Liberian President Ellen Johnson who left the United States just late last week will return again this weekend to receive on Monday the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush. It is the highest U.S. civilian honor and given to an individual for his or her meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States as well as to world peace.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom award comes on the heel of numerous other awards that President Sirleaf received while in the United States last week. But how are these international awards and accolades benefiting the Liberian people?
Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He told VOA that President Sirleaf’s successes are the accomplishments of all Liberians.
“The president is quite humbled by this. She did not come to power for notoriety. She came to power to serve the Liberian people and with transformative leadership that would empower our people that would make them wholesome functioning, productive citizens. In that quest, she has tried to bring more freedom to our nation where justice for all and equality is abound in this country. And so she is pleased that President Bush has selected her as one of the recipients of this award, and not just Ellen Johnson Sirleaf but all of the Liberian people,” he said.
Bropleh said Liberians support President Sirleaf’s marathon trips to the United States.
“The people in Liberia believe that this is an accomplishment for the whole nation. And that by our president accepting this award, she is letting this be a testimony that Liberia has indeed moved from a period of digressive and violent attitudes to that of freedom and justice. And so the sentiments around here is that let our president go, let her receive it because when she receives it, all of Liberia has received it,” Bropleh said.
He also said Liberians benefit from President Sirleaf’s international notoriety.
“Let me be very pragmatic in my response to that. The president was just in Norway. By her visit to Norway, the Norwegians have agreed to now fund the emergency power program that will extend from Congotown through Paynesville, all the way to Somalia Drive to Gardnersville. If the President had stayed in Monrovia and not traveled to Norway, that would not have been accomplished as easily as it has come,” he said.
Bropleh said being selected to receive the 2007 Medal of Freedom award is a nice belated birthday present for President Sirleaf who celebrated her 69th birthday on October 29.
“As you can imagine, as the president celebrated her birthday on Monday, one can only look back in prayer and see that this is a young woman who came to serve her nation at an early age. She stood up as a bulwark for justice and democracy. She went to prison, not in the light prison but in a hard labor prison. But she stood the test of time, and she is the best gift that God could have given us at this point in time. And so we celebrate together this accomplishment because a win for Ellen Johnson in the international community is a win for every Liberian…anywhere in this nation, Liberia has won,” Bropleh said.