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Speech delivered by Hon. Wilmot L. Harmon, Sr. (former Senator, Grand Bassa County) to the Liberian Community Association of Columbus,Ohio.

The Pathway To A New Liberia - The Need For Reconciliation, Unity and Peace.
As I proceed, I would like to address this theme first of all on the national level and then on the community level.

THE NATIONAL LEVEL

In order to successfully navigate the socio-economic and political quagmire we now face as a nation, it is imperative that we ask ourselves 3 critical questions:
1. Where Are We Now?
2. Where Would We Like To Be?
3. What Will It Take For Us To Get There?

I. WHERE ARE WE NOW?

In 2005, at a time when Liberia should be boasting of political stability, economic prosperity and sustained peace, we as a nation and people still find ourselves hemorrhaging after 14 years of senseless and indiscriminate carnage. The casualties are innumerable. The atrocities: unspeakable. The statistics: staggering. According to recent reports, Liberia's national debt stands at an overwhelming 2.1 billion dollars, 80% of Liberians live below the poverty line while the unemployment rate looms at an alarming 85%. To date approximately 100,00 Liberians live with HIV/AIDS. Despite the public outcry from Liberia's impoverished citizenry and the close scrutiny of the international community and donor nations, unprecedented corruption in the highest echelons of government continues unabated.
For this exclusive fraternity of powerbrokers it is "the best of times" yet for the majority of Liberians it is "the worst of times". Our strength as a nation is further undermined by the polarization and dichotomy, which exist along ethnic lines. I am most certain that when our forebears established our great nation they never visualized a legion of foreigners deployed on our soil to keep Liberians from slaughtering each other. This dark chapter in our collective history is both a travesty and a tragedy.

II. WHERE WOULD WE LIKE TO BE?

Liberia - Africa's oldest independent republic - once the beacon of hope for all of colonized Africa, has now been relegated to a designation of "one of the world's most dangerous places". With a succession of despots and misguided revolutionaries at the helm, the people have lived in terror for the last quarter century. Yet I am of the firm conviction that the glory of the New Liberia will far surpass any semblance of peace and prosperity we may have enjoyed in the past.
· I dream of a Liberia where the so-called "Congo" man and the so-called "Countryman" can interact with mutual respect and negotiate as equals not enemies.
· I dream of a Liberia where we celebrate our differences not just tolerate them.
· I dream of a Liberia where people flourish because of equal opportunity not because of their family name or ethnicity.
· I dream of a Liberia where leadership is a matter of influence not violence. Where our leaders are men and women who pursue public office to serve not to be served.
· I dream of a Liberia where a promise made is a promise kept. Where our leaders just don't spew empty rhetoric from the rostrum but they keep their word.
THIS IS MY DREAM…but what will it take FOR US to get there?


III. WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR US TO GET THERE?

First, we must reconcile our differences, for without reconciliation there can be no lasting unity. Without unity, there can be no sustained peace. Without peace there can be no enduring stability. And without stability, anarchy is inevitable.
We must reconcile our differences and become a nation whose citizens decry "jungle justice" and unequivocally shun vigilante styled retribution. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind." Simply put, if we as a nation insist on avenging every offense with an equal or greater measure of brutality, we will soon self-destruct and there will be no Liberia left to speak of. We must become the change we hope to see in our world.

Secondly, we must unite as one nation and one people with a common identity and a unified destiny. The Scriptures clearly remind us in Luke 11:17 that "a nation divided against itself will not stand." Therefore, we must lay aside ethnicity and lift up the banner of national unity. We CAN have unity amidst diversity. We must stand shoulder to shoulder, as our brother's keeper, ready to serve and empower one another - not as Congo or Country, not as Krahn or Mandingo, not as Gio or Mano BUT AS LIBERIANS. Indeed, "we are the harvest of only ONE banana tree." And that banana tree is our beloved Liberia.

Thirdly, with a broad based commitment to reconciliation and national unity, long lasting peace will be achieved. Peace, then will become the catalyst for political stability and political stability in turn will create an atmosphere conducive to economic prosperity, development and investment. This, I submit to you, is The Liberian Dream…AND IT IS WITHIN REACH!
As it is written in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

THE COMMUNITY LEVEL

We can do nothing to reverse or assuage the failures and disappointments of the past. However, we can and must accept the shared responsibility of becoming the architects of our future. Where we are today is the result of choices and decisions we made yesterday - good or bad. Where we find ourselves tomorrow will be the result of choices and decisions we make today. Our future, therefore, lies in our vision and the best way to "predict the future is to create it." Therefore, three things must happen on the community level to ensure we are creating the future we desire.

I. VISIONARY LEADERSHIP

All great success begins with visionary leadership. It is imperative, therefore, that we understand the dynamics of both vision and leadership. Vision has to do with steering oneself and one's followers to a desired end. And true leadership is not about position or title, it's about influence. Leadership by any other means equals tyranny.


People will only follow an individual if they:

1. Trust the individual - Leaders must be accountable, accessible and responsible. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
2. If they know where the individual is going - successful leaders are purpose driven. They are deliberate and proactive not random and reactive.
3. If they know that the journey with this individual will be worthwhile. The golden rule of leadership states, "He who thinks he is leading when no one is following merely taking a walk."

Unfortunately, this is the case not only across Liberia's national political landscape but on the community level as well. Many of our communities in the Diaspora, particularly here in the United States, have been besieged by an army of mental midgets masquerading as intellectual giants, many of whom have violated the trust of our people and have lost their integrity in the process. This should not be!

II. COOPERATION & COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION

The second essential ingredient for success as we look to the future is Cooperation and Community Participation. Success does not happen in a vacuum nor is it the sole responsibility of leadership to bear the burden of progress. The leader and the community must form a partnership, which yields mutual benefits. We must be willing as a community to give of ourselves sacrificially - to invest our time, our talents and/or our resources to move our communities forward.

We can no longer allow ourselves to be consumed and overtaken by what we can GET. Instead, we should be compelled to action by what we can GIVE. We must put aside our differences once and for all and work together for the common good of our community and nation. No individual can accomplish greatness by himself, because no man is an island. But together, EVERYONE of us can achieve more.

III. INNOVATION

Thirdly, I challenge you, Mr. President and your team to explore new opportunities on behalf of our community. Take a creative approach to leadership. You must be willing to "boldly go where no man has gone before." Be a trendsetter, a trailblazer, and a pioneer. One contemporary definition of insanity is "Doing the same things you've always done expecting different results."

Our community should be known for more than just social events and parties. We must mobilize our community to do something meaningful and lasting, particularly for the next generation. Develop programs that empower our community economically. Initiate programs that cater to the academic, athletic and social needs of our youth. Remember the senior citizens - your elders - and reach out to them as well. Engage local and state officials and begin to make them aware of the plight and progress of Liberians residing in the Greater Columbus area. "In life", as in business, "you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate."

Finally, if Liberia is to once more assume her rightful place among the comity of nations, these noble ideals of reconciliation, peace and unity [as well as visionary leadership, community participation and innovation] must become the indispensable quorum in which all Liberians participate in order for Liberia to realize her full potential. For "in union strong success is sure, we will over all prevail." May God Almighty bless and prosper our community, the people of Liberia and save our great nation.

Thank you and may God richly bless you.