|A Commencement Speech at the Graduation Ceremony at AMEZUC|
January 14, 2008
Reverend Mulbah B. Gray, President of Amezuc,
Distinguished member of the Board of Directors,
Respected faculty members,
Friends from the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed my great honor to be invited to make a commencement speech at this graduation ceremony of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University which is endeavoring to provide quality education to the Liberian youth. Let me begin my remarks by extending my warmest congratulations to all the graduates for their excellent academic performance and to their parents and professors who have made their graduation possible.
It is so nice and pleasant to meet and chat with learned professors and talented students. It reminds me of my joyful, memorable and rewarding years in universities both in China and abroad nearly 35 years ago. It also makes me feel a bit sad for the fact that the knowledge I learned at that time can not meet the current need in this information age. Being an ambassador, I still had to seek help from my daughter when using computer and internet. I wish I was as young as the students in this campus, so that I can attend university once again.
Ladies and gentlemen
This is a very important day for all the graduates who are receiving bachelor's degree diplomas which may change their lives. It is also a very important day for all of us present as we are all receiving the dividend of peace which has changed the lives for all of us. Without peace that is prevailing today, you, the Liberian youth, might be still fighting on battleground instead of gathering for academic activities at university campus. I, as a Chinese diplomat, could have been called back for war danger.
Obviously, it is peace that has brought us together. Therefore, I wish to emphasize that peace is at lest as important as diplomas if not more important. I hope that our young friends will cherish peace as much as you would treasure your diplomas. I also would like to remind all of us that we should not take peace for granted because there are still 13,000 peacekeepers in Liberia, among which about 600 are from China.
Peace has come to the ground, but not taken deep root yet. Every patriotic and peace-loving Liberian and every true friend of Liberia are obliged to think what would happen if peacekeepers were withdrawn tomorrow or next year. Only when we continue to defend the hard-won peace at all costs today, can we be freed from worries about who are going to occupy our classrooms tomorrow.
Respected professors and students,
As the new Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, I have been observing Liberia carefully and I have found that the Liberian people and government under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are fully engaged in the rebuilding of the nation and that progress is gradually being made in every field, including education. The refurbishing and relocation of Amezuc is a case in point. I would like to highly commend the noble efforts being made by the University leadership and staff to revitalize the great course of education that has enormous impact on the future this country.
We all know that the protracted civil unrest and war destroyed almost everything in the country. It is by no means an easy job to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. It is even more difficult to rebuild the country's social ethics and the moral standards. It requires every Liberian man and woman to make contributions and even sacrifices to get the country out of dilapidation and set it on the right track of recovery and development. It is definitely an uphill journey. But you are not alone in this battle against the scourge of the war and in facing the enormous challenges. The international community including China stands firmly behind you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
China-Liberia relations have been growing rapidly since the resumption of our diplomatic ties in 2003. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf visited China in November, 2006 and President Hu Jintao paid a return visit to Liberia in February 2007. Those visits together with other high-level exchanges have enhanced our mutual understanding and mutual trust and set the stage for further collaboration. China and Liberia have enjoyed close cooperation and consultation in international affairs. Satisfactory progress has been made in our bilateral cooperation in almost every field and particularly in the field of education.
Let me give you a few examples to lustrate my point. In order to show solidarity with the Liberian efforts to improve education, China has been making efforts to provide assistance in the following two areas:
The first area is infrastructure building.
According to a contract signed in December last year, the construction of three Buildings within the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia is about to start and will be completed in 2009. The China-aided project covers an area of 11 hectares with 24,800 square meters of construction space. The total investment is little more than 20 million US dollars, which is twice as much as the investment for the renovation of the SKD stadium by China. It is said to be the second largest infrastructure project ever to be taken in Liberia after the civil war, next only to the Monrovia-Buchanan Road Rehabilitation Project which costs 23 million US dollars.
To enhance the capability of scientific research and experiment of the University of Liberia, we are going to renovate three labs devoting to soil testing, civil engineering and computer science respectively.
In the 8 policy measures issued by China at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation held in November 2006, China promised to build 100 schools for the African continent. The Chinese Embassy has managed to secure 3 out of the 100 for Liberia. They will be built in this and next dry seasons.
We are going to build an agricultural technology demonstration center either in Cari or in the Agricultural College of UL. China uses only 7% of world's arable land to feed its big population of 1.3 billion, which is 22% of the world's total. It is the right policy, scientific farming and hardworking that have made China self-sufficient in food. Through that center, we can share our successful experience in agriculture with our Liberian brothers and sisters in their efforts to resolve food shortage.
The second area is capacity building.
58 young Liberians are now studying in China under Chinese government scholarships. We are going to work harder to get more slots for Liberia in the future. I hope some of the students in Amezuc will have opportunities to receive university education in China.
In the last few years, 450 Liberians have been trained in China in short term programs such as health, agriculture, aquatic culture, hydro power and etc.
An agricultural team of five members from China has been teaching in BWI and training the local officials and farmers on hybrid rice growing. Some of the trainees are now able to grow the Chinese high-yield hybrid rice in the swamps around their villages.
We have been running a training course on bamboo and rattan weaving in the SKD Stadium. About 50 trainees are on the course. Each of them will be given a set of tools when hey graduate from the course in February. When they go back to their villages, they can turn easily and abundantly available resources like bamboo and rattan into products which they can sell for a living. Since the program is very popular, a second course will be offered right after the completion of the first one.
We are also going to setup a Confucius College or Chinese Study Centre in UL. If everything goes smoothly as scheduled, Chinese language lessons can be taught in forthcoming March.
As you can see, all those aid programs are people-originated, empowerment-originated and development-originated. What I am saying all this is to show that China is a sincere and reliable friend of Liberia and that China is a dedicated and devoted participant and partner in Liberia's national reconstruction.
China is a developing country itself. Its total GDP is only 20% of that of the US, 66.6% of Japan and 91% of Germany. It's GDP per capita is even lower, ranking 129th place in the world in 2006. We know fully well that what we can do for any of its partners is very humble and limited. Therefore, we are more than happy to see more assistance to Liberia from more countries and institutions and we are prepared to cooperate with them if they so wish. China pursues peaceful development and advocates for a harmonious world.
Ladies and gentlemen
Education involves two major factors, hardware and software. By software in this particular case, I mainly refer to education in moral and ethic standards, such as patriotism, national identity, responsibility, obligation, devotion, sacrifice, hardworking, honesty, dignity, respect for life, get rich through working and etc.
Unfortunately, much of these fine qualities were either destroyed or deformed by the civil war. Yet these things are far more important and essential to Liberia's future than the hardware like school buildings, as the latter can be easily available from Charity institutions. But ethical qualities such as patriotism, hardworking, honesty and sense of responsibilities can not be donated from outside. They have to come from within. This is where educational institutions including Amezuc can play their roles.
There is a Chinese saying which is to effect that "schools are cradles of engineers while teacher are engineers of the human soul". It seems to me that this notion is also applicable in Liberia. After a decade disruption of education, Liberia badly needs well educated people who are academically and ethnically sound. The task of producing such qualified talents historically falls on the shoulders of school teachers and university professors.
If I remember correctly, the late US President John F. Kennedy once said something like this: at times of difficulty, young people should not ask what the motherland should do for them, but should ask what they can do for the motherland. This maybe also the right moment for the Liberian youth to ask the same question. Every citizen has an obligation and ability to do something for the motherland in his or her own way. I have heard so much blaming and complaining since my arrival. In my personal view, blaming others does not help at all. This is the time to roll up sleeves and tighten up belts to do something visible and touchable. Start from me and start from today.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. As a true friend of Liberia, I am prepared to work together with you for a better education in Liberia by donating a 5KV generator, five typewriters and 20 footballs to this prestigious and growing University.
Thank you for your attention.