Why Bestow Honors?

By Atty Philip N.Wesseh (PNW)

While winding up my recent visit to the United States, I received a call that the Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Liberia, Elijah Seah was trying to get to me for something. Upon receiving the message, I asked the caller as to whether he was informed that I was out of the country. The caller answered in the affirmative. But before the inquiry, when I received that message, I thought that it was about a pending trip to accompany the President on a visit abroad. Normally, whenever the President wants a journalist to accompany her on a trip abroad, it is the protocol office that usually handles such matter. And so when such call was received, the issue of the trip was my initial conclusion.

However, two days upon my arrival, I got the reason why the Chief of Protocol has been asking for me. This was made known in a communication dated July 8. In that communication, the Chief of Protocol said, “I present my compliments and have the honour to inform you that the Grand Master of the National Orders of Distinctions, Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is pleased to confer on you the distinction of Commander, Star of Africa in celebration of the 166th Independence Anniversary of the Republic of Liberia on July 19, 2013, in the C. Cecil Dennis, Jr. Auditorium, Ministry of Foreign Affairs at four 0’clock Post Meridian.”

Truly to the communication, the occasion took place on Friday at the mentioned venue, with President Sirleaf conferring the nation’s highest honors on several persons, including two of my “old men” Dr. Charles Clarke, a Liberian entrepreneur and former Chairman of the Unity Party and Ambassador Carlton Karpeh, a journalist and former Ambassador to Cameroon and other African countries.

Since I got the official communication about being honored by the President, I began to ruminate as to why such an honor, especially so as it relates to the state. Although I have received many honors or awards, some from the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) such as “Journalist Of The Year” for two, three times. That was indeed unique, as it was coming from the state. For me, receiving one of the country’s highest honors, “Commander, Star of Africa,” supersedes all other honors that I have ever received over the years, including the one I received while in the eight grade at D. Twe High School in1977 for being the “Best High School Press Reporter,” by the then Vice Principal for instruction, the late Joseph Torbor (May his soul rest in peace.)

Why Such Honors?

As I was pondering over the reason why such an honor and those that I have received; three reasons came to my mind. The first is that an honor is done to show appreciation for something positive for a person, group or organization that has done or continues to do; the next is that an honor is bestowed to motivate people to do more and lastly, an honor is done to inspire others to emulate the good example of those who have been honored. In all of these, one thing that is common is that such activities in some way or the other have impacted the lives of people and had made contributions to national development.

In the first category, an honor is done to show appreciation so that people will know that what they are doing or have done has made significant impact in the society. This too, will send a message that whatever one finds himself or herself to do, such should be done to the best of one’s ability, because no one knows who is observing or following such activities. Never should people feel that in whatever they do, no one is taking note.

Under this category, those who can no longer be active to work because of being senile would feel elated by noting what they were able to do when they were physically fit. In short, people should know that nothing goes unnoticed. If the recognition is not today, it does not mean it can’t be tomorrow, as seen in the case of the octogenarians who were honored last Friday. Likewise, a posthumous honor was bestowed on fallen journalist, Tom Kamara of the NEW DEMOCRAT. It is always said that, “Good Never Lost.”

As for the second category which is motivation. This is done to encourage people whose activities are impacting the lives of people to continue to do so. Motivation is all intended to energize and encourage people to do more. One can be motivated by just recognizing the good they are doing in the society. For example, those who were honored last Friday and are still active would be motivated by that honor to exceedingly live up to expectation. The issue of motivation is akin to cheering squad in a game. By cheering, the players are motivated to ensure victory. The cat’s mew’; yelling and clapping all help to move the players to perform. Furthermore, motivation can make people to move a mountain.

Regarding the last category, which is inspiration, it is geared towards sending a message to others, rather than the honoree. By honoring people for their good work, this may inspire others to try to strive to acquire such status. For example, in some schools, Administration always posts the names of students who performed well during a particular period, so that others may be encouraged to follow suit. In other areas, there is something call the ‘dean’s list’ which list outstanding students. With this, other students are encouraged to study harder to form a part of honor roll list or be a part of the dean’s list. Hence, the honor bestowed upon others, inspires others to strive too to be honored. This is where what is known as “constructive jealousy” come in, meaning, “if that person can do it, I, too, can do the same.”

I try to list what I considered the three categories whenever honors are bestowed upon people, institutions or organizations. Honor shows recognition for a job well done. Even if that was not recognized years ago, it does not mean one will never be recognized, as was seen last Friday when some octogenarians, who are no longer active, were recognized for what they did, while they were physically active. Also, honor motivates people to strive for “Higher Heights,” just to borrow a popular phrase from the late President William R. Tolbert. Lastly, honor inspires others to do all they can to also be recognized as was in the case of the honorees.

As was rightly done last Friday, the conferring of honors by President Sirleaf, who is the Grand Master of these high national honors, was to recognize the role or works of many men and women, who can no longer perform as they did many years ago; to motivate those. Like me, I am is still young and active to do more for the society, and lastly to inspire others to work assiduously and selflessly to attain such honor.

Let me say that by referring to honor, I am not referring to those honors which are deceptively done for pecuniary gains. That is, what those planners can get from the honorees, as it is prevalent in parts of our society today. The honor I am referring to is the one that was done last Friday at the Foreign Ministry by President Sirleaf to recognize people for what they have done; motivate people to do more and also to inspire others to follow the good examples of those honored.

I cannot end this piece without providing the reasons for which I was honored. In the President’s citation, she among other things said, “You have brought great pride to the country in your dutiful service as a journalist of mature and professional quality. You have impacted many people in and out of the country through your work, serving as role model for many young and aspiring children in Liberia and the sub-region.”

“In the name of the Government and people of the Republic of Liberia, permit me to express our admiration of your commitment and dedication to building a strong media foundation, which is the guarantor of fundamental rights and democracy. Now, Therefore, in consideration of your enormous contribution to the cause of Liberia, I, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, by virtue of the authority in vested me as Grand Master of the Orders of Distinction of the Republic of Liberia, do hereby admit you, Philip N. Wesseh into the Star of Africa, and confer upon you the Grade of Commander.”

For me, I see this as a challenge as a member of the mainstream media, to do more professionally and ethically for my country and people. I rest my case.