Acceptance Speech

Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you to Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy Library Foundation family. Before I say anything further, I’d like to pay tribute to two extraordinary American women, who, without their foresight, vision, and belief in the work that we did, we would not be standing here — my girlfriend and sister, Abigail Disney, my girlfriend and sister Gini Reticker, the producer and director of the award-winning documentary, Pray The Devil Back to Hell.


Even though when I heard the Disney name, I was wondering whether it would be animated cartoon characters. I’d also like to recognize two young ladies from Iowa. These two women, two very young girls got in touch with me a few months ago by email and said, “In the U.S., we do something called National History Day. And we want to chronicle your life and the story of the women of Liberia.”

Well, this is just something else again to do. So we started the journey of chronicling my life. They went to their local championship. They won because of the story they told. They went to their national championship. They won. And now they’re going to the state finals. And Abby was kind enough to fly these two young ladies here, too, and their teacher, to observe the ceremony. Emma and Katie and Lisa, can you just please stand?


Through the film, the trailer, a moment ago Caroline took you-- or she took some of my speech away. [laughter] But I’m still going to take you. Close your eyes and imagine a mother leaving her baby half dead by the roadside because she can’t stand to see that child died of hunger. Close your eyes and imagine a mother brutally raped and several objects inserted in her private. Close your eyes and imagine a group of fighters with guns, betting on the sex of the child of a pregnant woman, and in order to find out who wins the bet, cutting her and taking the child out. Close your eyes and imagine a group of women in white, no shoes, no -- the tattered ...(inaudible) under heavy rain trying to push a group of world leaders with a statement that, “We too have a stake in this peace process,” being pushed back by security because they were security threats to these world leaders.

Open your eyes and then close your eyes and dream of a world where babies no longer die by the roadside, where women are no longer brutally raped with impunity, where the U.N. is going into villages to find women from rural areas to sit at the peace table, where President Obama goes to Liberia and says, “I want to consult with the rural women first.” Do you see that future?

Open your eyes and come to Boston, Massachusetts, Profiles in Courage Awards, May 18, 2009. What is the meaning? What is the significance for us — Vaiba, Janet, Leymah, and the women of Liberia? This award is a call to action. This award is a call to invade spaces. This award is a call to infiltrate private homes, schools, public buildings, and international spaces. This award is a call to constructively interfere in the lives of women, children when the men are so preoccupied with taking power and taking it violently.

This award today has emboldened us to step out of our safe space, to step out of our boundaries, to step out of our poor homes and to step into Sudan and to step into Zimbabwe, to step into Sri Lanka, to step into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and to step into schools in the Bronx, in Brooklyn, in other parts of New York. And to use the words of the great African-American freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman: “If you’re hungry, keep walking. If you’re thirsty, keep walking. If you want a taste of freedom, keep walking.”

For us women of Liberia, this award is a call that we will keep walking until peace, justice, and the rights of women is not a dream, but is a thing of the present. Thank you very much.


Remarks of Leymah Gbowee on accepting the 2009 Profile in Courage Award, May 18, 2009.
As Delivered