In just his 76th year, the Lord has called him from labor to rest even though his country and the African continent still need him – may his soul Rest in Power and may the work he started continue.
Even though in my professional career I would come to work with Dr. Sawyer on many projects but I first met him in November 1991 when he served as Guest Speaker at the Gala-day program of the WVS Tubman High School. At that program, Ms. Hester Williams (the VP for Instructions) would ask me to introduce Dr. Sawyer – President of the IGNU. This was the first time in my life that I would do public speaking.
I had sat in class and made the best grades but would that translate into being able to publicly express my thought? Ms. Williams decided to bet on me. I then turned to my friend and cousin Opa (sometimes we called him Ben Johnson but now he is Dr. J. Emmanuel Moore) to help me with putting the speech together. We went back and forth and came up with the best we could do.
On that day, I was dressed in my THigh drilling uniform ( I hated drilling but Ms. Willaims insisted that if I didn’t drill, I won’t read the speech). I would go on to make a huge and lasting impression on all those who attended the program. My delivery of the speech demonstrated that I had the ability to elucidate (this word was in the speech) my thoughts clearly. My friend Paul Y. Harry was the MC – he even announced that he would’t wash his right hand for a week because he shook Dr. Sawyer’s hand with it.
Ever since that time and even before, I had been a great adminirer of Dr. Sawyer.
And then when I started my UNDP assignment with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, my work would put me in direct contact with Dr. Sawyer – working on a number of governance issues which had development planning implications.
Amongst many of the projects and issues we worked on, the Liberia RISING 2030 vision was a key one. This project really connected us. He was always impressed with the work we were doing and off course that meant a lot to us – for Dr. Sawyer to be impressed with our work was a big deal for us.
We all grew so closed that we affectionately called him Papay. He was a gentle soul. His depth and breadth of understanding of various subject matters and his lived experiences were incredible. He took everything seriously and wanted to get the best. But more importantly, he wanted to see young people well trained so that they could take over from his generation. In his little space at the Governance Commission, he invested in a number of young people – most notable is Dr. IB Nyei but he was not the only one. He is notable because he will never miss an opportunity to mention “progressivism”. I blieve that Dr. Nyei is a Neo Progressive like myself.
Dr. Sawyer has approached me and indicated that it was important that the Government sponsors IB Nyei so that he could take advantage of the opportunity to complete his doctoral studies. He mentioned that the kid (I call him conrade) had a lot of potential. And offcourse, I would never miss an opportunity to help in such a situation and a request coming Dr. Sawyer was like a command. We did whatever we could do when we had the opportunity and I share no regrets.
I remember that Dr. Sawyer interacted with Dtweah (Samual Tweah) at one point (2012/2013) and was so impressed that he pushed for Dtweah to be placed on the Governance Commission or at least work with the Commission so that the likes of him could take over from them when they are gone. Dr. Sawyer was serious about that but I guess that other things intervened.
I also remember when we worked on the National Vision project and we were doing the retrospective analysis, one of Dr. Sawyer’s colleagues wanted to work on the project but I was skeptical and felt that it wouldn’t serve the project’s interest. We wrestled over this for weeks but then Dr. Sawyer indicated to us that we were right but we should consider that this fellow is definitely going to piss: the question was whether we wanted the fellow outside the tent and pissing inside or we wanted him inside the tent and pissing outside? He reminded us that he knows his colleague is going to piss so we need to decide.
Dr. Sawyer respected us as colleagues and valued our opinions: he provided valuable lessons and insights to make his point and to convince us. He never one day try to bully us or use some Papay or senior statements status. We always debated the points and if we were right, he would concede.
Oh how I loved working with and learning from Dr. Sawyer! I can’t say this about many of our elderly leaders but I can say this about Dr. Sawyer: his mind was very sharp until his last breath. If someone tells you that you are like Dr. Sawyer, you should celebrate – his acumen showed and manifested for as long as he was alive.
Papay, take your rest! Rest in Power…