The first woman elected to the presidency of an African nation offered her own remarkable story as inspiration in delivering the commencement address to the BSFS class of 2010.
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, reflected on the struggles and triumphs of her nation and told SFS graduates that as future global leaders, they would inherit a serious mission. “We stand on the shoulders of our forebears, and we have a duty to conduct our lives in such a way that another generation can, in its turn, stand on our shoulders,” she said to a crowd that filled the Healy Lawn.
President Johnson Sirleaf was one of few cabinet ministers to escape execution following the 1980 coup that overthrew former Liberian president William Tolbert. Upon returning from exile, she finished second in the 1997 presidential election and won in 2005. “The principles that gave me my chance,” she said, “are the same principles that gave us Georgetown University: perseverance, tenacity and the willingness to pay the price for what you believe, and most importantly, the determination to serve others.”
More than 400 students earned the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree. The Saturday, May 22 ceremony began under sunny skies and concluded before late-day rain. It was the final highlight of a week of celebrations that included senior convocation, the senior ball and the SFS Tropaia awards and honors presentation, where Ryan Callahan (F ’10) told his fellow graduates that Georgetown had helped instill in them “not only the capacity, but also the compulsion, to seek the greater good. As long as there’s a greater good out there, we’re not done.”