Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Meeting Madam President



On Sunday our group had the distinct honor of meeting the wondrous President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Giddy with excitement, the females in our group prepared for the big event by recruiting my most fashionable colleague to bring us to a tailor to have African dresses made. (Word to the wise: Liberian dresses are gorgeous). Donning our new getups and with great anticipation, we headed to meet the President.

The President arranged a reception in her backyard for our group of interns and the Ministers with whom each of us work. After greeting us and listening to a description of our internship projects, the President -- who had just returned from a football match against Equatorial Guinea (with a final score of 0-0) -- strongly encouraged us to take on challenging work and to contribute substantive policy analysis to her Government. Her razor sharp analysis of our internships -- immediately picking out those who were underutilized and offering great suggestions on additional work -- made a strong impression on all of us. Also, I was very touched to see the President working so closely with her sister, who presided over the reception. I too am very close with my own sisters and will even be joined in Liberia this summer by my beloved younger sister and writer extraordinaire Colleen, who has been commissioned to write some magazine pieces about Liberia.

During our conversation with the President, Emily asked how the President sustains herself through all of the many challenges and frustrations in her job. "The possibility of transformation" was her answer, a very fitting response to a group of students who believe firmly in her potential to make that possibility a reality.

**For more on President Sirleaf and her heroic efforts in Liberia, see the first post in this blog.**

9 comments:

Yuko said...

Hey Molly,

Sounds like you are having an amazing time there! and what a great reunion of KSGs...with the president! The head of UN country team (all the UN related agencies)in Bangladesh turned out to be Ms. KSG grad as well! Isn't it just great to have a female role model in development ... it inspires me so much both professionally and personally :D

Say hi to Emily, Yueman, Jesse and Rupert for me! Take care

Lawrence said...

Your lively and perceptive writing provide a unique first-hand account of what it is like to help with the reconstruction of Liberia. I look forward to being a regular reader!!

Go Molly!

Colleen said...

Moll,

You stun me, sister (And the blue gown!).

I've been checking your blog in eager anticipating of the presidential report. But as there was a rare lag, I treated myself to a library book on Liberia.

You should have seen the look on my face last night, as I was reading the history section and came across the factoid that in 1884, Hilary Johnson was the first Liberian president--

!!!

The many dozens of people I'd recently told that Liberia had the first "democratically elected female head of state in African history" all rushed into my head (friends, strangers, editors), turning its skin red.

Then I reread. Turns out, though the name "Hilary" quickly conjures up a female presidential hopeful in the American mind, in Liberia, Hilary Johnson, was the first Liberian-born (male) president. A-ha.

Whatever drama was lost when Hilary proved a dude, Edward Roye recovered. Preceding Hilary as president, Edward was unpopular among the Liberian people. He died fleeing the capital, as he tried to swim to a British ship in Monrovia's harbor and drowned. Yikes.

Moll, keep the reports coming.

Kohl said...

Yo, Molly,

I'd be really interested in hearing more about how Liberia is handling anti-corruption efforts. I'm still boring people with stories about India's Right to Information, and would be really excited to see something similar take root in Liberia.

Cheers!

Jane Stollenmeyer said...
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Jane Stollenmeyer said...
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Chris said...

Hey Molly!

How cool! Congratulations. you're doing such good work. I'll keep checking back. (And I hope there are joint Kinder posts at some point!)

Judith said...

Molly, it is great to read of your experience. Warmest wishes from Cambridge to you and the whole KSG team.

Kusi said...

Did you see this article?
http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200706251196.html

- Kusi