13 June 2008

Madam President wows Harvard

Last week we celebrated our graduation from Harvard in style, with speeches from two female Presidents who have made history.

Harvard's President Drew Faust certainly has the most money at her disposal, but it was Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who drew the most rousing applause.

Some fellow students found her speech a bit dry (what did they expect?), but I loved it for the telling detail that characterizes Madam President's approach to leadership. I particularly liked this line from her speech: “To be successful you will need to be prepared to go that extra mile to spend time to improve the structures and systems with which you will be called to work." I sometimes feel we put too much emphasis on charismatic leadership and not enough on the slow, difficult task of institution building.

Meanwhile, a new host of interns have begun working in those same institutions in Monrovia. Among them are two fellow Brits, Preya Sharma and Diane Mak. Both, I am happy to report, at the Ministry of Finance, which is probably the most exciting place to be in Liberia right now. Unless the Lone Stars manage to qualify for the next World Cup . . .

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