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Scorching Sun Alters Boakai’s Inaugural Protocols…As Harsh Weather Disperses Guests

Joseph Boakai delivered a towering speech yesterday at a well-attended program at the legislative grounds, following his swearing in as the 26th President of Liberia.
However, in the scorching heat, the 79-year-old President fumbled while reading his speech mid-way, and was then whisked off the platform before his guests, thereby bringing the ceremony to a closure.
On his inauguration, the tough-talking and energetic Boakai, who was dressed with a bullet-proof jacket under his traditional homemade shirt, along with several other guests, had to leave the podium, succumbing to the demands of the sun that was at almost 33 degrees Celsius, to retire from the program.
While he fumbled his speech, many Liberians blame the program committee for poor planning, considering the venue of the program, including the poor coverage by the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), the extremely long oration, coupled with several technical problems that led to the poor working of microphones and other gadgets.
On January 22, 2024, with just 41 minutes into his speech, Boakai’s inaugural address came to an abrupt cessation, though rising to the occasion to read under the sizzling sun in the presence of local and international guests.
Several other persons who were believed to be suffocating as a result of the harsh atmosphere but were reportedly rushed to the J.F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital were two officers and few family members of Vice President Koung along with Gbehzongar Findley, Senator of Grand Bassa County who were all at the program.
However, as embarrassing as it was, there have been several recorded weird inauguration ceremonies in other countries, including the United States of America, among which is the drunken oratory in 1865, when Andrew Johnson gave a train-wreck of a speech on the big day.
The Vice president usually gives a short and smooth speech prior to the President’s address, but the 16th Vice president, who later became the 17th President after Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated that year, was ill with typhoid fever and took the medicine of the day, whisky, the night before.
The hangover must have gone to his head as during the speech, he bragged about his humble origins and his triumph over Confederate rebels. Lincoln reportedly looked on in horror, while the former Vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, tugged at his coattails in a failed bid to get him to stop.
William Henry Harrison’s inauguration speech was deadly dull. This ninth President of the United States stood so long in the cold, rainy, weather to give his inauguration speech that he caught a chill, got pneumonia, and died just a month later.
But not everyone thinks the speech killed him, as it was believed that he may have gotten his cold three weeks later, meaning his rainy-day performance wasn’t to blame for his demise.
Another was referred to as the dead birds when Ulysses S. Grant thought that canaries would add a festive touch to his inaugural ball in 1873, the beginning of his second term.
Unfortunately, the 18th President failed to anticipate the cold temperatures; the morning low was 4 degrees Fahrenheit (about 15 degrees Celsius), the coldest March Day on record, and with wind chill, the day felt like a blustery minus 15 F to minus 30 F (minus 26 C to minus 34 C).
Then came the Quiet ceremony of Calvin Coolidge, referred to as “Silent Cal,” who was notorious for talking little and doing things with no fanfare and that included the start of his presidency.
He was staying with his father in rural Vermont when news came that President Warren G. Harding had died and because the 30th President’s father happened to be a justice of the peace, his father performed the swearing in right there, without an audience.
And then in 1929, when President Herbert Hoover was sworn in, the chief justice who administered the oath, William Howard Taft, garbled it, substituting the word “maintain” for “protect.” An eighth-grade girl named Helen Terwilliger caught the flub, and sent Taft a note.
Instead of admitting the error, Taft wrote a letter insisting he got the words right, and movie buffs eventually played their newsreels to determine who was right. The eighth-grader held the day and Taft eventually conceded he was wrong.
President James Buchanan too had an extreme case of diarrhea on his Inauguration Day in 1857. Prior to the inauguration, the 15th President of the United States had contracted a case of “National Hotel Disease,” by staying at a shady establishment. The stubborn case of dysentery lingered past his inauguration, and Buchanan needed a doctor nearby during the ceremony.
While partying has always been a major part of the inaugural tradition, guests were considerably rowdier in years past.
During James Madison’s inaugural ball in 1809, the weather got so hot that patrons reportedly broke out the windows at Long’s Hotel so they could breathe. (Tickets for the ball apparently cost $4 each.)
However, in the case with President Boakai, who is mocked by his critics as “Sleepy Joe”, he was sworn in as Liberia’s oldest-ever President, after scraping a win in the November 2023 run-off election, retiring George Weah, the footballing President.
President Boakai served as the 29th Vice president of Liberia (2006 -2017) in the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female Head of State.
He previously ran for President of Liberia in 2017 and lost to now-former President Weah.
The story of Joe Boakai’s rise to national prominence should inspire hope for any African child with courage, determination, faith in God, the spirit of hard work, and dream.
Born of poor peasants in the remote village of Wasonga in Lofa County, with extended families straddling across artificial borders into Sierra Leone and Guinea, young Joe was, at an early age, determined that he must go to school.
He walked more than 300 miles twice from Wasonga to Monrovia in search of his dream to be educated.
Once in Monrovia, and as with many African children of limited means, he bounced from one family home to another until he enrolled at and graduated from the College of West Africa (CWA), one of Liberia’s prestigious secondary schools.
Boakai later graduated from the University of Liberia, as well as from the Kansas State University in the United States.
As someone born in poverty, Boakai has worked hard, most of his life, carving a career for himself in the process. At CWA, he worked as a janitor, where he rose to become Assistant Dean of Boys.
He paid his way through school by also working in the business office, selling books and uniforms. During vacations, he remained at the dormitory to work for his upkeep and school requirements for the following school term.
Joe was later recruited by the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) and assigned to head its branch in Voinjama, Lofa County.
There he introduced many reforms and innovations, and empowered cocoa, coffee, and oil palm farmers by improving their incomes.
His hard work, diligence, and dedication were recognized and he was promoted to the position of Managing Director of LPMC in 1980, becoming the first Liberian to occupy that position.
Boakai was later appointed Minister of Agriculture. In 1991, he served as Managing Director of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), but went into private business following the replacement of IGNU.
Boakai also proved the experts wrong about self-reared children. He was well-behaved, courteous, and decent.
Known for his honesty and integrity, Boakai championed public integrity and anti–corruption and lived those values throughout his public career.
Boakai became a towering figure in Liberian politics by an indomitable will, strong faith in God, hard work, honesty, abiding loyalty to the country, and service to humanity.
On the world stage, he was known as the trusted and loyal lieutenant of Africa’s first female President.
A year ago, he declared his intention to contest the October 10, 2023 presidential elections.
This determination stemmed from his conviction that “Liberia is not a poor country, but the perennial problem of this country is mainly triggered by the lack of a sound and honest leadership.”
Boakai is on a mission, which he says “…is to ensure that the lost image of Liberia is restored.” And this mission is conveyed in the now ever-popular rallying call slogan of his: THINK LIBERIA, LOVE LIBERIA, BUILD LIBERIA!
As a humanitarian, former Vice president Boakai, selfless, has demonstrated a keen sense of compassion in his private and public life.
Boakai has been providing humanitarian assistance to the needy in Liberian society all his life, and since 2006, has stepped up such interventions.
Boakai has always served his country, people, and humanity. In high school, he was a member of the Hi-Y. in college and throughout his adult life, he was associated with the YMCA.
He became a founding member of the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY).
He is also a strong Rotarian and served as president of the Monrovia Rotary Club. His humanitarian work has earned him many honors.
He has provided hundreds of scholarships, both local and international, for Liberians, some of whom have since graduated and are making significant contributions to national development.

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