recently abated as the incidence of the disease has dropped markedly.

“You never know how much strength you have until you test it,” she said when asked about the Ebola crisis Liberia was at the epicenter of. “I wanted to overcome obstacles and that took determination on my part. The response was slow in coming, but when it finally did come, it was effective.”

Sirleaf also talked about some of the challenges she has had to deal with in years past.

Her excellency was elected into office in 2006, just as Liberia was recovering from a long-lasting civil war. Before that, she worked as an activist and regularly spoke out against corrupt leaders in Liberia. She was threatened, arrested and held hostage several times, but never swayed.

“You must not show fear,” Johnson Sirleaf said of her time in prison. “The best way to disarm someone is to be fearless. There’s compassion in everyone, even the worst people. If you show them fearlessness, they don’t have a choice but to sympathize. African prisons are tough, but it also toughens you and it builds character.”

Go to Queens Chronicle to read what Sirleaf had to say about the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton.

One Comment

  1. How is it that a head of state who has won a Nobel Peace Prize come to New York City and not receive any coverage by the mainstream media? Thank God for Voices of New York!

    I remember President Johnson Sirleaf making her Nobel Peace Prize speech a few years ago. She lauded many great Americans in her remarks, including Dr. King and Jane Addams. The Liberian president is a woman who has intellectual depth and substance. Her coming to this city and to the United States in general warrants major media attention.

    I suppose if President Johnson Sirleaf had come here to upstage President Obama by ignoring him and speaking before both houses of Congress that she would have received coverage by the so-called mainstream media. Perhaps this is an affirmation that in many elements of the mainstream media that Black Lives Still Don’t Matter. How sad.

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