Africa’s First Elected Female President & Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
Known as “Africa’s Iron Lady,” Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won international acclaim for leading Liberia through the Ebola Crisis and through reconciliation and recovery following her nation’s decade-long civil war. As Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state and Liberia’s first female president, she is credited with achieving dramatic economic, social, and political change, culminating in Liberia’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 73 years. Read More >
President Obama Meeting
Mo Ibrahim Prize Ceremony Address
Secretary Kerry Address
ECA Conference of African Ministers
ATT Diplomatic Conference
President Sirleaf Farewell Address to United Nations
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, crisis is the ultimate test of leadership—shining a light on one’s values and ability to communicate, build relationships, and create a strong shared vision. No one knows this better than Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. As president of Liberia throughout the 2014 Ebola Crisis, she has the distinction of leading a nation through and out of a devastating epidemic. Read More >
In this timely and inspiring keynote, President Sirleaf shares her own crisis-proven and values-driven tenets of leadership: listening to the voices of others, being firm in decision-making, ensuring unity of command, changing course when something isn’t working, and most of all, taking responsibility for both successes and for failures. Noting that leadership never matters more than when it directly impacts lives and livelihoods, she emphasizes the importance of going beyond one’s own fears to lead by powerful example, empowering your team and inspiring your stakeholders. Read Less ^
A recent New York Times article noted that “countries led by women seem to be particularly successful in fighting the coronavirus.” Before Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and others captured the world’s attention for their COVID-19 responses, Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was praised for leading her country through the deadly Ebola crisis while it was still recovering from the devastating effects of civil war. Celebrated for her ability to make tough decisions with compassion and empathy, communicate with honesty, and create an effective call for unity not only in her country, but around the world; “Africa’s Iron Lady” placed a spotlight on female leadership that contrasted with an otherwise all-male-led continent. In this highly motivational speech, President Sirleaf, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize as a champion of women’s rights, examines feminine leadership attributes that excel during crisis and can empower success in any role.
In a world where only 7% of countries are led by women, 70% of the world’s frontline healthcare workers are female. In hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and as EMTs, women have been the predominant responders and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As heads of state, women have also been credited with leading the world’s most successful and lifesaving COVID-19 responses. Both have revealed the importance of empowering women’s voices and perspectives to improve conditions, care, and outcomes. In this timely talk, Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose credits include current service as a WHO global ambassador, President of Liberia during the Ebola Crisis, and orchestrator of the rebuilding of her country’s healthcare system, emphasizes the importance of women in healthcare across the globe—and the imperative to get women into leadership roles at every level of the system.
COVID-19 has shown the world how fundamentally interconnected we are, as nations, communities, organizations and, on the most basic level, as human beings. It has shown the power of unity in taking on a common threat. Most of all, it has challenged all of us to maintain the positive change born of crisis once that danger has passed. Drawing upon her recent address to the UN Security Council, and her own country, Liberia’s, recovery from the Ebola epidemic, Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf provides a hopeful and inspiring perspective on the world after COVID-19: A chance for all of us to hit the reset button and work together for the common good in both our local communities and the larger world.
During 15 years of brutal civil war, the women of Liberia watched helplessly as children died of hunger. Others saw their children kidnapped, drugged, and forced to become child soldiers. Of the 1.5 million women who survived the war, more than 70% had been raped. Many witnessed acts of violence so heinous, they were traumatized for years to come. In 2005, two years after the conflict ended, they put their hopes into a unified rallying cry:” Vote for Woman!” Their woman was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, once an abused wife, who had risen to become a Harvard-trained economist, finance minister, imprisoned political dissident and influential World Bank economist and U.N. development expert. The story of how these legions of “market women,” who toiled in the fields and market stalls in order to send their children to school, organized to elect Africa’s first female president is a story of empowerment, hope and the power of the human spirit. It is also the story of one of the world’s most remarkable women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose inspirational leadership healed a shattered nation and earned the Nobel Prize for Peace.
"We were so honored to have you with us this week for the CARE National Conference. We have heard only great feedback from our advocates and we’re so grateful to you for being part of creating a successful and inspiring experience for them. Your story as a woman navigating the vast challenges of running for office in Liberia shared insights that brought to life many of the same issues CARE works to address today. (And more than one person thought your story offered terrific lessons and a primer for women in the United States currently running for president!)"
"It was a privilege to see President Sirleaf at the Global Water Awards and her speech was exceptional. Definitely the best we’ve had so far. Thank you."
"As the first woman elected to lead an African nation, President Sirleaf is an inspiration to women everywhere, men too – a woman revered by her people and determined to make progress."
"Her "residency" was outstanding - perhaps the best we've had. She connected with the students really well, speaking with them as equals and just as interested in them as she was in sharing information about her and Liberia. She certainly won over a school full of new fans, all of whom are pulling for Liberia's continued success - and starting to clamor for a school-sponsored trip to Monrovia to help in the rebuilding! She is a remarkable person, and her strong moral leadership shines through in everything she does. She is also entertaining, engaging, and flexible - all the things you want in a visiting speaker!"
"President Johnson Sirleaf’s message of peace, human rights, and economic empowerment truly inspired all of us. We are proud of her work and the fine examples she is setting for Liberia and around the world."
"The audience really loved her! Thank you!! It was a pleasure to have her on campus."
"For the Lafayette College community, you created such an inspiring and lively discussion about the critical role that education and civil service can have in fostering unity within a divided community. Your visit to Lafayette included an extraordinarily successful event and day of activities. We are so appreciative of your willingness to spend time with our faculty and students in advance of your presentation. Your lecture is a model for what is desired for an academic environment. It was not only informative about your own specific experience, but it was interesting and relevant to all the members of our diverse community. From the point of view of politics, gender, and leadership, you offered so many insightful perspectives, which made it a terrific talk for students. We are very grateful to have had this opportunity to hear your insights about our world."
“She was fabulous…she actually got a standing ovation, which from this crowd, who are not terribly demonstrative - was amazing! Truly, it was a very special hour and we are so thankful to President Sirleaf for everything.”
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