Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to host virtual talk at Colorado State University

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the then-president of Liberia, addresses the 2008 United Methodist General Conference on April 29 in Fort Worth, Texas. (UMNS Photo/ Mike DuBose)

Colorado State University’s Office of International Programs will welcome Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, as the 2022 Global Engagement Lecture Series speaker.

Johnson Sirleaf’s lecture will be Tuesday, March 29, at 2 p.m. on Zoom. Registration is free and required in order to attend the virtual event.

Nicknamed “Africa’s Iron Lady,” Johnson Sirleaf’s career intertwined the promotion of peace and stability in her home country of Liberia and the advancement of women’s rights around the world.

Johnson Sirleaf began her public service career in the Liberian government in 1965, rising to become minister of finance in 1979 before a military coup the following year deposed and executed most of the government’s leaders.

She escaped into exile, returning to run for president for the first time in 1997 at the end of Liberia’s first civil war.

Johnson Sirleaf lost the 1997 election, but when civil war erupted in the country again two years later it also faced a countermovement and the women of Liberia organized nonviolent protests to push for peace talks.

They got their wish in 2003 when negotiations ended the civil war. A transitional government, of which Johnson Sirleaf was a part, paved the way for the democratic elections she ultimately won in 2005.

She remained president of Liberia for more than a decade, guiding the country through the Ebola crisis, debt forgiveness and the lifting of UN sanctions while bringing in foreign investments to rebuild schools, clinics and more.

In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Johnson Sirleaf also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, as well as the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017. She is a founding member of the International Institute for Women in Political Leadership.

She also has been named to Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in the World list and was ranked among the 10 best leaders in the world by Newsweek in 2010.

Johnson Sirleaf continued her influence in global causes after leaving office, as well.

In February of this year, she was appointed co-chair of the High-Level Advisory Board of Our Common Agenda, an initiative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations meant to drive achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

She is also chairperson of the Mano River Union, which works for political stability and economic cooperation among Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

Johnson Sirleaf is the 10th speaker to join CSU in the Global Engagement Lecture series. Past guests include distinguished women leaders from around the world such as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Brundtland, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga, and Johnson Sirleaf’s fellow 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Leymah Gbowee.

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