Like many of you, I am trying to contribute towards a revitalization in Liberia. The question of transformation in Liberia really is a question of leadership. Liberia can only be transformed by enlightened leaders. And it is my contention that the manner in which we educate our leaders is fundamental to progress in the country.
Now what does this have to do with leadership and who are the leaders? You see, the folks at the different ministries in government, administrators, the doctors, the nurses — they are among just five percent of their peers who get an education after secondary school. They are the elite. They are our leaders. Their decisions, their actions matter. And when they fail, a nation literally suffers. So when I speak of leadership, I’m not talking about just political leaders. We’ve heard a lot about that. I’m talking about the elite. Those who’ve been trained, whose job it is to be the guardians of their society. The lawyers, the judges, the policemen, the doctors, the engineers, the civil servants — those are the leaders. And we need to train them right. We need to invest in our resources and yield good results.
I observed during the Liberian civil war, soldiers were on the streets in Liberia deplorably murdering innocent civilians in the country. I remembered we tried running for our lives and not knowing we were approaching these soldiers. I was vigilant and not terrified because I have not experienced the severity of someone being murdered. I was a student at that time in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County, Liberia. To sum up, they arrested us and started to beat me and rest of the students, suddenly another rebel in his uniform arrived and they spoke to him differently, and they explain to him that they were just following orders. So he takes their radio, talks to their boss, and gets us all released. What lessons would you take from an experience like this? Several, for me. Leadership matters. Those men were following the orders of a superior officer. I learned something about courage. It was important not to look at those guns.
So after the end of the war in Liberia, I managed to leave the Country for the United States, Just graduated from the University of Liberia and found myself in another country to obtain higher education. What a challenge? One thing that I learned from schooling in the United States, the faculty here didn’t want us to memorize information and repeat back to them as I was used to back in Liberia. They wanted us to think critically. They wanted us to be analytical. They wanted us to be concerned about social issues. In my business classes I got high marks for my understanding of business practices. But I learned something more profound than that, which is that the leaders — the managers of Liberia’s economy — were making astoundingly bad decisions that had brought our economy to the brink of collapse. And so here was this lesson again — leadership matters. It matters a great deal. The ability to create is the most empowering thing that can happen to an individual. And I was part of that.
Now, while in the United States, I also managed to work with different firms, the annual revenues of those firms grew larger than the GDP of the Republic of Liberia. And by the way, it’s continued to. Now, the reasons why this has occurred. I mean, it’s the people there who are so hardworking, persistent, creative, empowered. But there were also some external factors: free markets, the rule of law, infrastructure. These things were provided by institutions run by the people that I call leaders. And those leaders did not emerge spontaneously. Somebody trained them to do the work that they do. Liberia mattered more to me than ever before. Because I realized that the country Liberia would matter to my children and their children. Every time I engage citizens from Liberia, three things kept coming up for every problem: corruption, weak institutions and the people who run them — the leaders.
Few years ago, I was a little scared because when you see those three problems, they seem really hard to deal with. And they might say, “Look, don’t even try.” But, for me, I asked the question, “Well, where are these leaders coming from? What is it about Liberia that produces leaders that are unethical or unable to solve problems?” So I went to look at what was happening in our educational system. And it was the same — learning by rote — from primary school through graduate school. Very little emphasis on ethics, and the typical graduate from a university in Liberia has a stronger sense of entitlement than a sense of responsibility. This is wrong. So I decided to engage this particular problem. Because it seems to me that every society, must be very intentional about how it trains its leaders. And Liberia is not paying enough attention. So this is what I’m doing now. I’m trying to bring the experience that I had from the United States to Africa. I wish there were Quality Colleges in every counties in Liberia. I think it would make a huge difference. This is what the Game Changers are trying to do, to train a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders. We want to train leaders of exceptional integrity, who have the ability to confront the complex problems, ask the right questions, and come up with workable solutions. There are challenges because the current leaders in significant sectors are the ones exploiting the country.
There are times when it seems like “Mission: Impossible,” but we must believe that these kids are smart. That if we can involve them in their education, if we have them discuss the real issues that they confront — that our whole society confronts — and if we give them skills that enable them to engage the real world, that magic will happen in Liberia. And it is an awesome thing to be a part of empowering someone.
I am having the hope to penetrate these hierarchies in developing our country for the common well of all citizens. Citizen’s persistence, their ability to deal with ambiguity, their aptitude to tackle problems that they haven’t seen before. I think that the current and future leaders of Liberia have an incredible opportunity to drive a major renaissance on the continent. It’s an incredible opportunity. I believe that Liberia has reached an inflection point with a march of democracy and free markets across the world. We have reached a moment from which we can emerge as a great society within one generation. It will depend on inspired leadership. And it is my contention that the manner in which we train our leaders will make all the difference.
Thank you, and May God bless the Republic of Liberia.