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Durbin Welcomes New Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Washington

Location: Washington, DC


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today welcomed the first female African head of state—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—to the Capitol to address a special joint session of Congress.

"The people of Liberia and the people of the United States are bound together by history and by values," President Sirleaf said. "We share a deep and abiding belief in the power of freedom, of faith and of finding virtue in work for the common good."

"President Sirleaf stressed education and economic issues during her campaign," Durbin said. "Access to education and economic opportunity are essential values in a democratic society. As President Sirleaf begins the difficult task of reconstructing Liberia, we need to show support for the Liberian people as they re-claim their country after years of civil war and unrest."

Durbin noted that the Catholic nuns known as the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ from Ruma, Illinois played a key role in Liberia's struggle. Five of their missionary nuns were murdered during the civil strife which led to the current peaceful resolution.

"The Catholic nuns who were murdered are modern martyrs to freedom," Durbin said. "When I met President Sirleaf, I reminded her that Liberia's struggles were well known and appreciated in my home state."

Durbin attended a luncheon with President Sirleaf before the joint session and he also served as a member of the escort committee. President Sirleaf is a 1971 graduate of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Durbin's guests for the joint session of Congress were North Chicago Alderman Valerie DeVost, North Chicago Alderman Thelma Mayers, McHenry County Board Chairman Kenneth Koehler, McHenry County Engineer Joseph Korpalski, and McHenry County Administrator Peter Austin.

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