October 23, 2006
Honorary Degree: Doctor of Laws Awarded to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
candidate presented by: ambassador david a. Straz, Jr., Member of the Board of Directors
speech of h.e. ellen johnson sirleaf
her excellency ellen johnson sirleaf, president of the republic of liberia, is the first democratically elected female head of state in africa, having been inaugurated on january 16, 2006. she is known internationally as a main promoter of peace, justice and democratic government. Known as the “Iron Lady” for her strong will and determination, as well as her personal integrity, she is committed to ethical reform for the people of Liberia. in her efforts to achieve justice and human rights for her fellow citizens, she spent more than a year in prison at the hands of the military dictatorship of general samuel doe and was threatened with her life by former president charles taylor. His Excellency campaigned relentlessly for Taylor’s removal from office and played an active and supportive role in the transitional government as Liberia prepared for the October 2005 elections. His election victory was formally announced by the Liberia Electoral Commission. Liberia on November 23, 2005. She was previously a presidential candidate in the 1997 Liberian general election, where she finished second out of thirteen candidates. Prior to that, she served for five years as Deputy Administrator and Director of the United Nations Development Program Regional Office for Africa and as United Nations Deputy Secretary General. she was the first woman to lead the united nations development project for africa. Her Excellency was Chair of the Liberian National Transitional Government Governance Reform Commission before becoming the flag bearer of the Liberian Unity Party in 2004. Her experience inspired her to dedicate her professional life to ensuring that the Liberian people have the opportunity to lead a life of dignity and freedom. she as president she has sought debt reduction and help from the international community. In addition, she established a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate corruption and heal ethnic tensions. she is also a strong supporter of free and compulsory education. these achievements build on her record of leading excellence in public, private and non-governmental organizations. Prior to her service as President, she served as Minister of Finance, President of Liberia Bank for Economic Development and Investment, Vice President of Citicorp, Vice President of HSBC Equator Bank, Chief Loan Officer of the World Bank, and Founder and CEO of Kormah Development Corporation. she is also the founder of measuagoon, a non-profit organization that supports community development and girls’ education. After being born and raised in Liberia, Her Excellency came to the United States when she was young to continue her education, earning a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She has received numerous awards for her professional achievements and public service, including the Ralph Bunche International Leadership Award, the Franklin D. roosevelt award for free speech, grand commander of the star of the african redemption of liberia, and the 2006 international republican institute freedom award. his excellency was one of seven internationally eminent persons designated by the organization of the african unit to investigate the genocide in rwanda in 1999, one of the five presidents of the commission for inter-congolese dialogue in 2002, one of the two international experts selected by the united nations development fund for women to investigate and report on the effect of conflict on women and the role of women in peacebuilding in 2002, and chair of the open society initiative for west africa from 2000 to 2003. he is a member of the soros foundation network and is also a professor Governance Guest at the Ghana Institute of Public Administration and Management. A devoted mother and grandmother, Her Excellency has four children and nine grandchildren. she is a member of the United Methodist Church. Due to her meritorious public service on behalf of the people of Liberia and her commitment to peace and justice, Reverend President, I hereby recommend Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the Marquette Degree of Juris Doctor, honoris causa.