My story is not unlike those of many immigrant families who seek a better life in the United States. One crucial difference: My family had no choice but to leave the place we called home. In 1990, Liberia was on the verge of what we had hoped would be a temporary instability. Nearly 19 years later, Minnesota is my home. This is where I have lived, have attended college, have gotten married, have purchased a home and now raise a daughter. Yet I still have my feet firmly planted in both worlds. Today is a time of celebration as Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf arrives to deliver the 2009 Distinguished Carlson Lecture as a guest of the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. I am honored that I will have the privilege to be there. Growing up in Liberia, I had a great number of female role models. Beyond my mother, grandmothers and other female relatives, there were many women who served as lawyers, diplomats and doctors whom I could aspire to be. And though women have also held leadership positions in Liberian society, I don't think any of us imagined that the office of president was realistically within reach. This is truly an inspirational time in history. Liberia has democratically elected a woman as president, and the United States has elected an African-American man as its head of state. I am proud to be a Liberian, and I am equally proud to be an American. My 5-year-old daughter will grow up to sincerely believe that anything is possible for those who work hard, regardless of race or gender. Every woman should feel proud. Every person should feel proud.

WOKIE C. FREEMAN, BROOKLYN PARK;

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR