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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: President, Republic of Liberia, 2006-Present

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: President, Republic of Liberia, 2006-Present

Johnson Sirleaf comes from a family of political activism; her father was the first indigenous Liberian to sit on the national legislature. Johnson-Sirleaf received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, an economics diploma from the University of Colorado in 1970, and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University in 1971. Johnson-Sirleaf served as assistant minister of finance (1972–73) under President William Tolbert and as finance minister (1980–85) in Samuel K. Doe’s military dictatorship. During Doe’s regime she was imprisoned twice and narrowly avoided execution. In the 1985 national election she campaigned for a seat in the Senate and openly criticized the military government, which led to her arrest and a 10-year prison sentence. She was released after a short time and allowed to leave the country. During 12 years of exile in Kenya and the United States, she became an influential economist for the World Bank, Citibank, and other international financial institutions. From 1992 to 1997,she was the director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme. In 2003, she Johnson-Sirleaf returned to Liberia to chair the Commission on Good Governance, which oversaw preparations for democratic elections. She was elected President in the 2005 presidential election and took office in January 2006. She is Liberian’s first elected female president and often referred to as the "Iron Lady". On November 5, 2007, President George W. Bush awarded JohnsonSirleaf the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States.