Liberia’s first woman president gives Tate Lecture April 14

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-SirleafHer Excellency President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – Liberia’s first elected female president and Africa’s first freely elected female head of state – will visit campus for SMU’s 2008-09 Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series April 14. The lecture takes place at 8 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium.

In January 2006, President Johnson-Sirleaf took office after nearly two decades of civil war in Liberia. A Harvard-educated economist and grandmother of eight, she had been exiled to Nigeria and nicknamed “The Iron Lady.” She won a run-off election with 59 percent of the vote and has since found ways to reform a corrupt authoritarian government saddled by astronomical debt. She also has appointed an unprecedented number of women to leadership positions in all areas in the Liberian government.

Also a presidential candidate in the 1997 Liberia general election, President Johnson-Sirleaf finished second in a field of 13 candidates. Before that, she served for 5 years as assistant administrator and director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Africa and was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Project for Africa. She also has served as the first woman Minister of Finance for Liberia, vice president of Citicorp, vice president of the HSBC Equator Bank, and senior loan officer of the World Bank.

President Johnson-Sirleaf will answer questions from the audience in the Turner Construction/Wachovia Student Forum at 4:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom. Doors open at 4 p.m., and the entire SMU community is invited. The evening lecture is sold out.

Learn more about the remaining Tate season and the Student Forum series for the community at smu.edu/tate.

About Kathleen Tibbetts

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