By Hon. Dr. Sidie M. Tunis, Ecowas Parl. Speaker…..
The 14th Commencement Convocation Of the Cutttington University, Gbarnga, Bong County, Liberia.
Liberia-17th APRIL 2021-
“DR. HERMAN BROWN, PRESIDENT OF THE CUTTINGTON UNIVERSITY,
THE ACTING CHAIRMAN AND OFFICERS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES,
PRESIDENT AND REPRESENTATIVES OF OTHER UNIVERSITIES,
THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ACADEMIC AFFAIRS,
VICE PRESIDENTS, DEANS, AND HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS,
THE FACULTY & STAFF OF THE CUTTINGTON UNIVERSITY,
HONOURABLE MEMBERS AND STAFF OF THE ECOWAS PARLIAMENT,
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AND DELEGATES OF FOREIGN MISSIONS,
MEMBERS OF THE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION,
PROSPECTIVE GRADUATES OF THE CLASS OF 2019/2020,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
1. At the outset, I bring you greetings from His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone who extends his warmest regards to our Liberian brothers and sisters. May I thank Dr. Browne for the kind sentiments expressed and more importantly, commend him for his unflinching commitment, exhibited right through his long and successful tenure as a Prelate, Educator and Administrator.
2. I also thank Members of the Board of Trustees, Faculty and Staff, Government Officials and all other interlocutors for their various contributions towards this event today. The organisation and ambience are reflective of the success attained when we work together. This is more so especially during a time when the whole world is grappling with the economic and social effects of covid 19, which restricts us in ways we never envisaged.
3. Regardless of this, I must confess that I was mesmerised by the beautiful renditions from the Choir of this illustrious institution which were very uplifting. I am sure it reverberated right through the audience and our graduates who we are here to support are feeling more fulfilled.
4. It is indeed a great honour and pleasure for me to be here today in my capacity as the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament. However, my joy stems from the fact that I am a product of this University, who actually knows what it means to achieve this milestone.
5. I can recall from my experience here at Cuttington University that this day is indeed a day of mixed emotions: a day on which one recalls good and bad experiences, the highs and the lows, and the challenges and the ultimate triumph. You have every reason to be most proud on this day as this achievement is gained at a time when the world wrestles with the global COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession, conflicts, and altered ways of life and livelihoods.
6. I therefore heartily congratulate the CU “Kwageh” Class of 2020. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving these deserving men and women a resounding round of applause.
7. At this point I am reminded of David Brooks’ admonition that “almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and, ‘I have the power to make it so.” I am informed that your class name means “we have done it”. Indeed, you have done it! You have demonstrated the belief that the future is better than the present and that you have the power to make the future better.
MR. PRESIDENT, GRADUATES, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS
8. At this juncture, let me share with you how pivotal my achievements here were in shaping my entire journey in life so far. I attended the Cuttington University in the 80s and graduated in 1989. Apart from the Academic experienced attained, I also acquired knowledge in several other disciplines that are pivotal to progress smoothly in life. Respect for diversity, commitment to sense of purpose, teamwork, learning to be independent, are a few of the skills I acquired here. As a result of acquiring these priceless virtues, I proudly rose to positions of prominence, becoming the Majority Leader of the Fifth Parliament of Sierra Leone and currently Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. Remember we are special; we are scorpions. And as a senior scorpion, I challenge you to not only be ambassadors of change, but touch bearers of Cuttington’s enviable legacy.
9. Whilst preparing this address, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the unique interrelationship between Cuttington University and the ECOWAS Parliament. On 29th June 2018, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, a former ranking member of the ECOWAS Parliament, served as your commencement speaker and he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree. Today, I have been conferred a similar honour whilst serving as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. History, they say, is full of coincidences, but fewer coincidences are better. And to honor this moment, I am pleased to announce that I am accompanied by a Delegation of Honorable Members of the ECOWAS Parliament and Staff who are in attendance at this occasion. Please join me in honoring their presence with a round of applause.
10. As you graduate today, see yourselves as a realisation of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s call for a more integrated Africa that is focused on attaining inclusive and sustainable development. The continent’s AU Agenda 2063 remains a shared aspiration for transforming our continent into a group of prosperous, equitable, and integrated nations. In your sundry contribution towards the collective future of the Great Republic of Liberia, your contributions are critical towards this shared continental aspiration especially in the post-COVID era.
11. In a recent report by the World Economic Forum, six African Countries were ranked among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. Also, the World Economic Forum has reported that in recent years, Africa’s average annual GDP growth has consistently outpaced the global average and is expected to remain at least 6% until the year 2023. Africa’s large working-age population and its rapidly growing consumer markets are significant indicators of the Continent’s enormous potential for sustained development and prosperity.
12. The new Africa will be led by young, innovative, and enterprising persons like you. You have the obligation to control the new economic scramble for Africa by ensuring that you are active participants in the global economy and can therefore participate as equal partners.
13. COVID-19 may have slowed down economies and altered lives and livelihoods but your graduation today is new cause for optimism that we will prevail over the worst and triumph with the best. We will rebuild our economies and nations again, even stronger, better, and as a cohesive nation and continent. An African renaissance is possible with young and agile minds like yours and we therefore must celebrate you today as an addition to that critical mass that will transform the future of our continent. But it takes the right vision of ourselves, steeped in the right knowledge, to recognise the limitless possibilities for our continent.
14. Benjamin Franklin was right when he observed that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Permit me to add that an investment in the education of young persons is truly the single transformative enabler of national development and thus of sustainable African development.
MR. PRESIDENT, GRADUATES, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS
15. Let me enjoin the graduates to adopt the time-honoured values of hard work, discipline, courage, loyalty and, perhaps above all, love, and a generosity of spirit. As you stride across this dais today and embark on the next phase of your professional development, remember these two things;
16. One, DON’T BE JUDGMENTAL AND QUICK TO EXPRESSING OPINIONS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. The story is told of a 24-year-old boy, who, seeing out from the train’s window shouted… “Dad, look, the trees are going behind!” His dad smiled and a young couple sitting nearby, looked at the 24-year old’s childish behaviour with pity. Suddenly he again exclaimed … “Dad, look, the clouds are running with us!” The couple could not resist and said to the old man… “Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?” The old man smiled and said… “I did and we are just coming from the hospital, my son was blind from birth, he just got his eyesight today”. So remember, every single person on the planet has a story. Do not judge people before you truly know their story. The truth might surprise you.
17. Two, HOLD ON TO YOUR VALUES; DON’T LOSE THEM.
A popular speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20 bill. A crowd of 200 had gathered to hear him speak. He asked, “who would like this $20 bill?” 200 hands went up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He crumpled the bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” All 200 hands were still raised. “Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” Then he dropped the bill on the ground and stomped on it with his shoes. He picked it up and showed it to the crowd. The bill was all crumpled and dirty. “Now who still wants it?” All the hands still went up. The speaker then said, “My friends, I have just showed you a very important lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times, in our lives, life crumples us and grinds us into the dirt. We make bad decisions or deal with poor circumstances. We feel worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. You are special – Do not ever forget that!
18. I will close with the words of Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who at the Harvard Afternoon Exercises on 26 May 2011, encouraged that the “the size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough. If you start off with a small dream, you may not have much left when it is fulfilled.”
19. So to the graduating class of 2019/2020, dream big, hold on to your values, do not let the opinion of others define you or stop you from achieving your goals. Go forth and embrace a future of opportunity and boundless opportunities.
I thank you and Congratulations.”
The Right Honourable Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Ecowas Parliamentary Speaker, has been awarded a Honorary Doctorate Degree by the Cutttington University of Liberia. The VOB Management and Team wholeheartedly congratulate and wish Dr. Sidie Mohammed Tunis more success and good health in life.