U.S. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, the ‘People’s Ambassador,’ Named Liberia’s First Honorary Citizen and Dame Great Band at Investiture Ceremony

Tuesday, 28th February 2012
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the people of Liberia bade a fond farewell to the outgoing United States Ambassador to Liberia, H.E. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, naming her Liberia’s first Honorary Citizen, and conferring upon her the distinction of Dame Great Band in the Humane Order of African Redemption at an Investiture Ceremony held in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Tuesday evening. In awarding honorary citizenship, President Sirleaf said that her Senior Advisor, Ambassador George Wallace, had found an old Law in which Liberia gives recognition to Honorary Citizens. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield would receive a passport, and would never need a visa to come to Liberia. The Citation for the conferral of the distinction of Dame Great Band upon Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield described her as an astute and career diplomat and humanitarian who, because of her devotion to public service, has distinguished herself in the service of God and humanity. It said that throughout her mission, she nurtured an excellent relationship with the Government of Liberia, other development partners and stakeholders, providing advice and showing the way forward, even under difficult circumstances. It also cited her dedication to the Defense Sector Reform, as Co-Chair of the Peace and Security Pillar, and for which she was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) from the Government of Liberia on February 11, 2012, Armed Forces Day. According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf, in addressing Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, said: “You’ve been a partner, representing our Number 1 partner. In that role, you’ve helped us to reform our Army, to build our infrastructure, both social and economic, to help restore justice and the rule of law, to build an open society.” The Ambassador had been a constructive critic, pointing out what needed to be done, and also a strong advocate, whether to get appropriations from the U.S. State Department and the Congress, or encouraging investors for the private sector. That advocacy had done so much for Liberia, the President said. Continuing, President Sirleaf said to the Ambassador: “You’ve been a friend; when we travelled to so many places, places many Liberians have never been, in some of the remotest villages, and as we travelled along the road, and I’d get down to greet the children, you were there, going over to the women, to the teachers, listening to them and asking, How are you? What are you doing? How are you faring?” The President recalled her last trip with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, to Lofa County, where the people there remembered her and wondered why, of all of the places she could have chosen to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she had chosen Liberia, and Lofa County. The people there appreciated that she had gone back to Lofa one more time, to say goodbye. Reminisced President Sirleaf: “We left there, with our hearts warm, pretty close to tears, as they said goodbye to you.” “You’ve been for Liberia and Liberians all that we could have wished for,” President Sirleaf told the outgoing U.S. Ambassador. “The accomplishments are many; but it is not what you did for but what you shared with us as a person. Thank you, Linda, for being there in the difficult times of our transition. When someone else might have stayed within the comfort of their position, you stood tall, you stood firm, you stood for Liberia and for Liberians. Go well. We’ll remember you. Liberia will always be your home.” Responding, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said that it had hit her for the first time, the previous evening at a program at the Monrovia City Hall, how intricately tied the United States is to Liberia. The history of African Americans was tied to Liberia’s history; her ancestors, unwanted in America, became pioneers and left the United States in search for freedom and liberty. They found themselves on the shores of West Africa where, she strongly believed, they were welcomed with open arms. “I think we all know that something went wrong with that picture; our ancestors failed us, and in their search for liberty, they lost their way.” Today, added the Ambassador, we find ourselves in a new Liberia, where my ancestors and your ancestors are making the way again; one where all people count, one where democracy is the centerpiece, one which is being led by President Sirleaf. She asked the President, one last time, to put her nose in Liberia’s business, and said: “I would like to say to all Liberians: love your country. Love your country more than you love yourselves. It’s not a hard thing to do. In the three years that I’ve been here, sadly I’ve seen too much selfishness, too little pride, too little concern for the common man, very little humility, and what appears to be developing, the big-man attitude, and that does not bode well for the future. That’s not a gross generalization; it is just an observation. Liberia’s potential is so great; her horizons are so bright. The future is given, if all Liberians remember the importance of Liberia and to the world.” Liberia, she said, was a beacon of hope for her – a country that went through many, many dark years. She appreciated the opportunity afforded her by her Government to be in Liberia during this remarkable time. She added: “You have found yourselves and you’re moving forward in such a positive way. I’m so proud to be considered a friend of Liberia and a member of the family. The abiding friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of Liberia is a lasting friendship; it is a lifelong friendship. It does not end with the departure of one Ambassador, and the arrival of another.” She assured the people of Liberia that whoever her replacement would be, that person’s marching orders would be the same as hers had been, namely, to help Liberia to succeed. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield concluded: “Tomorrow, at 6:35 p.m., if Delta leaves on time, I will no longer be the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia. But I hope I’m remembered as your friend, Kebbeh Sia, and that you will no longer call me Ambassador. I will so look forward to being called Kebbeh Sia, to being called Linda, to being called a friend of Liberia. I pray that Liberia continues to prosper and continues to make all Liberians proud to be Liberian, and I thank you again for all of your support in the past 3 ½ years and all of your friendship.” Earlier, in opening remarks, the newly commissioned Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Augustine Ngafuan, described Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield as someone who had erected monuments in the minds of ordinary Liberians, with her selfless and remarkable contributions to Liberia’s development. He said the Investiture Ceremony had historical significance, because this was his first official one, and also because he hailed from Lofa, where Amb. Thomas-Greenfield had served in the 1970s as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Minister Ngafuan acknowledged the strong and historical relations that have existed between Liberia and the United States, and cited America’s support to Liberia during the difficult march from conflict to recovery, and now from recovery to sustainable and inclusive development. He said that Liberia would always be thankful to the Ambassador for her many initiatives in, and contributions to, Liberia, among them: the construction of the new multi-million-dollar Embassy; the rehabilitation of the three Rural Teacher Training Institutes; the return of the Peace Corps to Liberia; reactivation of the Liberian Coast Guard; cancellation of Liberia’s debt to its largest creditor, the United States; construction of the headquarters of the National Elections Commission; the U.S. financial contribution to the holding of the 2011 general and presidential elections. Liberia looked forward to working with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield in her new assignment, the Foreign Minister said. As a daughter of Lofa County and of Liberia, she would now have the opportunity to serve as the informal Ambassador of Liberia to the U.S. “Liberia and Liberians say a big thank you for having performed your task so well and for never shying away from saying what was in the best interest of the country.” He called her a great Ambassador, a great diplomat and, above all, a great person. At a Gowning Ceremony by the Traditional Council of Liberia, in which she was dressed in a beautiful yellow country-cloth gown, Chief Zanzan Kawor said that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield had brought peace to Liberia. Wherever he had travelled in the interior, be it to Lofa or Grand Bassa or Maryland, she was there, taking interest in the country and its people. He was very satisfied with her performance. He was joined by the new Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Blamo Nelson. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was presented with many gifts: from the President of the Republic; the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Defense, Gender & Development, State for Presidential Affairs and the entire Cabinet. Other gifts were presented by the Liberia National Police, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the Monrovia City Corporation and by 86-year-old Mr. Joe Richards. In the Toast which she proffered, President Sirleaf said that at their final tête-à-tête meeting on Monday, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield had reminded her of some of the things that still needed attention: corruption, reconciliation, civil aviation, NOCAL, LPRC, education…! The President said she had a piece of paper on each of these issues and would pass them to the right Ministers to include in their performance contract. She called upon those gathered to join her, with Sprite, to drink to the Ambassador and her husband, Lafayette, for their support. The President also acknowledged the U.S. Embassy family that had worked to make the Ambassador’s watch so successful. Said the President about Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: "She goes with the respect, the admiration and the love of all Liberians with whom she has worked so closely and so effectively." The first female U.S. Ambassador to Liberia departs on Wednesday, after 3 ½ half years of distinguished service in Liberia.