174TH FLAG DAY MESSAGE
"IT IS TIME TO UPHOLD THE FLAG"
On August 24, 1847, about a month after the Declaration of Independence, the Lone Star was hoisted. The Flag is the symbol not of a historically perfect nation but one dedicated to always strive to be better. Wherever it is flown, our Flag identifies all Liberians as belonging to one nation, which is to remain indivisible. It represents that in spite of our difficult past, we remain one people dedicated to democratic self-governance, committed to equality in opportunities for all, and determined to build for ourselves and for our children, a nation to be a shining example of freedom, opportunity and liberty for all.
The Lone Star represents hope - hope that despite historical challenges and contemporary difficulties, Liberians can, and will overcome. The Lone Star represents faith - the faith that in spite of our imperfect history; despite the difficult journey to build a nation, we can still build a better future for ourselves and for our children. The Lone Star represents belief - the belief that despite our divisions and shortcomings, we can still strive to heal, reconcile and become whole, because a whole nation working together is better than the sum of its parts.
The Lone Star represents something even more profound. The Liberian Flag represents the imagination and industry of Liberian women. It was Liberian women who worked together to stitch the symbol of the new and independent nation.
174 years later, while we have had one woman President, we now have one woman Vice President, and have had other notable women in national and international services to our country; it must be rightly said that the nation has not kept its promise of equality to its women citizens. Many continue to unfairly struggle for a place around the table of national decision-making. Obstacles and hindrances continue to be placed in the way of Liberian women achieving their full potentials and realizing their dreams.
In many parts of the country, Liberian mothers, sisters and daughters are the subjects of abuse, denials, rape, and inhumane treatments, thereby robbing many of a sense of equality, entitlements and deserved dignity.
54 years after Liberia’s Declaration of Independence, in 1901, a 19-year old Edwin Barclay wrote our nation’s patriotic song symbolized in the Flag. Desert it, Barclay asked, and answered: No, never! Uphold it? Yes, forever. This call to patriotic duty and national service is as important today as it was written 120 years ago.
Every Liberian - indeed the government which represents the collective aspirations of the people - share in this patriotic duty. This duty is not simply to stand at attention as the cloth on which the impression of the Flag is designed is being hoisted. Our patriotic duty is to uphold the values of the Flag, and to always strive to fulfill its various promises to all Liberians.
This is why when we lead by division, exclusion and marginalization; we desert the Flag.
When we manage ourselves in ways to keep so many Liberians trapped in poverty in a country blessed with so much natural wealth; we desert the Flag.
When we cut deals that shortchange Liberia’s interests for personal gains; we desert the Flag.
When we abuse public offices and trusts and lend ourselves to act corruptly; we desert the Flag.
When we deny opportunities to each other, or judge each other not by the letter and spirit of the same, law but by choices of political association, or differences in ethnicity and religion; we desert the Flag.
Rather than setting higher expectations and aspirations for ourselves, when we set lowering standards and trap ourselves in negative self-fulfilling prophecies of what we can and cannot do as a nation; we desert the Flag.
When we fail to protect and honor women - when we hinder the development of all children including the girl child and deny women the right to equal participation and opportunity - we desert the Flag.
When we fail to prepare our youth by not providing them the highest quality of education so that they are ready for the demands of generational change and leadership, and to confidently compete with other children of the world; we desert the Flag.
When we fail to provide adequately for our senior citizens in retirement after the years of their dedicated services to our nation; we desert the Flag.
When our young people are sent to prisons only to be abandoned and someday be returned to society as hardened criminals because of the absence of programs of reforms in our prisons; we desert the Flag.
When our streets are overtaken by drugs, a sense of hopelessness, as well as rising unemployments and crimes, and the minds and capacities of many of our young people are not being productively employed; we desert the Flag.
When Liberian businesses are being choked to deaths because of unfair preferences, practices and regulations; when small and medium-sized businesses have no access to micro-financing, loans and opportunities for fair competition and growth; when the innate spirit of Liberian entrepreneurship is being stifled causing many to become mere observers and bystanders in the economy of their country; we desert the Flag.
When we steal from the people, or unfairly and wastefully distribute the nation’s wealth so that those who need it the most are given less, and those who already have are unaccountably taking more; we desert the Flag.
My fellow Liberians: I know we cannot change our past, but we can make our nation’s future better. I know change is hard. I know it will require a lot of work. But I also know we can do it.
I know to continue to govern and manage our country in the same way we always have, and under the same dysfunctional and failed system of corruption, poor quality in education and selective justice, will only worsen the current living conditions of our people, and undermine the bright future we seek for all Liberians.
My people: It is time to change.
It is time to do the right things - not just for a political party but for the betterment of the country. It is time to come together, to genuinely heal and be reconciled.
It is time to look out for all those who cannot look out for themselves - the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the sick, all of our children, and our students.
It is time to help those who are actually working hard to help the nation succeed - doctors, nurses, teachers, caregivers, national servicemen and women in the military and security apparatuses.
It is time to help those who are trying their very best and still catching hard times - market women, Yana Boys, Pehn-pehn Riders, Keh-keh Riders, young men and young women who are selling whatever they can find in the streets just to make ends meet.
It is time to help the farmers who are struggling to make their farms with outdated tools and methods, and are finding it burdensome, if not impossible, to sell what they are able to produce.
It is time to support underfunded hospitals, schools and clinics.
It is time to reach out a hand of understanding and assistance to parents struggling to pay rent, school fees, hospital bills, feed their families, and keep a roof over their heads.
It is time to support Liberian artists and artisans so that through their works we showcase the best of ourselves.
When Liberians make it - when we create the system and enabling environment so that children have a chance to be better than their parents, and so that all Liberians can have a chance to succeed, if they are ready to work as hard as it will take to succeed, then we fulfill our patriotic duty to uphold the Flag.
Liberians, it is time to uphold the Flag.
All Hail Lone Star, All Hail.
God bless you.
God bless Liberia.
Happy Flag Day
~ Alex Cummings ~
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