By K. Riva Levinson, contributor/The Hill
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was in politics for more than three decades, and past retirement age, before she emerged as the president of the Republic of Liberia, and the first democratically elected woman to become president of an African nation.
Along the way, she fought against deeply held cultural stereotypes, where a woman’s place was always behind the man: the father, the brother, the husband, the uncle, the village chief.
But from a young age, guided by her mother, growing up in a remote village with limited access to electricity and running water, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was seized with a sense of purpose: To make a difference for her country. Before succeeding, she would be imprisoned, threatened with execution and rape, and exiled. From her setbacks she would gain renewed strength.
Today, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is at the close of her second term as president of Liberia. Every day she still questions herself, “Have I done all that I could have done?” She is not perfect. She has made mistakes. Like all of us, she has regrets.
But Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been utterly consistent her entire life. It has always been the wellbeing of the people of Liberia that she desired most, their future and promise that she sought to protect.