Fourteen young American professionals from the Les Aspin Center at Marquette University in Washington, D.C. are expected to travel to Liberia in January 2011 on a two-week cultural and educational exchange program.
On December 2, 2010, the group of students from the Les Aspin Center visited the residence of the Liberian Ambassador to the United States, during which they were welcomed by Ambassador William V.S. Bull, who gave them an orientation on the history and present state of affairs in Liberia.
According to a dispatch from the Embassy of Liberia in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Bull briefed the young American professionals on the unique historical and cultural ties subsisting between Liberia and the United States dating from the founding of Liberia.
He also informed them about Liberia’s recent civil crisis, and the re-emergence of the country as a stable and peaceful democratic society, which is experiencing promising economic revitalization under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Ambassador Bull indicated that since the government of President Sirleaf came to power in 2006, Liberia has been on an encouraging course of political and economic transformation because of the unwavering desire of the Liberian people to put the bitter past behind them and forge ahead to rebuild a country where the aspirations all citizens would be met.
The Liberian Envoy lauded the international community, including the United States, for their strong support toward sustainable peace and the rebuilding of a vibrant Liberia.
As they travel to Liberia, he urged the young professionals to use this opportunity of cultural and educational exchange to build bridges of relationship and partnership not only between Liberians and Americans but also between Americans and peoples around the world.
The Ambassador’s remarks were followed by a period of question and answer, during which he also elaborated on the importance of further building the relationship between Liberia and the United States for the mutual benefits of both countries.
Speaking earlier, the Rev. Timothy O’Brien, Director of the Les Aspin Center, said the fellowship program to take students to Liberia came about as a result of an appeal from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He added that the program is designed to carry future American leaders to Liberia and also to bring young professional Liberians to the United States.
The first group of Liberian professionals to benefit from the program visited the United States few months ago.
Rev. O’Brien indicated that the purpose of the program, for which the first group of American professionals is being taken to Liberia, is to promote cultural understanding, mutual cooperation and foster partnership between Americans on the one hand, and people in other parts of the world on the other.
In another development, Liberians in the Diaspora have been called upon to continue to be positively engaged with the Liberian Government in sustaining the peace and keeping the reconstruction process of the country on course.
The Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Mr. Gabriel I.H. Williams made the call over the weekend when he deputized for Ambassador William V.S. Bull at the Year End Dinner and Recognition Program of the Liberian Association of Maryland (LAM) in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Mr. Williams said the Government of President Ellen Johnson highly appreciates the constructive role Liberians in the Diaspora are playing in fostering peace and contributing to the reconstruction of Liberia.
He lauded the association for launching a scholarship fund-drive to support deserving Liberian students attending college in the Baltimore community, adding that it is important to focus on adequately preparing the young people, who are the future leaders.
Honorable Williams told attendees at the well-attended and impressive event that providing accessible and quality education to all Liberians throughout Liberia is among the priorities of the Government.
He spoke of the Universal Primary Education launched by President Sirleaf during the early period of her administration that has resulted to an astronomical increase in the enrollment of children across the country, and the government’s allocation of a large percentage of the national budget to support education.
Mr. Williams noted that in spite of the challenges facing the post-war country, Liberia has made significant progress because of the vision and very capable leadership of President Sirleaf, and urged Liberians in the Diaspora to continue to support the President so that Liberia will achieve more progress over the next few years.
Another moving highlight of the event was the admission into the association of Dr. Jaiya John, an African American, who traced his DNA to Liberia, hailing from the Kru ethnic group. Dancing in circle around Dr. John, while women spread lappas on the floor as a traditional symbol of welcome, the honoree was received by the community as a fellow Liberian.