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Dartmouth Commencement 2008

Posted 06/08/08

Honorary degree citation to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Doctor of Laws)
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

President Johnson-Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female head of state in Africa, you have, in your own words, "open[ed] the windows and doors to let the sunshine come in." You have taken the worn-torn country of Liberia and have given it new hope.

Following your education in Liberia and the United States, you began a career in finance. But you never forgot your people and you championed the cause of peace, justice, and democratic rule across Africa, and, indeed, the world. You returned to Liberia on several occasions including to serve as the Minister of Finance in William Tolbert's government and later to campaign against Samuel Doe, which resulted in your imprisonment and ultimate exile from your homeland.

In 1997, you returned to Liberia, when you ran for the presidency against Charles Taylor. You achieved second place in that contest, but in 2005, promising a free, inclusive society marked by the rule of law, you won election by an impressive majority.

Called the "Iron Lady," you have brought strength, compassion, and intelligence to a difficult assignment. You set out to raise "the bar for acceptable governance in Liberia and across the continent," and you have done this through your work to develop a thriving private economy, as well as public programs to educate children, provide basic services, and strengthen the democratic infrastructure.  

Recognized for the last two years as one of Forbes Magazine's "world's most powerful women," President George Bush awarded you with the country's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. Dartmouth is enriched immeasurably by your presence here, and it is our honor to bestow on you the degree Doctor of Laws.

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