A speech at the installation of the Student Government of the St. Michael Catholic School
on Friday, October 30, 2015
By Tiawan Saye Gongloe
The Principal and members of the Faculty
The President and other officials of the Students Council
Other distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Liberia, our dear country, is considered, internationally, as a fragile state. It means that Liberia, like a glass, if not handled carefully, could fall and easily break into pieces. This description of Liberia should remind every Liberian that from the view point of those who are critically monitoring Liberia, the country is still not far from breaking down into conflict, although, the guns of war have been silent, since 2003. What this also means is that our collective security is still weak. The clear indication of the weakness of our collective security is that we still rely on the presence of international security forces to feel secure. But our collective security must not be narrowly viewed in terms of our capacity to fully replace the presence of international security forces in Liberia.
History has shown us that the collective security of a people is not necessarily guaranteed by the number of soldiers, police and other security forces a country possesses. Otherwise, Egypt, Libya and other countries that spent billions of dollars on their security forces would not have experienced the breakdown in collective security that have occurred in those countries. Our own history has thought us that building a powerful network of security forces cannot guarantee our collective security. A strong security force can only protect the ruling elite, temporarily, as we have seen in this country. So while building a strong security force, tend to create an impression that we are collectively secured, relying on such initiative alone undermines our collective security. So, then the question is what is the most reliable way of promoting our collective security. In my view, our collective security depends on the quality of decisions that we make as a people about our collective good. That is why I wonder about the quality of decisions our leaders make at times about our country. For example, I wonder why our president had to leave the country while the Vice President was still out of the country. What was the compelling national interest that made the president to expose our country to such state of security vulnerability? As if this is not bad enough, the Speaker and President Pro tempore, who are in line of succession should something happen to the President and Vice President are also out of the country. Do our leaders not coordinate their travel schedules?
Our leaders must always make decisions in manners that promote our collective security rather than undermine it. The greater good which includes the security, welfare and happiness of the majority of our people must always remain the focus of governance, in order for Liberia to transform from a fragile state to a stable and sustainably peaceful country. We have learned in this country, that when a few people are happy and comfortable and most of the people are hungry and angry, we all become collectively insecure. If we have not learned this history, then, we are in deep trouble as a people. We must seriously reflect on our past and make better decisions for our collective security.
On this occasion, bringing together a large number of young people, I have chosen to speak on the topic: “The Role of the Young People of Liberia in Promoting the Collective Security of the Liberian People now and in the future”
The young people of Liberia between the ages of one to thirty five years of age constitute a larger percentage of our population. How they conduct themselves and the decisions that they make about our country are bound to shape its destiny. It was the young people between the ages of fifteen and thirty that organized and participated in the biggest mass action in the history of Liberia against an attempt by the True Whig Party Government to introduce anti -people’s policy in 1979 thru the increase in the price of rice, our staple food. Since that action of the young people, Liberia has not been the same. Prior to that action, Liberia was considered the most peaceful and stable country in Africa. There was an appearance of collective security. But with a few people well-fed and happy and the majority of the people hungry and angry, that apparent collective security broke down in a few hours on April 14, 1979. The power of the young people in every society is the foundation for change. Tunisia, Egypt and the other countries in which the young people took to the streets for change, will never be the same. It is the young people of the United States who campaigned to elect Barrack Obama, and changed American History by putting a black President in the White house with their votes. America will never be the same again, thanks to the power of the young people.
The burden is upon you young people of Liberia, represented here today to conduct yourselves in ways that will promote our collective security. You were used during our civil conflict by various warring factions to commit heinous crimes against our people. Today, young people in many parts of Liberia are engaged in various acts of violence. But these acts are being perpetrated by a tiny minority of the young people of this country. Therefore, it is wrong for anyone to describe the young people of Liberia as a group of violent people. There are more good young people in Liberia than bad ones. The majority of the young people of this county must work together to change the few bad young people for our collective security. By using positive peer pressure such transformation is possible.
Young people must work hard to develop their minds by devoting most of their time to reading rather than watching European football games. Reading makes a man or a woman and knowledge is power. In order for you young people of Liberia to be powerful men and women of Liberia tomorrow, you must read, whenever you have free time. Reading develops your ability to think deeply about your environment and what you can do to make it better. Young people who spend most of their free time reading are not easily fooled by others and they can never be blind followers. Young people who read have a better chance of transforming our country for the better, because it is only they that have the chance of becoming our doctors, our scientists, theologians, lawyers, and experts in various fields. So, reading is a source of enlightenment. I urge you young people to persuade your friends to slowdown in watching European football games and read more in order to be in the position to contribute to the transformation of Liberia for the better. The Late President William R. Tolbert once said in a speech to the Liberian people that the three enemies of Liberia were poverty ignorance and disease. He said the worst enemy of Liberia among these three was ignorance. What President Tolbert said about Liberia is still true today. The only way to defeat ignorance is to read and develop your minds. By doing this, you will be contributing to our collective security.
As we gradually approach the 2017 representative and presidential elections, I call upon you, as young people of this country to think deeply about this country and your own future well-being, before campaigning and voting for any candidate. The decisions regarding who will become our representatives in 2018 and who will replace President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2018 lie, solely in your hands, as the young people of this country together constitute a higher percentage of the voting population. Many of you here today will vote in the 2017 election. That election is, historically, the most important election to be held in Liberia for more than hundred years, because it presents a probability for one party to turn power over to another party in Liberia. The last time this happened was in 1878 when the Republican Party turned over power to the True Whig Party following the victory of the True Whig Party over the Republican Party. So I urge you to make a very wise use of your voting power in the up-coming very unique election.
In order to vote wisely, I admonish you to denounce the politics of financial investment by politicians in order to get elected. What I consider politics of financial investment is a situation whereby those who want political power invest a lot of money to persuade people to vote for them. They throw money at the people in order to buy their votes. I am opposed to investment politics because those who invest must get returns or profit on their investments. The only motivation for investment is to earn profit or get returns on what is invested. Therefore, when investment politicians are voted into office, they tend to use their political offices to get profit on the money invested by them to get elected. This is corruption. Therefore, by electing political investors you are promoting corruption.
Vote for political candidates based on their past record of upholding the public trust. In doing so you will be promoting the collective security of Liberia.
Before I take my seat, I want to leave you young people with the following three quotations to guide you in your decisions about Liberia:
I thank you.