ANC Standard-Bearer Mr. Alexander B. Cummings July 26 Message on the Occasion of Liberia's 175th Independence Day
The One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Year of our nation’s Declaration of Independence is upon us. I wish all Liberians everywhere, a Happy Independence Celebration. On this historic occasion, I often try to imagine what declaring independence also meant for the founding fathers and mothers, what it should continue to mean for us today, and what it must mean for our children tomorrow.
The circumstances surrounding Liberia’s Declaration of Independence were challenging. I imagine that some of the founding fathers and mothers were mostly unsure and afraid of the future as they were distrusting of each other. I imagine some argued against declaring Liberia a free and independent nation and wanted to simply go back to the security and comforts of what they knew and had become used to. And yet, the bold Declaration of Liberia’s Independence have thought us that we never move forward by going backward.
I also imagine that some may have been concerned that freedom and independence would come with the additional responsibility to govern which many believed themselves to be unready for. Some likely imagined that the duty to lead themselves, make peace with neighbors while contributing to the peace and security of the world, and to unite and provide equal opportunities to all citizens across the divisions and differences of tribes, ancestral origins, religions, political affiliations, and gender, would be too much for them to do as a free and independent nation.
The truth is that we would not inherit an independent country today had the founding fathers and mothers given in to their fears, distrusts and uncertainties. We would not have become the inspiration for freedom and independence many nations on the African Continent and around the world saw us to be. And because they were able to look beyond their own concerns and boldly declare Liberia free and independent, we - all Liberians - have inherited a legacy of overcoming our fears, distrusts, and uncertainties. We, too, do not have to be defined by the challenges we face, or the things that continue to keep our nation down, backward and divided.
This legacy of boldness and overcoming also place upon our collective shoulders a duty to be responsible for our own governance and management. The Declaration of Independence gives us a collective responsibility to unite ourselves and develop our country - to make peace with each other and with our neighbors, and to stand up proudly and be respected in the world, both by what we do, and by how we do what we do.
Over the course of our nation’s journey, we have achieved many notable and historic firsts. Liberia is one of four African countries to be original signatories to the United Nations Charter in 1945, and one of thirty-two independent African States to sign the founding charter of the Organization of African Unity, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963. At the UN, we produced the first African woman to head its General Assembly, while on the African Continent, we have contributed to the formation of many of its regional and continental governing and financial institutions including producing the first woman to be democratically-elected President.
Despite all of these accomplishments, and more, it is time to take a hard look at ourselves. Liberia is independent but we are still not free. We have a rich country but we are still too poor. We should be united but we are still too divided.
Our women and girls continue to be denied opportunities and have hurdles placed in the way of achieving their dreams. Our young people are still without the empowerment and opportunities they need to succeed. Our schools continue to fail our children; our hospitals continue to be without much-needed support and technology so that Liberians are continuing to die from treatable illnesses. Our land is fertile but we still cannot feed ourselves.
175 years later, the Liberian Government is working best for its officials while too many of our citizens are living under inhumane and unacceptable conditions. Those who once looked up to us from around the world for inspiration in the possibility of their own freedom and independence, now look down on us disbelieving where we still are as they forge ahead and leave us behind.
175 years later, we, too, must now summon the courage to change course. We simply cannot continue as we are doing. We, too, must be bold not just for ourselves but for our children and their children. We must end loyalty to party and strengthen loyalty to country - we must end keeping ourselves as a beggar nation abandoning our responsibilities to ourselves by looking to others to do for us that which we can and must do for ourselves.
175 years later, we must end the stealing, injustice, inequality impunity and disunity. We must end the unfortunate business of political leadership only benefiting a few at the expense of the many. We must end this business of Liberia being a place where Liberians cannot succeed and will continue to be treated as outsiders to their economy. In whatever vocation of life one may choose, if Liberians cannot succeed here at home then we do not deserve to call ourselves a free and independent country.
175 years later, we must reset the moral compass - punishing justly, equally and fairly everyone who would break the law, and rewarding justly, equally and fairly everyone who abides by the law and serves our country honestly, diligently and faithfully. We must act with respect for our traditions and customs because they represent who we truly are.
I know that change is hard. I know that many are giving up on change after many years of failed promises. But we must renew our faith in the possibility of change. Change is the only way we will achieve the freedom and independence our founding fathers and mothers declared 175 years ago.
Finally, my fellow citizens; let us not fail to uphold the honor and fulfill the promise of our inherited Declaration of Independence. Let us not fail to give to our children a better, freer and more just society in which each Liberian, irrespective of tribe, religion or gender, can dream, and with hard work, be assured of achieving their dreams.
175 years from now, may it also be said of this generation that we, too, were bold in charting a new direction for our country. May it be said that we reset a new course toward unity, shared prosperity, equal opportunity, democratic governance, and the transparent and accountable management of our country’s resources to the benefit of all Liberians. If not us, then who; and if no now, then when?
Liberia deserves better. Liberians deserve better.
Happy Independence Day!
God bless you. I thank you.