Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official, won a landslide victory in late 2005 making her Africa's first elected woman president.
Founded by former American slaves in 1847, the West African nation of Liberia descended into chaos at the end of the 20th century. Successive coups and 14 years of civil war took 250,000 lives and devastated the country's infrastructure.
Much of the carnage was perpetrated under the regime of strong man Charles Taylor, who was forced into exile in 2003 and is now being tried for war crimes in The Hague.
In this interview, Sirleaf talks about her rise to power from modest beginnings and her now memoir, "This Child Will Be Great."
"Greatness? When I was in prison or when I was having difficulty in exile or, you know, four children, trying to manage four children right out of high school, no, I didn't think it would happen." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
"Once you get started… you take a position, you bear the consequences. It strengthens you to take on the next challenge." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
"The challenge is still, in certain people, some of their habits, like dependency, dishonesty, violence, those are the things that were inculcated into people over the many years of conflict." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
"[Women's] dealings with people are much more humane. Their relationship with people, much better, even though they are quite firm, you know, in carrying out their professional tasks." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
"No Liberian wants war anymore. And so we have a basis, we think, to get a normal identity, to have a rallying cry around just trying to lead normal lives, again, you know, trying to be normal people again." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
"You can be anything you want to be, as long as you're willing to work hard at it, you're willing to persevere, you're willing to have the courage of your conviction, and to stay the course, that there will be difficulties in life, but the potential to surmount those difficulties are there. It's just left with you." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
1. Name some female heads of state. Can you name any female politicians in the United States?
2. Where is Liberia? What do you know about it?
1. What qualities do you think enabled Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to become president?
2. Do you think some countries are more likely to have female leaders than others? Why or why not?
3. President Johnson-Sirleaf says that women leaders govern differently, do you agree? Why or why not?
4. What lessons from this interview could be applied to your life or to problems in the United States?