Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
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On March 13, 2017, the Women in Public Service Project and the Africa Program at the Wilson Center hosted a book launch with New York Times White House Correspondent and former Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow Helene Cooper. In her book Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cooper discusses the personal political journey of the Liberian President and first African woman to hold the office.
Opening remarks were given by the Honorable Jane Harman, the Director, President and CEO of the Wilson Center, who is notably the first female president of the Center. Before reading excerpts from Madame President, Cooper spoke about her personal experience as a native Liberian who came to the United States as a refugee. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times Correspondent, Cooper believes Africa is the “toughest place on Earth” to be a woman. Madame President tells the story of the coup that brought Ellen Johnson Sirleaf into power and the Liberian women’s movement in taking political power.
Following her discussion and reading of her new book, Cooper spoke with Gwen K. Young, the director of the Women in Public Service Project and Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Wilson Center, and answered audience questions. Cooper noted that the positive changes that President Sirleaf has made in Liberian culture and law, including a movement against sexual and gender-based violence, relief of national debts, and general developments in the strength of Liberia’s democracy, will not easily be taken back upon the election of the next Liberian president.
Despite her success in the international field, Sirleaf remained tied to Liberia through maintaining connections with market women, who ultimately were a major force in her successful campaign. Dr. Joyce Banda, the former President of Malawi and Distinguished Fellow at the Wilson Center, was in attendance and commended President Sirleaf for the attention and advocacy she has had for market women.