Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said Sunday that her government is committed to providing its citizens the means to survive and prosper, but all Liberians have a role to play in rebuilding the African nation.
Addressing a cheering crowd of more than 300 people, the majority of them Liberians, Johnson-Sirleaf acknowledged her country has made some mistakes and her people have suffered violence, hunger and exile. But she said it has the potential to become a beacon of democracy with Liberians at home and abroad playing their parts.
"Each and every one of you has a role to play," Johnson-Sirleaf said in front of Providence City Hall, her speech often drawing an emphatic "yes" from the audience. "Each and every one of you has a contribution to make; each and every one of you needs to reach across and continue to support your nation, continue to advocate peace."
Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1847. The West African nation descended into civil war in 1989 after Charles Taylor led a rebel force that invaded from neighboring Ivory Coast.
Taylor was elected president in 1997 during a lull in fighting, but relations between Liberia and the United States reached an all-time low under his rule.
Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard University graduate, became Africa's first woman president after winning election in January. This is her first visit to the United States since taking office, reports the AP.