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New Liberian president addresses U.S. Congress

March 16, 2006

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asked for continued support as she vowed to show the world “the difference which one woman with abiding faith in God can do.”

An active member of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, Sirleaf referred to her faith several times during her 35-minute speech on March 15.

“I stand before you today as the first woman elected to lead an African nation, thanks to the grace of Almighty God; thanks to the courage of the Liberian people, who choose their future over fear,” she said.

Sirleaf’s visit comes amid growing Congressional support for increased emergency funding for Liberia in this year’s federal budget. On the day she spoke, a House committee inserted $50 million for Liberia into a supplemental appropriations bill now under deliberation, but Liberia supporters are aiming to raise the amount closer to $100 million.

She is scheduled to meet at the White House March 21 with President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush — fellow United Methodists. Mrs. Bush led the U.S. delegation to the Liberian presidential inauguration Jan. 16, along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Sirleaf is the fourth African head of state and the eighth woman to address a joint meeting of Congress. Invitations to address Congress are extended to international dignitaries only once or twice during a typical year, according to a report on

Even as she thanked the United States for its long support, she said, “We ask that we continue working together, but we do not ask for patronage.”

She asked members of Congress to think about what the returns on their investment would be when young men could trade their guns for jobs, when people could feed themselves again and when young women could become scientists and doctors.

“With your prayers and with your help, we will demonstrate that democracy can work, even under the most challenging conditions.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. For a complete text of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s address, visit

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Video Highlights

Address to U.S. Congress

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