Monrovia — Sierra Leonean President Maade Bio has urged graduates of the University of Liberia to 'lead by the power' of their examples and avoid allowing the opinions of others to hinder their destiny in helping to move their country forward.
President Bio said graduates of the state-owned university should have in mind that their triumph is intended to help rebuild their country from its pre-war status.
He made these assertions on Wednesday, December 11 when he served as guest speaker at the Centennial commencement ceremony of the University of Liberia (UL) held at the Samuel Kanyan Doe (SKD) Sports Complex in Paynesville.
"Lead by the power of your example. Always remember that you have been educated not just to run the Liberia that you have. Remind yourself every day that you graduate today to make Liberia what it should be," he stated.
President Bio added: "Do not let people put you down. Do not let people devalue who you are. Do not let other people's opinions or declamations define who you are or what your destiny is. Remember the words of David Brinkley - 'a successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.' I know this first hand and today, I am President of the Republic of Sierra Leone".
Call for peaceful debate, Common ground
The Sierra Leonean leader further urged Liberians to be mindful of happenings that intend to aggravate their anger and jeopardize their passion.
He said Liberians, particularly the graduates, should not allow themselves to be used by others to satisfy their personal ambitions.
He maintained that as critical thinkers, citizens should engage into 'peaceful debate' and find a common ground to issues in a bid to ensure a vibrant democracy.
"There are those things that stir up real anger and real passion. Do not allow people to use you to further their own ambitions or their plans. Never do anything to take your nation back to that painful past. You are critical thinkers. Peaceful debate and common ground within a vibrant democratic culture where people believe in principles that matter most for nation must always prevail," President Bio added.
"To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war. Strengthen civil society voices. They may say some uncomfortable truths amidst their daily catalogue of everything that's going wrong. Those uncomfortable truths must give you pause to make the best decisions on whither to stir your nation."
According to him, the future of Liberia rests in the hands of its citizens.
He pointed out that investing in the country's future through the provision and acquisition of quality education would guarantee the transformation of the Liberian society.
President Bio reminded the graduates that the university has provided them the 'tools to succeed' and they must partner with the country's highest institution of learning to ensure sustained development in Liberia.
"The future of Liberia is in your hands. Invest in that future by feeding the brain through quality education, feeding the tummy through food security, and taking care of the whole body through access to healthcare. Make Liberia a hub of talent and innovation and entrepreneurship. Be inspired, be bold, and be all that you can be. Development is complex and multipolar and Liberia needs a critical mass of highly qualified professionals to provide sustainable solutions for its future development," he stated.
He urged the graduates to respond to the challenges strangulating nation rebuilding by ensuring that their generation provides access to quality healthcare and food security and staying around from corrupt practices upon their call to public service.
"Your generation must make new roads, build hospitals, and supply potable water to all Liberians. Your generation must reduce maternal and child mortality and stop all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Women comprise nearly 50% of Liberia's population and women matter. They must be included in development, and they must be present in all democratic and civic spaces, and their voices must be heard! Your generation must eliminate corruption from public life.
He indicated that the current generation of Liberians should make 'education fit for purpose in the twenty first century', and help develop 'a knowledge-based economy in Liberia' in order for the country to participate fully in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
"The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. Your generation must embrace science, technology, and innovation to leapfrog Liberia along the rungs of development. We do not want to become the Athens of West Africa again," he noted.
The Sierra Leonean Head of State further underscored the need for citizens to use technology to provide solutions for governance and governance processes, revenue collection, healthcare, quality education, service delivery, small-scale manufacturing, scientific research that will benefits ordinary Liberians, and others.
He said the current generation must embrace entrepreneurship and expand the private sector and create jobs, adding that, "you need not sit down and wait for a government job and an air-conditioned office".
"Work hard every day. Pray hard every day. Believe every day that you are on a mission. The world does not bend to your will; you make your world what you want it to be by the sheer grit of your determination and your focus. For everything you define or lay out for yourself in life; know that you must do something to make that thing happen. So disown your fears; disclaim all imperfections; abjure self-gratification, be true to yourself and care most about your essential humanity and your nation first and Africa in general," he furthered.
President Bio, however, urged Liberians to always 'remember that the lies of the wicked and self-seeking that blind are never the ties that bind you together as a nation'.
"Only in unity of common cause; in unity of common purpose; in unity of common goals, can Liberians make this Liberia a better place and Africa a better continent".
President Bio further reminded the graduates that the years of studies are intended to help transform their country positively.
"But as you leave today, do not forget why you came to the University of Liberia. You came here to prepare you to change your own life and the lives of those who are close to you. But more importantly, you came here to change the lives of others and to transform your nation, Liberia," he noted.
He expressed thanks and gratitude to the university's authorities for the privilege accorded him to serve as keynote speaker for the 100th convocation ceremony.
For his part, Liberia's President George Manneh Weah urged the graudates to use their skills acquired not as job seekers, but as job creators.
He said graduates develop their skills by serving as entrepreneurs, and innovators.
"For you, members of this special graduating class, you must not depend on a job market that in practical terms can never absorb all of you. Rather, you must seek to create opportunities in the space of your chosen specializations, to carve out a niche for yourself, where you can not only become self-employed, but where you will eventually create employment for others, who have not been as fortunate as yourself in acquiring these skill-sets," he stated.
"We look forward to feeling the positive impact you are going to make in our Nation and in the world at large, in the very near future. Welcome to the Real World. And Congratulations once again," he added.
President Weah said parents, guardians and relatives must also be shown appreciation for their sacrifices, vision, determination, and resilience to send their children and wards to this University.
He, however, described education as the key that can unlock the full potential of a nation and its people.
" It is a force that can change our common destiny for the better, and propel a country to progress and prosperity," he added.
The Liberian Chief Executive further pledged his administration's willingness and commitment to continue to invest in quality education for sustainable national development.