Introduction & opening remarks by Seward Cooper at the inauguration of the EJS Center
Excellencies, Honorables, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
I rise to speak on behalf of the Board of Directors.
It is almost a decade since Ellen Johnson Sirleaf dressed in regal purple took the podium and delivered her lecture when she received the Nobel Peace Prize. She famously declared:
“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
Dreams for the EJS Presidential Center for Women & Development are scarily big!
They are dreams to build foundations to enhance women’s representation in public service through a project styled “Amujae”; dreams to create publicly available archives of her life’s activities – official, private, and professional; dreams of exhibitions that would help inform and inspire generations; and dreams to provide tools for research about EJS, and about her country, Liberia, our continent, and the world.
We know each generation, each individual, through life’s journey, leaves a legacy. That legacy is reviewed through various prisms.
Invariably, the prisms are viewed with our biases. Biases founded on facts or perceptions. Those prisms might be broadly developed after a full review of our times; or they might be narrowly constructed. In any event, in some measure posterity is made better or worse because we journeyed here.
A great challenge for humanity is to fairly assess others based on clear lenses not on skewed prisms. One might argue that, in fact, removing these prisms allows light to shine clearly through enabling more accurate perspectives.
Perhaps it was with this in mind, Again, on the occasion of her Nobel Peace Prize, Madam Sirleaf urged:
“If I might thus speak to girls and women everywhere, I would issue them this simple invitation: My sisters, my daughters, my friends, find your voices!”
It is with those words and conviction that we are gathered today, International Women’s Day, to launch the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development.
“The Center was founded to be a catalyst for change across Africa, by helping unleash its most abundant untapped power — its women. The presidential center seeks to become the premier institution dedicated to advancing and sustaining women’s public leadership and social development across Africa”.
And so, here we all are as sisters and brothers, sharing a common humanity, seeking to unite efforts that ensure our mothers, sisters, and daughters participation in the public space will not be marginalized but centralized; that our mothers, sisters, and daughters will not be subordinated but will be full participants in building for our societies better and prosperous lives. Indeed, we have come a long way; but not far enough!
“The Center’s first program, the Amujae Initiative, was begun this week. It intends to help shift the landscape for women in public leadership in Africa, moving from a culture of tokenism to one that truly values women leaders. Its mission is to inspire and prepare women to unapologetically take up roles and excel in the highest echelons of public leadership, and to bring other women along.”
Please join in these efforts. Thank you.