Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected African female head of state, wrote a letter of congratulations to the honorees of the Atlantic Council Freedom’s Challenge awards ceremony held in Berlin on November 8. The text is provided below.
Message from Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:
Let me join the other voices in congratulating those honored tonight at this Gala event hosted by the Atlantic Council. We recall two decades ago the shouts that went forth in celebration when the Berlin Wall came down. The burst of energy was intense and the German people’s feeling of exhilaration infectious as images flashed across television screens around the world of a shattered barrier separating a people yearning for freedom and unity.
Many still burdened under the yoke of dictatorship and tyranny shared vicariously the invigorating air of liberation being savored by the German people. For decades the Berlin Wall stood as an impregnable fortress against the forces of free expression, free choice and free association. An artificial fortress cannot endure forever against the tide of freedom and the collective will of a determined people.
I congratulate the determined German people for all that they have fought for and all that they have achieved in building a unified country with institutions that protect and nurture your democracy and your liberty.
My colleague Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom I also call friend and sister, addressed the American Congress this past week. She and the German people, too, know well of the powerful support from the United States and from the American people throughout the dark days of the Cold War.
I congratulate as well the American people for all that they have done to support freedom throughout the world, for all that they have done to support those fighting for freedom, and for all that they continue to do in the pursuit of freedom.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom I also call friend and sister, deserves recognition for her lifelong support of those seeking to bring democracy and freedom, peace and prosperity to their communities and their countries.
In particular I honor Secretary Clinton’s passionate commitment to women and their fight for equality and liberty. We will continue to work together to ensure that girls have access to education and market women to economic opportunities. I profoundly share Secretary Clinton’s views that rape can never be a tool of war, that those who commit such crimes be brought to justice, and that the women who suffer be given care and comfort. We know that women helped rebuild Berlin after World War Two. We know that all across Africa women are rebuilding communities torn apart by conflict. These women deserve our support as among the 21st century’s fighters for freedom.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke in 1941 of the imperative of the four freedoms, which we all know: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. I am proud to have been a recipient of an award by the Roosevelt Institute for strong advocacy for freedom of speech. These very freedoms are as precious to us today as then. Alas, many proud and hard working people across Africa are not able to speak or worship freely, go to sleep hungry or sick, or live in fear for their lives or the lives of their children. We continue our commitment to bring these freedoms to our people. Liberians, young and old, share the government’s commitments to work, to be honest, to unite, to reconcile and to rebuild. One important challenge for us is to create the institutions that will stand the test of time – as Germany has done – institutions that will be the hallmark of democracy for my grandchildren’s grandchildren.
I have already said in Washington and repeat here in Berlin: “I have heard some argue that the policy of your great Presidents — Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan – the policy of promoting democracy abroad, was relevant in its contemporary context, but no longer retains a place in the 21st century. But I am here as living proof to tell you that if the U.S. were to lose its will and go quiet on issues of liberty and human rights, that this would shake the foundations of democracy around world.”
I know that all of you sharing this meal tonight, gathered together in celebration of freedom and democracy, know that this battle is far from over. But Liberia is proud to be part of the Transatlantic Community which honors those sacrifices by freedom loving peoples all over the world. The people of Liberia – and the people of Africa – know that it is in partnership with friends and allies who share these important values we will continue to work until all of our children enjoy the blessings of peace and prosperity, of freedom and democracy.
Thank you very much and God Bless.