A Salute to a Brighter Future
Independence Day Speech Delivered By
Roland Evans Yancy, Sr.
Roland Evans Yancy, Sr.
Editor’s Note: On July 26, the Republic of Liberia celebrated its 159th Independence Day. The Liberian Community in Georgia, one of the epicenters of Liberian political and social activism in the United States, joined other Liberians from across the country and friends of Liberia to celebrate the milestone.
A formal Independence Day program sponsored by the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA) was held on the Georgia Tech Campus to commemorate the anniversary. The activities marking the observance of the 159th independence anniversary of Liberia took place on Saturday, July 22, 2006, since actual holiday was on a weekday.Fully cognizant of recent positive developments in Liberia in the aftermath of a horrible conflict, Mr. Roland Evans Yancy, Sr. the orator of day, told his compatriots “These celebrations of our 159th independence come on heels of a new day that has dawned in Liberia and in the lives of Liberians. This is indeed a period to be in a festive mood for we have all breathed a sigh of relief from civil wars, conflicts, degradation, destitution and desperation.”
Below here is the full text of Mr. Yancy’s speech:
Madam President, Our Consul General, Dr. Walter Young, Officers and Members of the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA), Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Liberians and Friends of Liberia here present.It is with great humility that I express my appreciation for my preferment as the orator on this occasion marking our 159th Independence Anniversary. My family and I are indeed grateful. I was flattered when our President asked me to perform this task. I know that you all are accustomed to speeches by politicians. I am not a politician - At least not yet.
As most of you know, I am trained as a banker. Yes, a technician. Therefore, I like to get things done and not pontificate on all the issues. I also tend to be blunt on several issues and topics. I thought to myself this will expose and embarrass me. My genuine expressions and opinions are not normally intended to embarrass anyone. They are borne out of my life’s experiences while living and working in Liberia and here in the United States.
These celebrations of our 159th independence come on the heels of a new day that has dawned in Liberia and in the lives of Liberians. This is indeed a period to be in a festive mood for we have all breathed a sigh of relief from civil wars, conflicts, degradation, destitution and desperation. At a point in time, we, Liberians almost came to a point of total despair. We waited, prayed, begged and watched as some of our compatriots took our country to its lowest nadir. We all asked the questions- Where did we go wrong oh Mother Liberia since freedom raised her glowing form on Montserrado verdant height? Why are your children so belligerent to you and to one another? Will it be possible to salvage any goodwill to return you to your pre 1980 glory or 1989 survival or have we escalated to the point of no return?
Then came November 2005 and through the intervention of the Almighty God, and our international partners including the United States, the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, general and presidential elections were conducted in Liberia and Liberians put aside their differences and chose experience over naiveté for the common good of our patrimony. The international community celebrated with us as we gave Africa her first female Head of State. Whether one supported Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf or not initially, even her most vocal critics and detractors will admit that she is one of the most competent individuals who with good intentions can steer the ship of state in the right direction.
She and her administration have a monumental task of resurrecting a devastated country and living up to the wishes of the Liberian people. Moreover, there is high expectation amongst the population for the restoration of BASIC social services. Therefore, let us unite and give her our utmost support. Based on that premise, there is unprecedented goodwill extended to Liberia from the international community.
However, this goodwill is predicated upon our demonstrated effort and desire to effectively administer the affairs of our country. The evidence of an independent press, Judiciary, and Legislature, the rule of law and certainly good governance, will further confirm our desire and ability to be accountable for the direction our country pursues. Let us not squander this opportunity for it is mentioned that for this international goodwill to translate to national development, we must embrace peace, unity and accountability.
Indeed, the winds of optimism can be felt from as far as the valleys beneath the Wollogisi to the capes near the Cavalla and Piso, from the heights of Mount Nimba to the shores of Rivercess. If we never felt liberated as a people in our history, this aura of independence or relief is very refreshing. It coincides with our theme for this 159th Independence Celebration which is “A Salute to a Brighter Future”. It’s a future that is destined to eradicate most of the ills of the past - the ills of selfishness, greed, corruption, tribalism, nepotism, and unpatriotic tendencies.
• A bright future where Liberia will become first and foremost in our minds.
• A bright future where every Liberian boy or girl will be guaranteed the opportunity to medical care, education and self advancement.
• A future where one’s name or place of birth will not determine one’s level of advancement or one’s limitations.
In order for us to salute this bright future, Madam President and fellow Liberians, we must carefully examine the many ills that have hindered us from accomplishing it after more than a century and the half of the formation of our nation/state. In saluting a brighter future, we, as a people need to deeply reflect on who we are, what kind of society do we envisage and whom do we put on the pedestal as our true heroes? For too long, we, as a people have not only accepted but have come to expect that graft is a way of life. We honor and celebrate those officials who misapply our resources for their personal benefits. Thereby, they mortgage our country and our children's future and condemn a significant portion of our citizens to destitution and illiteracy.
Historians have long postulated that two of the reasons for our failure to attain a functional society are: #1. The haphazard formation of the Nation/State called Republic of Liberia. Born out of slavery and segregation, our founders did not inculcate the principles of unity and equality firmly in the physic of its people. The truths that are self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed with their creator with certain inalienable rights i.e. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted and derive their powers from the consent of the governed. #2. They contend the lack of a struggle against a Major World Power to attain our freedom as in the case of our other sister countries on the continent of Africa. Our struggle was basically internal which seemingly separated us more than united us. It would take a century for us to begin to realize that we are one people and that our destiny is intertwined; thus, the Unification and Integration Policy.
Arguably, the afore-mentioned pitfalls culminated into chaos for more than a quarter of a century- from the military coup in 1980 to the many civil conflicts preceding the 2005 elections and finally to a virtual demise of a civil society where the rule of law was non-existent. The resources of the country were plundered without any remorse and accountability and the economy grinded to a virtual halt.
Many theories abound and there is ample blame to be shared. We can continue to criticize the past or become agents of change as we all know that it is easier to be critical than to be correct. Those incidents are part of our history. Now it is our time- the time of our generation. Shall we utilize the resources at our disposal to effect change and correct the wrongs of the past or shall we continue down the road of exclusion, segregation or tribalism?
Before I take my seat, I would like to humbly advance a few suggestions that in my opinion will have a positive impact on our society and enable us to look forward to a brighter future for all Liberians.
Our bright future demands the Unity of our people. Mere lip service should not be paid to Unity. Our actions, speech, the policies of our government must demonstrate the seriousness that we attach to Unity. The interest of Liberia and Liberians must be first and foremost in our actions and deeds. Anything, however trivial that tends to divide us must be avoided or abolished- whether is a gathering of our people, inflammatory remarks about a sector of the country or a particular ethnic group.
One aspect of our lives that drives a wedge through the population is the access to education. The education policies of Liberia should ensure that every boy or girl has access to quality education whether he or she was born on Main Street in Voinjama or on Benson Street in Monrovia. The policies should also address the attainment and availability of post secondary education i.e. college, university or technical education. It is inconceivable that a child that was born and raised in Lofa should travel to Capitol Hill in Monrovia if he or she intends to obtain a college education.
Secondly, our higher education policy should ensure that our best and brightest are duly rewarded for their pursuit of academic excellence. Those graduating within the top 5 to 10 percent of their high school classes should be guaranteed easy access to our institutions of higher learning and if possible, be granted scholarships. How do we fund this lofty goal one may ask? We can take a chapter from the Georgia Hope Scholarship Program.
Thirdly, our education policy must be based on professional standards and evaluated by our education experts as graduation from a high school or college is not necessarily tantamount to education. In a recent speech by our President, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf mentioned that “it is necessary to chart a meaningful course for our educational system and define a relevant philosophy of education for Liberia. She went on to state that such policy should arise from national consensus that will better guide us in our national manpower resource preparedness and responsiveness. This would a system that sees education as a means to an end instead of an absolute end of itself.
No, I'm not referring to giving people credentials, as it seems to be the norm today. I am talking about developing and instituting significant reforms in our schools, beginning at the primary level that will not only properly teach critical subjects but also impart ethics and responsibility training. There needs to be a clear understanding, at a very early age, that an individual is responsible to himself as well as to the larger society.
With little or no functioning high schools, and while we are concerned about the quality of recent graduates from the University of Liberia and Cuttington College, one needs to wonder about the seeming proliferation of colleges and universities in our country today. Yes, we are giving people credentials, but are they trained enough to make meaningful contributions to society? This practice is an invitation to produce less than the best Liberia has to offer. The education of our young people will ensure that we have the constant supply of trained manpower to operate our industries, medical and educational facilities and our government. Moreover, a trained population of both males and females will preclude the practice of our teenage daughters being used as pawns by men two to four times their age.
Another aspect of Liberian Life that has bred apathy amongst Liberians and the international community is our lack of accountability. There are numerous stories that can be told. They include THE MARITIME FUND, Our foreign exchange earners i.e., IRON ORE, Rubber, LOGS, the SOCIAL SECURITY FUNDS, THE PL 480 RICE PROJECT, and THE SAVINGS BONDS. The recent ECOWAS AUDIT Report on the stewardship of the Interim Government is lamentable to say the least. In my sphere of vocation, I have observed the collection of funds from the community to open banks. The banks failed due to misappropriation of shareholders and depositors funds and unsound banking and credit policies. The management of these institutions is let off Scot free without examination and convincing probe from the Central Bank of Liberia/The Chief Bank Regulator and the Justice Ministry. President Johnson-Sirleaf has expressed zero tolerance for these kinds of behavior. We anxiously await her reaction to them and to those whom she has reappointed to high positions of trust in the government.
We must desist from adulating and commending our compatriots who misuse or misapply our resources to their personal use. The rule of law must be vigilant and transparent and the full consequences of the law must be applied to these kinds of offenses. In my opinion, one of the reasons I think our old friend, the U.S. sat idly and watched our genocidal acts in the 1990’s is our lack of accountability for the various aids and grants that they have provided over the years. They watched as our leaders amassed their foreign bank accounts. Hence, the establishment of the GEMAP in Liberia today.
Are we that incompetent or have been so consumed by greed that we lack vision of the common good of the population? Lastly, freedom of expression must be guaranteed to all whether or not we or the government agrees with the expressions. The inability of a people to express themselves and question the policies of government can breed apathy and indifference. The people in the various political subdivisions must be given the opportunity to choose their leaders including those who represent them in the National Legislature. Some of the resources generated from these political subdivisions must be appropriated for the development of those areas.
The future will be saluted with enthusiasm if we are cognizant of the mistakes of the past and then vow never to repeat them. With this effort, our population will be united in our attempts to solve the myriad of obstacles that so beset us. Then, peace, prosperity and development will be ensured.
My brothers and sisters, we cannot pursue genuine unity in the Republic of Liberia while we are not united here in Georgia. We can not build partnership in the Republic of Liberia, if we are not subscribing to building partnerships in Georgia. Georgia is our incubator. We, Liberians did make mistakes of fundamental proportions. We, however, must remember that a slip is not a fall. We have slipped, but have not fallen. Working together as brothers and sisters and inviting the participation of our foreign friends, we can make Liberia the GLORIOUS LAND OF LIBERTY. There is strength in unity. There is hope in unity. There is incremental growth in unity.
Madam President, my brothers and sisters, IN UNION STRONG, let us continue to pursue unity and peace, so that God will once more stretch his hand toward Liberia. In so doing, Liberia can re-claim her position as the shining star of Africa. May God continue to bless Liberia. Thank you very much. Good Evening.
Mr. Yancy is a banker by profession. He joined the staff of the National Housing and Savings Bank (NH&SB) as a Management Trainee in 1978 and rose through the ranks of management, culminating in his ascension to the presidency of the bank from 1991-1993. Here in the U.S., he has worked as an officer at the Bank of Boston, NationsBank and Citizens Trust Bank of Atlanta. He is currently the Credit Risk Specialist of the Large Bank Team of the Department of Banking and Finance of the State of Georgia.
He is a member of the Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church where he serves as a member of the Steward Board and Chairman of the Finance sub-Committee of the Church Expansion Committee. Mr. Yancy is a member of several charitable and professional organizations in and out of the United States and presently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Women care International Foundation.
Mr. Yancy is married to Harriet Williams and they have two sons, Roland Evans, Jr. and Rodney.
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