The Side Bar Of President Sirleaf’s Annual Message

By Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

In the field of journalism, there are always aspects of an event. They are the “Main Bar” and the “Side Bar.” The “MAIN BAR” reflects on the main issues for which the event is being held, while the “SIDE BAR” does not reflect on the issue, but may be a distraction or something unprecedented that is not centered on the subject matter but may be of interest to the public or society. Sometimes such is written as a human interest story or a good feature article.

For example in the case of the President’s annual message to the National legislature on Monday, there are always things the nation awaits to hear from the President such as the state of the economy, health, education, her legislative agenda, as well as other issues citizens expect to hear from her. And in case she did not deliver as expected to the likings of some, she would be taken to task, like in the present message where some citizens feel that her failure to mention Rep. Saah Joseph and other countries like china for their role in the fight against Ebola.

But all of these are part of the main bar because the fight against Ebola was key to her message and so if she decided to recognize or mention names of some of those who fought against the spread of the Ebola virus, it was prudent for her to have mentioned key players like Rep. Joseph, who selflessly provided his ambulances and his own service in the war against Ebola and also the People’s Republic of China that many believe brought “hope and relief” at its initial stage of the outbreak based on appeals from the Liberian government.

Howbeit, much has been said about the main bar of the President’s “Annual Message “which is sometimes mistakenly taken as “nationwide address,” or “state of the nation address.” Just minutes before she delivered the message, someone asked as to whether this was described as ‘state of the union address, something of the United States system. I told the person that such is referred to as “Annual Message” and not ‘state of the union address,” like in the US. In fact, I told the person we are not a union and therefore it would be erroneous.

One of the side bars to the just delivered Annual Message was the recognition given to some former leaders of this country. Our reporters who covered the program said for the first time these former leaders were properly and duly recognized, unlike in previous functions. Because of the unprecedented nature, I have decided to make it an issue because of its importance, as it clearly indicates that we are departing from business as usual where former dignitaries at times are not duly recognized during such state functions.

Among the former officials were Dr. Amos Sawyer, of the former Interim Government of National Unity (UGNU); former House Speaker George Dweh, of the former National Transitional Legislative Assembly; former President Pro-tempore, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley; former Chief Justice, Chea Chepoe, Chief Justice under the regime of former President Samuel K. Doe; former First Nancy Doe, wife of former President Samuel K. Doe and former first lady, Nattie Blah, wife of former President Moses Blah and former Grand Gedeh County Representative William Glay under the Doe regime, who recently was one of the losers in the country senatorial race.

The protocol recognized the former officials who were in attendance and at some point, standing ovation was accorded them. Specifically, President Sirleaf who acknowledged the former officials particularly hailed the cordial relationship that existed between the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government under the Pro-temp of Mr. Findley.

I take interest in this recognition because many times former officials complain that when they attend state functions they are not properly recognized, while others also express disgust that they are not even recognized. And so to see a departure from that ugly past, it is necessary that it be highlighted so that this trend of recognizing former officials would be a part in national events.

Today those who are in leadership are referred to “current leaders,” and obviously should they leave tomorrow, they would rightly be referred to as ‘former officials.” Therefore, it is prudent to “give honor to whom honor is due” so that should they become “former officials” should be accorded them.

Sometimes it is not only the issue of due recognition. At times, it is the issue of care and concern for these former officials. For this I hear people say that “when you leave the stage, you are not recognized.” This is sad and very unbecoming that the state after serving for years would fail to care for these former officials, especially in times of needs.

In addition, sometimes we unnecessary despise the “old people” who still have the wisdom to guide society to success. This was even observed by octogenarian Mother Mary Brownnell when she was at one time a keynote speaker during a function by the University of Liberia on its main campus. It was the she told the story of a group of young leaders who decided to kill all of their old people. But wisely enough, one of them hid his parents who kept advising him on issues.

As a result, whenever the young people met and discussed, they observed that the young man was wiser than all of them. It was then it was discovered that the young man did not kill his old parents. Indeed, the intent of Mother Brownell’s message was that people in their old age are still useful to the society and should not be forgotten or despised, as it is common in the Liberian society.

As I close on this side bar of the President’s message, let us keep recognizing the formers, because we too, would be formers tomorrow; equally, let us care and show concern for the senile. As we, the Methodist men usually or occasionally say, “rescue the perishing, care for the dying,” especially in a world of uncertainty.

As the Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I Rest My Case to resume tomorrow on a communication from the House of Representatives to the LACC.