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World Culture

Never Enough Time

I had to run out yesterday for a screening, in preparation for an interview I am doing later today, so I did not get to say more about the interview with the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

I confess that even the nearly half hour we spent with her, the conversation, airing over two days, did not do justice to her memoir. I have read a very large stack of political memoirs in my time and few of them compare. The candor, the rawness, the willingness to expose her own foibles is quite something, as well as her vivid descriptions of what it was like to be at the center of such massive social upheaval.

Until Johnson Sirleaf was elected in January 2006, Liberia had been led, for the past two decades, by leaders who took power in back-to-back coups. And the story of what that was like on the ground — and how she managed to keep her wits about her, and her head literally on her shoulders (since many of her colleagues, literally, did not survive the bloodletting) — is not just a riveting story, but an incredibly instructive one. And there are also really fascinating details about her presidential campaign — should she campaign in "traditional" dress or western? How should she explain her family? Since she and her ex-husband's family were both so called "indigenous" Africans but who had ancestors who had been "adopted" by the more privileged settler families?

It's just frustrating to me that even with a daily hour-long program, we can't always get everything in that we want to talk about. But then again, I hear my colleague on the NPR program Fresh Air also talked to Madam President (Dave Davies was sitting in for host Terry Gross), so maybe together the two of us got the nut of the story, but I doubt it.

Also, we learned sad news today. David "Pop" Winans, father of CeCe and BeBe and patriarch of the mighty Winans, the first family of Gospel music, has died.

You might remember that CeCe talked about her dad when she visited this program a few months ago.

Our condolences to this talented and special family.