Monday, January 16, 2006

From Selma to Monrovia, Happy MLK Day

In the United States, today is MLK Day, in honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who ultimately gave his life in furtherance of his dream "that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'" Dr. King was born on 1929-01-15, and today we celebrate his legacy.

Liberia is a small west-African nation created by white Americans to deal with the issues posed by freed slaves and their descendants. In the mid-19th century, some of those free Negroes returned to Africa and established settlements. Of course, many of the locals viewed these settlers as usurpers — indeed, their organization was called the American Colonization Society — but eventually Liberia gained broad recognition as an independent nation. Unfortunately, in recent years, Liberia has been devastated by decades of civil war, thanks to the misleadership of Presidents Tolbert, Doe, Sawyer, and the infamous Charles Taylor. In November 2005, Liberia elected a new President in its first proper election in a generation. The victor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was sworn in this afternoon.

President Johnson-Sirleaf is the first female head of state in modern African history. It is a fitting coïncidence that she should be inaugurated on MLK Day, as we move towards a world where the truth will be self-evident that all men and women are created equal.