“Patriotism: Your Passport to Unlocking your True Potentials”, NPA Boss Tells TU Graduates

The Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Hon. Dr. Bill Twehway

The Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Mr. Bill Twehway has called on graduates of the Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County to be patriotic, noting it is their passport to unlocking their true Potentials. Mr. Twehway spoke when he served as the sixth commencement convocation speaker at the University on June 11, 2019, speaking on several issues that will benefit the graduates after leaving the walls of the TU.

L/R: Professor Francis Wreh Wilson President of the University, Dr. Bill Twehway NPA Boss, and Dr. Francis Kateh, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of TU

At the end of the program the NPA boss was given an Honorary Doctorate Degree ( EdD Honors Caua) with Honors, Rights, Previligies; and witnesses thereof, under the authority and signatures of Professor D. Elliott Wreh- Wilson, PhD and Francis Kateh, MD, MHA, MPS/HSL, FLCP, Chair, Board of Trustees, on Hon. Bill Twehway (Now Dr. Bill Twehway), Sixth Commencement Convocation Speaker of the Tubman University, in Harper, Maryland County.

Scene from the Tubman University graduation in Harper, Maryland County
Graduates at the program
Some graduates, friends, relatives and well-wishers at the program

Below is the full text of Mr. Twehway’s address:

It is an honor to be a part of this celebration, and to share in your joy at the 6th Graduation Ceremony of the Tubman University (TU). I am immeasurably delighted that the Board of Trustees of this great citadel of learning selected me to serve as the Convocation Speaker. I am humbled!

I am also gratified to be here in this historic city of Harper, Maryland County, the home of one of Liberia’s greatest sons, William V. S. Tubman, and to intermingle with a group of people who are selfless and prepared to give away their legitimate status in exchange for unity and the forward movement of a country.

That is why the People of Maryland County are noble people because after attaining independence in 1854, as a country called “Maryland in Africa”, and understanding that there is strength in unity, they merged with the Republic of Liberia to become a great county called Maryland County. This is selflessness in the highest degree!

Besides, the People of Maryland County are acclaimed as “great” people especially the role you played in the formation of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU) and the United Nations, through your illustrious son, President William V.S. Tubman, who will always be remembered and celebrated by the people of Africa and the world.

Two decades ago in 1999, I found myself similarly situated but at the University of Liberia (LU), where I obtained a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) Degree in Secondary Education, with emphasis In English and Political Science. Like you graduates, I was elated, overwhelmed with emotions and with good feelings, and importantly too, imbibed with this big dream of wanting to be the best teacher to serve humanity, and help others become more educated than I.

Coming from by far an underdeveloped segment of Rivercess County called Cee Town, and without a familiar family name, I wanted to give back to society as a means of paying my dues to those who had helped me excel to a degree holder, when all of the vital signs of society pointed to little or no prospects for me.

Interestingly, I can relate to you the graduates during this important chapter in your life’s story. Having dreams of better jobs, feeling hopeful about future prospects, relishing a global view about career advancement, and wanting to make a name for yourself in both the public and private sectors are all trending. These are big dreams, and it is absolutely necessary to dream big dreams. I, too, dreamt big whilst studying under lantern and candle light, eating roast cassava and coconut, chewing sugar cane, eating cold bowl or 404 and even begging for the crust from the proverbial Ma Martha in order to make the bowl thick. So, I can relate to the challenges you encountered before attaining this height of your academic pursuit.

However, unlike you graduates, we had no computer, no internet, no wifi, no cell phone and no digital library. I had a tumultuous but rewarding experience with my manual learning environment. I went through all the difficult experiences, and today I am manning the “Gateway to Liberia’s Economy”, the National Port of Authority (NPA), and also standing here before you today as your Convocation Speaker. This demonstrates that with the proper education, determination and right friends, dreams are possible especially when you have faith in the Omnipotent.

This occasion is all about you, the graduates; to celebrate you on your achievements and to admonish you on how to navigate the real world. That was why I told my story in passing to point out that you graduates are far more sophisticated today than those of us who came out way before you. In other words, because you have been exposed to technology and want to take it to new heights, you have greater chances of succeeding in your career objectives, and  more likely to bring solutions to our socio – economic and political problems , than our generation.

Although the Tubman University (TU) was founded by an Act of Legislature on September 14, 2009, it is actually a metamorphosis of the erstwhile William V. S. Tubman College of Technology. This transition, although associated with challenges, the core mission of the university has not been altered, as evident by what we are witnessing here today.

In August 1978, when the former William V. S. Tubman College of Technology thrived in producing 50 to 60 percent of Liberia’s technocrats in the fields of agriculture, civil, electrical, electronic and mechanical engineering, Tubman University (TU) has continued in the traditional engineering fields, but upgraded to include newer areas of concentration, based on empirical needs assessments of the human resource challenges. Business Management and Administration, Health Sciences, Education and Arts & Sciences are all new fields of study that the Tubman University has incorporated to addressing not only the human resource gaps in the south-east region, but also to contribute to the overall manpower development in the country.

What holds true in this new epoch at Tubman University is that a functional state, especially a post-conflict state such as ours, relies heavily on the “wholesome functioning” educational institutions to produce critical human resource capitals to fill the huge deficits created as a result of our civil crisis, and to also contribute significantly to the reconstruction process.

This decentralized approach to tertiary education has earned TC, now TU, an enviable place in the annals of our educational history particularly, with the brilliant minds produced. This is the cherished tradition of Tubman University. TU is not a “come let’s graduate” university, period! It is not like those so-called universities whose professors are not fit to teach elementary schools abroad. Importantly, TU’s motivation is not money-driven as is prevalent in some “Johnny just come lately” universities. TU is original, and purposefully established as a university for academic excellence. Proudly, TU’s graduates have and continue to play critical roles in society, and their contributions are noticeable and commendable.

Although my dream of entering the erstwhile Tubman College was not realized because I never knew anybody here, I am proud to have interacted with many graduates in my career path, and also today, as the Convocation Speaker, I share this platform with you. This is a dream come true!

You are graduating at a time in history when the country is dealing with enormous socio-economic and political challenges; and so, as you graduates are poised to start a new chapter of your life’s story, I have purposefully chosen the topic: Patriotism: Your Passport to Unlocking your True Potentials.

The online Cambridge English Dictionary defines patriotism as “the feeling of loving your country more than any others and being proud of it”. Similarly, the Marriam-Webster online dictionary defines patriotism as “love for or devotion to one’s country”. These definitions are replete with the sense of deep and abiding love for country.

In other words, patriotism connotes how we apply our values as citizens when tested. What kind of values are we then talking about? I am talking about the value of hard work.  The sleep deprivation you underwent just to study, the hardship  you experienced commuting from one point to the next, and the loss of appetite that you encountered when faced with the pressure of exams. This value of hard work has brought each of you thus far, and I can safely say that it was worth the sacrifice.

Moreover, there is the value of loyalty. The unbending devotion to your goals to earn a degree from Tubman University despite the challenges, the respect for established rules, and obedience to those in authority. This value of loyalty imbibed in you the necessary discipline for you to be a member of the “black gowns aristocracy” today.

Besides, there is the value of honesty. Observing the norms of being truthful; like not spying on tests, not allowing others to do your tests, and reporting those who are indulging in cheating. The fight against corruption is anchored on this value of honesty.

And the last is certainly the value of humanity. Serving a greater purpose other than ourselves, and the desire to see our nation succeed.

These aforementioned values are the fundamental pillars or the building blocks for patriotism at all levels. What you do learn here are transposed on the national stage or the greater society. But what patriotism has to do with unlocking the potentials of you graduates? Patriotism has a great role to play. It teaches you to act as responsible citizens, selflessly loving our country, and to do things in the best interest of the country. This ensures the stability of society, the necessary prerequisite for our potentials to be unleashed with the opportunities that are abound.

Over the years, as our experience had shown, some of our compatriots promoted social disharmony, agitated against the state, and brought war on the citizens. They bought guns to achieve their selfish aims, connived with foreign businessmen to pillage our resources, in exchange for the supply of weapons to kill us. And as if those were not enough, they had the audacity to refer to themselves as “patriotic forces” or “freedom fighters. Patriotism, for me, is selfless love for country. Freedom fighter, yes, for they fought against our freedom or fought to deprive of our freedom…

All these were based on false revolutionary doctrines of attaining a classless society, distorted logic and fallacies of liberation, and voodoo economic theories of producing a “welfare state”, where one needed not to work but will be compensated by the state. So catchy and romantic were the rhetorics that Liberians fell prey, and experimented with war.

I need not further emphasize the destruction in both human lives and properties, the shattering of our iconic status as the “beacon of peace and stability” in Africa, the displacement of the population both internal and external, the mass exodus of our vital human resource talents, the obliteration of our institutions of civic protection, and the branding of our beloved nation, the sweet land of liberty, as a pariah state.

I am absolutely convinced that this university would have been a top-notched and state of the art university, and the graduates would have been the most competitive and sought after professionals, not only in Liberia but Africa, had those self-professed patriots spared our nation the terror they unleashed.

The word “patriotism” is often abused and misused. Anarchists, extortionists, blackmailers and decorated thieves are all masquerading as “patriots”. And of recent, a conglomeration of defeated politicians, who earned 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, and 0.5 percent in the 2017 general and presidential elections have coalesced  under a “Council of Patriots”, mainly those who governed the state for 12 years and their governance records are dismal are best, and reprehensible at worst.

Conversely, patriots do not foment chaos, instigate insurrection using subterranean and asymmetric political warfare, and employing economic subterfuge to undermine a democratic and popular government. In simplest terms, patriotism is not the undermining of democracy. Therefore, those self-indulged patriots lack ideas, visions and the Liberian people can not entrust them with state power.

Why am I citing all these? These citations underscore an unadulterated fact that in the absence of social harmony, peace and stability, your potentials, which are immersed in the big dreams of being engineers – the best engineers, the big dreams of becoming agriculturalists – the best agriculturalists, and the big dreams of becoming professional nurses – the best professional nurses, will never be realized.

Let me illustrate further, that war, social disorder and conflict are never incentives for career advancement and success. Infact, they are disincentives and are incongruous with our big dreams. That is why we must deviate from those worn-out political rhetorics and shun those failed politicians who helped to destroy our country, lest unlocking our true potentials will be in serious jeopardy.

 

I am admonishing you graduates to do away with those things that tend to undermine your potentials, and keep firmly focused on the professional development goals that each of you has set for yourself. I must applaud the fact that your graduation has already demonstrated in clear terms that you are capable of accomplishing goals when you commit yourselves to them.

In closing, being patriotic not only sets you apart but also places you  in a unique position to make meaningful contributions to the state in your specialized fields of study. For example, as a graduate in agriculture, your skills can be brought to bear in the cultivation of our staple food, rice, and other cash crops to ensure food security for the citizens; as engineering graduates, you can advise government on technical matters as they relate to the construction of critical roads in the country so as to ensure value for money, utilization of local talents, and even proposing new  ways to road construction; and as professional nurses, you can assist government in curbing infant and maternal mortality cases, with particular emphasis on preventive health, as opposed to curative health, mainstreaming your fresh knowledge acquired.

The possibilities are yours for the choosing; however, all of these can be attained if we declare truthfully that we have a duty to making our society better, and exhibit patriotism at every level of what we do, no matter how big or small. The government ofcourse has a duty to providing the necessary support within its means, so that you acquire the best possible education and reach your full potentials.

Your individual successes benefit society because when you succeed, you are in a better position to give back to your fellow citizens rather than take from them. All I ask of you graduates is to live up to your own true potentials. You have the power to inspire this nation politically, socially and economically by exhibiting patriotism or act in the best interest of the country. This will hinge on the decisions you make, and the actions you take. Let it be one that helps you reach your full potential, better the lives of your families, communities, and make our nation a better place to live.

Finally, although you are leaving the great walls of Tubman University, I want you to know that graduation is not an end in itself. It is a part of the larger journey of life and each of you will choose your own road, and travel your own path. Some of you will go on to advancing your education, others will get big jobs right away and start working. Where ever the journey takes you, let it take you somewhere, a starting point for further achievements where you will use the knowledge acquired as a platform, because the man who graduates today, and stops learning tomorrow, is uneducated the day after. Hence, You must try to excel in everything you do, and fight for excellence in every task you are given, whether big or small.

I THANK YOU

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About Cholo Brooks 9486 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.