Laura Bush praises Liberia’s first female leader
The Associated Press
By Kasie Hunt

WASHINGTON — Africa’s first elected female president illustrates the importance of educating women and girls around the world, first lady Laura Bush said, praising Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s contributions to building democracy in a country wracked by civil war for more than 25 years.

“President Johnson-Sirleaf is a terrific example of the power of education and shows why it’s important to educate women and girls,” Mrs. Bush said Thursday at an awards dinner hosted by the International Republican Institute. She and Johnson-Sirleaf, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard, received the institute’s 2006 Freedom Award.

Johnson-Sirleaf, who was inaugurated in January, expressed gratitude for U.S. support of the fledgling democracy in the small African nation that was founded by freed American slaves.

“The U.S. has already made a very large investment in Liberia’s change,” she said. “We believe Liberia has the possibility to be a success story in Africa.”

Mrs. Bush indicated U.S. support would continue. “Now the United States stands with President Johnson-Sirleaf and the people of Liberia as they rebuild their country,” she said.

The first lady’s remarks concluded a week of advocating for literacy, education and democracy. Earlier in the week she called on the U.N. to pressure Myanmar’s military rulers to release imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On Wednesday she announced an initiative for clean water in Africa.

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