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Liberian President Discusses Her Memoir


Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continues her book launch tour here in the United States. The book, entitled "This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life," by Africa's first woman President includes information about President Sirleaf's personal and political life.

The book is somewhat of a prophecy come true when, as President Sirleaf writes, an old man visits her parents' home at the time of her birth and predicts that she will grow up to be great.

President Sirleaf dedicates part of the book to her mother, whom she describes as the real force that shaped her life.

"She demonstrated her courage when our father, her husband, had a stroke very early and she had to make ends meet to give us an education. She was a pastor so she was deeply rooted in faith. And so we grew up in a family home based on prayers and faith and hard work, and I think everything that represents the character in me may really have come from her," President Sirleaf said during a book launching program in Washington.

The book also captures what President Sirleaf describes as the complexities and contradictions of Liberia, including the dichotomy in its population between indigenous and Americo-Liberians.

"My mother was 50 percent indigenous from Sinoe County but happened to have been a ward to a German trader who left the country when she was an early age because Liberia declared war on Germany and they had to leave. And so in a way we represented both worlds. But at the same they were given to settler families and so they were to get an education. And in a way you might say through education and profession they also became part of the elite class. And so that very complex background represents the complexities and contradictions of our own nation and its beginnings," she said.

President Sirleaf discusses in her book how she got married at an early age to a man who she said was at times abusive. But the president said the marriage made her stronger.

"Domestic violence is quite common in our country, in Africa, in other places, and many women suffer in silence as I did. On the other hand, in fairness to my children's father, I always said that that also made me strong. That helped to build the character in me, Sirleaf said.

Having paid a heavy political prize through imprisonments, President Sirleaf said she had no choice but to run for president. She credits her victory as Africa's first elected female president to what she calls her secret weapon – the women of Liberia.

"They did everything. Like I said women from all walks of life, rural women, urban women, illiterate women, professional women, poor women, rich women, they all decided, our time has come," she said.

President Sirleaf told young women who might want to follow in her footsteps that it was possible to raise a family while at the same time pursuing their career dreams.

Some observers say it is rare for a sitting president to write a book since some of the information included in the book could be used against President Sirleaf in case she decides to run for re-election in 2011.

But Information Minister Laurence Bropleh says President Sirleaf is not worried about politics.

"While she is on the stage of time, on the stage politically, she is more concerned about what she can do to transform humanity and to make a constructive difference for the rest of the Liberian people," Bropleh said.

President Sirleaf told the huge crowd in Washington that the measure of her success as president would come when Liberia is put on an irreversible course towards reconciliation and development.

The "Iron Lady" of Liberia, who is 70 years old, said she still works 14 plus hours a day. But President Sirleaf said she looks forward to the time after her presidency when she would sit under a coconut tree sipping coconut water and not worry about receiving crisis telephone calls.


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