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These are highlights from remarks and keynote addresses of convention speakers over the years. Many of these speakers are accomplished members of the association. All of them are making valuable contributions towards the well-being of society as a whole.
ANNUAL REPORT ON THE STATE OF AFFAIRS OF BHSAUSA
"BASSA HIGH HAS DONE A REMARKABLE JOB"
ANNUAL REPORT ON THE STATE OF AFFAIRS OF THE BASSA HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATION/ U.S.A.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Board of Directors, Past President Tommy Logan, Madam vice president, past and present officials of the Association, Friends, well wishers, fellow delegates. I firstly like to thank God for spearing our lives to once again assemble... Read more
Mr. Calvin Roosevelt Johnson says, Bassa High School in Grand Bassa County “has done a remarkable job of producing fine national and international citizens.” Speaking on the theme: “Building For Tomorrow”, Mr. Johnson said: “As members of...Read more
Keynote speech delivered by Dr. S. Obediah Butscher at BHSA 2008 Convention, Atlanta, GA. Mr. President, officers, and members of the Bassa High School Association, USA, distinguish guests, well-wishers, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to first of all acknowledge the efforts, commitment, and the many sacrifices the officers and the members of our association have made in providing various material and financial support for our alma mater Bassa High School. I would like you, Mr. President, and the members of our association to know that this is indeed a high honor for me, to be asked to be the Keynote Speaker on this August occasion marking the 6h Annual Convention and Fundraiser here in Atlanta, Georgia, in support of BHS.... Read more
A former lawmaker of Grand Bassa County during one of Liberia’s interim governments Charles Johnson has urged Liberians to constructively engage those representing their interest in government. ... Read more
Dr. S. Obediah Butscher at BHSA 2008 Convention
COMPLACENY, IMPUNITY SHOULD BE AVOIDED”
Dr. S. Obediah Butscher, Keynote Address to the 15th Annual Convention of the Bassa High School Association, USA Delivered in Charlotte, NC on August 12, 2017
Mr. President, Officers and Members of the Bassa High School Association, USA, distinguish guests, well-wishers, ladies and gentlemen. Before commencing my discourse, I would like to invoke the spirit of the divine arbiter, our common creator, to guide me so that the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, as well as the wisdom of my thoughts may be acceptable not only in our creator's sight, but also acceptable by my brothers and sisters here present and afar.
Mr. President, I would like to first of all acknowledge the efforts, commitment, and the many sacrifices you and the members of our association have made in providing various material and financial support for our alma mater Bassa High School. I would like you and the members of our association to know that this is indeed a high honor for me, to be asked to be the keynote Speaker on this August occasion marking the 15th Annual Convention and Fundraiser here in Charlotte, North Carolina, in support of our dear alma mater, BHS.
Having said that, here we are. Where do I begin? What should I be talking about tonight?
Having received the invitation, I got a follow-up phone call from my dear friend and colleague, Alfreda Davis who instructed me that the theme of this convention is "Giving Back". Then I said to her, as a retired educator after 38 years of service in public education and a retired high school principal, all I have been doing in terms of giving back is collecting quality mathematics and science text books from the San Francisco bay area in California for schools in Liberia and particularly Bassa High School; as a matter of fact, I currently have my garage filled with almost a hundred boxes of mathematics textbooks to be shipped to Bassa High School. Now a friend of mine who is building a school in Morweh near Rivercess and I are going to get a container to ship the books and chairs; but we need someone to help clear the container through customs in Liberia.
For those of us who are looking for ways to give back; but may not know how; I learned that the association has a scholarship program where scholarships are awarded to the top two students at each grade level at the beginning of every academic year. The scholarship serves as encouragement and incentive for other students to strive for recognition of academic excellence. I ask that at this convention, we double our efforts in this endeavor and support at least four qualified students at each grade level. I pledge $100 now to commence that doubling effort. Each of us here tonight can do his or her part to double the scholarship grant.
Mr. President, I was in Buchanan a few weeks ago, as a matter of fact on July 25, 2017 the eve of our Independence Day and I visited our school campus and saw the magnificent job of renovating the science building! This association ought to be proud of its accomplishment thus far even though we still have long ways to go. We need to know that the Science Lab renovation project has been one of the single most important and costly undertaken by the Bassa High School Association, USA to date. While much has been done to improve the situation at the school, there remains a lot more to be done to improve the quality of science education at the institution. The physical renovation of the facility, from the outside appears superb, attractive and impressive. Now I hope we have moved to the phase of providing adequate furniture, equipment, specimen and other science lab necessities to make meaningful differences in the instructional and learning environment at the school.
The science lab is not just one room or a couple of rooms. It is an entire building constructed on the main campus of the institution. It is not like when I was in BHS copying notes from the board and taking dictation in science without labs. Universities are looking for students with laboratory science experience these days. The extended civil war and other disturbances only made things much worse at the Bassa High School as buildings were destroyed and looted. When the dust had settled and places were assessed to measure the extent of damages done, Government's limited resources led it to put Bassa High School on the back burner; but not the politician's salaries. This left our young association with no other alternative but to rally support to make a difference and put our Alma Mater back on her feet. This is true evidence of giving back.
As Liberians the world over, we are charged with the collective responsibility of reshaping our country. And we must find meaningful ways in which to do so. As we gather here tonight, we need to understand that with successful event, comes sincere commitment, sacrifice, and active participation. I would like to again commend the Bassa High School Association, for the initiatives that it has undertaken thus far to ameliorate the situation back home. As I recall my high school years, we started the 9th grade with 14 boys and 14 girls; by the time we got to the senior year, we were only four in the class. In those days if you fail one subject you had to repeat the whole grade level. Our senior classroom, was the stair well of the terrace of the building, the terraced that has since been transformed into an auditorium which has recently been furnished with 400 chairs purchased by the Bassa High School Association, USA. Another evidence of giving back!
So tonight, I charge my fellow members of the Turris Lucis family to support a greater and more worthy cause; that is:- to educate our voting public! And I urge our American friends to help us in that regard. A greater mission in which we must be active participants; our mission should focus on: Giving back in ways that foster equitable learning outcomes to all students irrespective of their prior educational experiences. But this cannot be done if the politics is not right! It is to this topic I would like to draw our attention tonight.
Our commitment in developing a new agenda of giving back is to educate the voting public of Liberia, and within the same breath, address the rights of the public to have quality education, adequate medical facilities, proper sanitation, clean drinking water and 24-hour electricity. By the way any government that operates in its own capital city without 24-hour electricity is inherently flaw and has no business governing. We should educate the voting public to settle for nothing less than a fair, open and peaceful election with a strife to build A Truly Constitutionally Multi-ethnic Democracy; that has zero tolerance for corruption and that Breaks the Barriers of Tribalism, Gender, Class, and Religion, so that our public education flourishes and transforms our society to the extent that school age children no longer have to be peddling and selling in the streets on Monrovia and Buchanan during school hours. What does this mean? What might it look like???
It means that we now need to turn our attention to the challenges ahead of us Liberians. As we strive towards developing an agenda of giving back, an agenda that informs our practice, and gives back not just to our alma mater but also sustains the movement and actualizes our vision for A Truly Constitutionally Multi-ethnic Democracy. An agenda, I am certain the vision of our current corrupt system of government would not be able to comprehend. An agenda that dispels the notion that what our youths see happening in our mother land today is ok. No it is not ok! A government with a sense of decency should foster free public education; should not sit supinely and watch so many young school age children peddling and selling cold water, chicklet, candy, coconut etc, in the streets of Monrovia and Buchanan, or anywhere for that matter between cars during school hours; with government officials holding up traffic just to buy from these children who they know should be in school.
In giving back, we need to educate our voting public to see the issue of ethnic diversity in the context of enriching the totality of our society; politically, culturally,economically, socially, and spiritually. The challenge before us, as we develop an agenda for giving back to both our alma mater and our country, Liberia, is to construct the basis of a truly pluralistic, diverse, and constitutionally multi-ethnic democracy in which genuine dialogue, genuine interaction between and among all groups will flourish; where mutual learning and respect are going to be the norm rather than the exception.
We need to infuse our giving back agenda with a common sense of ethics and spirituality that would challenge the structure of oppression; the structure of power; and the structure of the privileged within the dominant social order. our giving back agenda needs to be perceived in the grandeur of a critical project that transforms the larger society, not just our alma mater. Our giving back agenda has to be about many things: it has to be about the struggle against tribalism, the struggle against sexism, the struggle to empower working people, the struggle to restore our top soil, the struggle to stop deforestation, the struggle to rebuild infrastructures, the struggle to protect what's left of our mineral resources when the best parts have already been mined, it has to be of course, above things, the struggle to retrieve our human resources and intellectuals who are the life blood of the nation. Our giving back agenda must place humanity at the very center of its politics. What do i mean by this? It is not sufficient for us to simply assert what we are against. We must affirm what we are for from an interest based perspective.
We can, tonight, during our deliberations and or mini dinner conversations around the tables, make a commitment to this kind of democratic struggle, a struggle of empowerment, a struggle of emancipating the energies, talents and abilities of poor and oppressed people including women. Can we dare to engage in that commitment of struggle, to envision a new definition of democracy and politics for Liberia? A definition that would teach future and current Liberian politicians and public servants the ethical and moral limits of a winning strategy during an election, the difference between commitment and zealotry, and the everlasting need for selflessness and civility in Liberian public life. I challenge all of us to start now, let this 15th Annual National Convention of Bassa High School Association, USA so well planned, organized and executed by President Nuku Reeves and his leadership team be a benchmark for the continuous improvement process on our part.
If we achieved this, then we will be fulfilling our mandate and our charter, truly strengthening democracy in the post-civil war Liberia; and at the same time, exercise our firm belief that politics and public service must elevate our standards not subvert them; and in doing so we would be giving back ten-fold. I thank you.
Full Text of Speech delivered by Dr. A. Joel King at the 92nd Commencement Exercise of the Bassa High School, Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Liberia. August 19, 2018
Speech Delivered at the 92nd Commencement of Bassa High School Buchanan, Grand Bassa County Saturday, August 19, 2018 Dr. A Joel King
The Honorable Superintendent Grand Bassa County, members of the Legislative Caucus, Mr. Supervisor of Schools, other county officials, Mr. Principal, Mr. Vice Principal, staff, members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), other officials of government present here today, graduating students, student body, friends and families, well-wishers ladies, and gentlemen.
I feel indeed gratified and immensely honored to speak here today at the graduation class of 2018 and to share in the 92nd commencement ceremonies of my ‘alma mater’. If you had told me this was possible, when I graduated in 1975, I would have suggested otherwise. It was through the Grace of God, knowledge achieved at this school, hard work, and determination that made it possible.
So today, the focus of this speech will be on: “challenges to continue the journey don’t give up!”
At this time, I like us to pause in a brief moment of silence, to pay homage to all of our great school administrators and teachers who have gone on before and laid the foundation for this school to continue. These include Hon. Philemon Harris, Eddie Harris, Dean Dalmedia, Philip Vacanarat Shadrack Saywrayne, Joseph Deshield, Dolly Horace and Prof Singh from India just to name a few. We also like to pause and honor a former ‘Turris Lucians’ as I call it, my friend and former classmate Judge Samuel Geevon Zor Smith who recently passed and the late Hon. David Jallah who also walked through these aisles briefly. Thank you!
Before I proceed, I bring greetings to you in my official capacity as President of the Bassa High School Association, USA. We want to thank Principal Sheriff who cares so much for the children of this institution, the Vice Principal and staff and everyone who gives so much to the success of this historic institution. Our association and its leadership are committed to make Bassa High School (BHS) one of the best public high schools in Liberia. I know that we can do it together because we believe a well-trained and welloiled mind is the bedrock for the development of our country. So, we are proud of the work you are doing here with all of the headaches and reason[s] why we do our best to support you.
We are committed to help because government doesn’t have all the answers and reasons why we are doing our part to do things like revamping this auditorium, renovating the bathrooms and enabled a “Science Lab”, paying monthly stipends to lab staff and remitting Christmas bonuses. We also want to acknowledge the work of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) including Mr. Mamoud Tolbert and our liaison officer Mrs. Pailey for all that they do to keep us informed. To everyone else, I want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
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In our just recent convention in Maryland, USA we have tasked ourselves to laid out a vision for the future of BHS which includes if possible building a new school in the future with help from the Liberian government because we cannot do this alone and because this school is owned by the people of Liberia, yea Grand Bassa County. If not, our goal is to upgrade BHS physical and peripheral facilities to conform to 21st Century learning environment. For example, replacing all windows (a former student who graduated in 1964 has pledged 50% of the costs of doing that), upgrading the computer lab, providing electricity to every building including the principal residence through solar energy, repainting all exterior structures, forming a small marching BHS marching band, purchasing a bus for school trips, upgrading the library, etc., etc., etc.
What we need from you is your commitment to learning. We will fail to accept the fact that of over 200 students not a single person was able to pass the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSEC) successfully. We will work with the school leadership to see what we can do to prevent that from happening. We will also hold teachers accountable. We will tie allowances to performance. We will increase Christmas bonuses if student successfully perform on the WASSEC. Additionally, the scholarship committee of our association is looking into a process of supporting students at institutions of higher learning who are willing to return to BHS as teachers on a contractual basis. We think this is a good way to attract teachers who cares for the school. In the weeks and months to come, you will hear more about these.
So, at this juncture I will start by saying congratulations to you class of 2018! You deserve a round of applause. I know it has not been an easy journey. I have been there just as you are today! You have gone through a tiresome academic and professional voyage, one that can only be done successfully through hard work, commitment, diligence and determination. Yet, through thick and thin you did it! So I say good job, and again congratulations to you!
About a little over 40 years ago, I walked these isles as you do today. Never did I know that one day I would stand at this podium as a keynote speaker at a BHS graduation ceremony. When I graduated with all that knowledge, the only thing I can remember was a deep sense of anxiety and eagerness to face the world, with hope and dream of a better tomorrow. My entire focus was the University of Liberia and nothing could change that. All my friends were headed there and so was I. I knew from early in my pursuit that education was the only way out of a country with limited opportunities even though it was much better in those days then it is today. I knew I had to do this when my father closed his Bank of Liberia account with only $200.00 US dollars to send me to Monrovia. I cried because of my father’s love for me and the confidence and trust he had that one day I would make it. That dream may be lost for most of you because as I stated earlier, it was a different Liberia. But, don’t you ever give up! Live your dreams no matter how difficult it may be. If your dream is to be a medical doctor, claim it daily even if you don’t have food to eat. For the Bible says in Proverb 23:7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
But let me say that I was also fortunate to be a part of an in-group, friends both active in our association that had a similar worldview about the relevance of acquiring knowledge. We were a highly competitive bunch. We were the smallest but the
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toughest and most resilient group of basters. Failure wasn’t an option. Unlike today where most students are influenced by social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.,), it was about finding something to eat and hitting the books.
Let me tell you a little about this Bassa High School.
During those days (in the 70’s), we had no option but to study hard because failure was a disgrace not only to your parents but the school at large. I mean you would be laughed at, if you botched or failed.
To imagine how it was, we had dux of the failures and dux of those who passed. Imagine that! But remember it wasn’t all about academic excellence or doing well in school also. Your behavior as a student was equally important. It was possible that you could perform well and fail. A friend recently reminded me that BHS operated like a college. He was right. It was also very competitive to enter BHS. I can remember taking the entrance exam in the eighth grade coming out of SDA School. The exam was eight pages long. So, I think the students of today have it very easy and yet, you are giving your teachers hard time. When I speak to Principal Sherriff and he tells me the challenges and difficulties faced by administrators and teachers, I often find myself thinking, how things have really changed.
I think some of it has to do with our attitude as a nation. It concerns me when students advocate slogans like: “that book we will eat” and “book no book we’ll vote for you.” Declarations like these suggest a lack of value in education. If we care more for the future of our country - because the leaders of tomorrow are those sitting under the sound of my voice today and walking the streets and in the villages of our great country with no hope for the future - we must encourage learning and continuous learning not only for our youths but adults as well.
We have watered down and diminished the value of education as a nation in all of its facets. We talk about growth and development but how is that possible without sound education to create the skills needed to succeed in the 21 Century? We talk about expanding our economies and creating opportunities but we invest little in creating core competencies and our dynamic capabilities. Education policy isn’t something you bury under the rug, some sort of ‘pixie dust’ that somehow through some magical means it will all fix itself. It is not possible. Human capital development requires investments and sound thinking and should be forefront of any nation development paradigm – nothing more, nothing less. To show how education can speed development, India about 25 years ago was a poor, slow-growing country now it has the third-largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world with regard to purchasing power parity and is projected to be the fastest-growing major economy in the world in 2016 (with 7.6 percent growth in GDP).
By World War II, growth and development in Liberia was equal Japan. How we got it so wrong? Yes, we had Civil Wars but so was Rwanda. In 1994 it was torn apart by brutal genocide that killed nearly one million people. Like us, everything was ruined. Today, the country has a stunning success story and a model for Africa across major health, education and economic indicators. Yes infrastructure development is important but
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you need educated people with the ‘know-how’ and skills as well to do the work or else others will do it for you at ten times the cost. So today, I’m proposing that even though we are having challenges attracting good teachers into our classrooms, we can leverage technology to fill the gap. I like to continue that discussion with anyone who likes to. No string attached because like health, I think good quality education is a human right for all.
We are too small a nation for the amount of resources we have garner and where we are in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI), child mortality rate and education just to name a few. It pains me when you hear about teachers and school administrators asking students for something to pass. We understand the economic challenges Liberia face but such behaviors garner disrespect and limits interest in learning because teachers can be bought. This is why government must invest in creating and improving well-being: education, health, and nutrition and paying teaching well.
We must also learn from global education models that are working. For example Norway who has one of the prized educational system in the world much higher than the US. This is because the country invests in education and makes teaching an attractive career choice. Their policy makers understand how important it is to overall economic growth to have a trained workforce. One way they do this is by recruiting the best and the brightest from colleges and universities across the country and pays them competitive wages. I think we can also do this first by improving the standards of our colleges and universities and making education an attractive career choice so people graduating from these institutions of higher learning can find it an appealing career option. You can also reduce over crowdedness in government or government being the only employer.
Why it is common knowledge that shortage of qualified teachers is also a Sub-Saharan Africa problem, we must learn to find solution to our own problem. I think education policy and decision makers can begin by understanding the problem and the best way to do that is to ask ourselves questions that form the debate. For example, what accounts for our education system being a mess and what can we do about it? I also think that we look at solving problems from a development economics lens. That is, bringing researchers and policy makers together to explore new ideas and ask compelling questions in how to solve Liberia's more pressing needs.
I think that taking a comprehensive and systematic approach to problem solving; looking across a broad range of policy challenges and choices (e.g., education) and what can be done to address those. In essence, constructing long-term engagement with Liberia's best and brightest including development partners (policy makers and knowledge creators) to collaborate and work together, generate ideas, ask the right questions to inform policy; a kind of collective action.
This new model is what is required to move us forward. We need to bring everyone together challenging each other to make the case for an improved education system. A kind of all hands on deck approach to problem solving. We must also understand that feedback and criticisms as to policies, not yarning, fable, or noise making are good
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and healthy for public discourse. In doing so, we must be civil and talk to the issues without vulgarity and ostentatiousness. We must also draw on the data and research to understand indicators like gross enrollment and retention rates, and examining the performance of the education system in terms of access, quality, equity, and resource allocation and utilization and to inform policies. Let the data drive decision-making.
Liberia can do this. I have been fortunate in my public life to engage and interact with Liberians from some of the finest institutions around the world who would like to be engaged to move their country forward. This was strength in the Tolbert administration – engaging Liberia best and brightest.
Let me digress and say to the parents of the graduates I want to say thank you for a fabulous job. Seeing your child or children graduate here today is a big achievement and would not have been done without your support. Thank you!
To the graduates (class of 2018), I want to also thank you on your awe-inspiring achievement. Now that you have scaled one big hurdle, you would be looking forward to taking the next step in your academic career. My prayer and prediction for you are that you will make great progress in whatever you set out to do. In the meantime, I would suggest the following: 1. Make a difference 2. Knowledge is never wasted 3. You have a purpose – fight for it
Making a difference is about doing little positive things in your life and the life of others like providing encouragement when someone is down. Zig Ziglar was an American authors who is often quoted as saying: “when you encourage others, you in the process are also encouraged because you’re making a commitment and difference in that person’s life.” Encouragement really does make a difference. If each of us can make a difference, together we can change the world. So, class of 2018, pay attention to your well-being; take care of yourself even as you take care of others.
Don’t leave here thinking you have acquired nothing. That everything you have done here is a waste. Knowledge is never wasted as stated earlier. As Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying “wisdom is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” You can never stop learning. It is a continuous thing. So make a promise today, to yourself that no matter how difficult it gets for you, promise yourself that you will keep on keeping on.
Remember, each of us has a purpose in life as Fredrich Nietzsche once said and I quote: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Roy T. Bennett personified it as: “believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles. Each of you has those if you strive for it.
There is not one iota of doubt in my mind that BHS that has prepared you with a broad range of academic knowledge. And, because of that, you are better off to face the challenges that lie ahead. Our country and the world are better off because of the knowledge you have received. So, now, you should go out with urge to change your
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country for the better. Follow those who do right. Refuse those who do wrong. Don’t follow those who are in it solely for what they can get for themselves. Let your sense of changing the world be routed with genuine love, selflessness and compassion for your country, our country, because after 171 years and one of Africa’s oldest republics we have fallen back to being one of the four poorest countries in the world. My prayer is that we don’t fall into taking the last place.
As you leave here today, also ask where do you see yourself in another one, two, three, four, and five years. This creates a mental map for providing you focus and direction in your life. It will help you define success and happiness. It will help guide you through some of the most difficult times and that you won’t spend your time climbing the house of success but finding that your ladder is leaning against the wrong house (Thomas Merton).
Promise me as you go out today that you will believe in you! As Mahatma Gandhi a former Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against the British rule is noted as saying: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Thank you so much for listening and once again, congratulations! May God Bless ‘Turris Lucis’ and this wonderful country, Liberia.