In one of his many speeches to junior and senior high school students around Monrovia as March 15 ( the day of the petition to be President of Liberia) Varney Sherman said: ?Had my great grand-uncle, Feweh Kiahon Sherman, not gone to St. John?s Episcopal Mission School, he would never have taken my grandfather from the village in Bendu and sent him to the same St. John?s, and if my grandfather had not gone to that same St. John?s, my mother would not have been educated and I might have been in the village today doing the things villagers to ? go to the farms early in the morning and return early in the evening, go to bed, sleep and have children. But you see, when one member of the family is educated and exposed to the values of education, the lives of so many people for generations to come change so dramatically. A Liberian Government must make serious investments in education ? in new classrooms, in books and laboratories and other facilities for the students, and salaries for teachers, etc., etc.? Liberian Express, March 15-21, 2004 edition.
It was in early 2003 that several persons approached Varney Sherman and suggested that he should be a candidate for President of Liberia. In response, he shrugged that there were too many candidates in the race, he believes in coalition politics and would prefer that several political parties put up a single slate of candidates. If such a coalition were forged, he would consider being the candidate provided that the coalition could not find an equally or more suitable candidate. While still a strong proponent of coalition politics, the ravages of the 2003 conflicts and the very real necessity to build upon the achievements of the transitional period in taking Liberia from the brink of self-destruction changed the dynamics of Varney Sherman?s politics. And so when in October, 2003 he was again approached in Accra, Ghana, during the closing days of the Accra Peace Conference, to give his blessings to a campaign to draft him for President of Liberia, Varney Sherman consented.
Varney Sherman did not wait for the official March 15, 2004 draft to start his campaign. Having given his consent for the draft, his energies and his characteristic dynamism could not allow him to wait; he had to move to immediately bring to bear his own mark on the new enterprise. He started with education ? his priority no. 1. To Varney Sherman, education is the focal point for the transformation of Liberia; and like most things in his life, he has held this close to his heart for nearly all of his life. That is, in December, 1971, when he delivered the Valedictory Address at his high school (St. John?s Episcopal High School), the topic of that address was: ?The Need for More Educated Liberians?. And so Varney Sherman started his campaign for the Presidency of Liberia by visiting with junior and senior high school within the Monrovia area, talking to students, faculty and staff about his vision for education, looking into their problems, and rendering assistance here, there and yonder to alleviate
some of the immediate problems faced by students and schools.
Varney Sherman was taken to the schools by the Citizens United to Promote Sherman (CUPS), a cross-section of university graduates and classroom teachers who believed in Varney Sherman?s vision for a re-structured and well-supported educational system for Liberia. This vision include free and compulsory education throughout secondary education with substantial emphasis on technical education, especially accelerated technical education, to meet the challenges faced by former combatants and other victims of the civil conflicts, who have not been to traditional school for years and who might very well be too old or too traumatized to attend traditional schools. The vision for education also includes market-driven university education , which would require a restructuring of the mission of university education so as to meet the needs of Liberia and also to prepare the brightest for graduate education at foreign universities.
In addition to his interest in education, evidenced by his personal experience and the support he has always given to educating young people in Liberia, Varney Sherman teaches at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia free of charge. He takes no salary or benefit; and yet, he uses his own money to purchase textbooks for the two classes which he teaches ? Business Organizations and Taxation. It is education which opened the door for him and has made it possible for Varney Sherman to be what he is, made it possible for him to even contemplate being the President of Liberia one day. So for him, education should be available to all.
Varney Sherman never gets tired telling the story of an experience that has greatly impacted his life. ?One day I was walking from my apartment, up on Ashmun Street, near Roberts Street, close to the Catholic Secretariat. I was walking to my office at the corner of Ashmun Street and Mechlin Street; there I had an office which housed my law firm, Sherman & Sherman. A young man sitting on the rock, at about 11 a.m., called out to me in greetings. As I returned his greetings, he said: ?Counsellor Sherman, I admired you so much.? I gleamed with happiness, smiled broadly and thanked him for the compliments. Shortly afterwards, I sat in my office with sadness. Why was I suddenly sad? I was sad because it suddenly dawned on me that the young man who admired me would never be like me. To be a lawyer, one has to get a first degree after four years of college education; then one has to get another three years of legal education. This young man, sitting on the rock at 11 a.m. on a working day was obviously not going to school. He would never become a lawyer unless he went to school. What kind of country are we that a young man can admire a person that he would never become? What kind of country is so unfair and so uncompassionate that its citizens can dream dreams that will never ever come to reality??
In talking to students at various junior and senior high school, Varney Sherman has extolled them to work had because it is only through preparation through education and training can anybody benefit from opportunities which a country offers to its citizens. In addition, Varney Sherman has promised to change Liberia so that those who dream and admire others like the young man on the rock will have the opportunity of training to be like those whom they admire.
Varney Sherman?s sojourn to junior and senior high schools have taken him to Tubman High School in Sinkor where he made financial contributions to the student government and the faculty and also purchased equipment for the electricity department of that school. Varney Sherman has also been to the G.W. Gibson School on Capitol By-Pass and to the Matilda Newport School on New Port Street. He then went on to the Muslim Congress Junior & Senior High School ? a school where no politician before him had bothered to ever visit. And each of these schools, Varney Sherman made financial contributions to the student government and the faculty and staff.
At the Gray D. Allison Elementary & Junior High School at the Barclay Training Center, which caters to children of the Armed Forces of Liberia, not only did Varney Sherman make financial contributions to the student government, faculty and staff to meet some immediate needs, upon the request of the school, he also contributed a 5 KVA generator for use to light the classrooms during the raining seasons. And at the D. Tweh High School in New Kru Town, Varney Sherman renovated and equipped the teachers? lounge and he made separate financial contributions to the student government and faculty.
Varney Sherman also made visitations to the Special Project High School at the Stephen Tolbert Estate, Gardnersville, where he provided assistance to renovate the toilet facilities of the school and made financial contributions to the student government, the faculty and staff. He similarly visited the E. Jonathan Goodridge High School in Gardnerville, where again he made financial contributions to the student government, the faculty and staff.
CUPS did not only take Varney Sherman to schools within Monrovia and its immediate environs. Visitation was made to the Booker Washington Institute in Kakata, Margibi County and there Varney Sherman expressed his recognition and appreciation for the works of BWI in providing skills, discipline and training to young Liberians to make them productive citizens. He installed the officers of the student government; and like other schools, he also made financial contributions to the student government, the faculty and staff.
In making financial contributions to the various student governments, Varney Sherman always recalled his own experience as a student leader at Cuttington trying to raise funds for student government projects and his experience at law school trying to raise funds to host a conference of the West African Law Students Union in Liberia. He said that if it was difficult then, it has to be horrendous now and so he wanted to identify with the student governments in making a difference in the lives of students. Similarly, Varney Sherman took note of the difficulties experienced by faculty and staff ? most of whom had not received their salaries for months. He was pleased to give some assistance to them.
These are merely a few of the schools which Varney Sherman has visited so far; but the plan is to visit each junior and senior high school throughout the country to take to them Varney Sherman?s vision for education in Liberia and to seek their support to his election during the October 2005 elections. CUPS has committed itself to ensure that their candidate, Varney Sherman will be exposed to students all over the country.
?We have lived here all our lives; and especially for those of us who graduated from college during the late 1980s and the 1990s, we know the difficulties of the civil conflict more than most people. We need a president who had lived here and never participated in this civil conflict. We need a president whose vision for this country is grounded in education for all of its people. Counsellor Varney Sherman embodies all the qualities and vision that we want for a president; and we shall do everything to make sure that he will be the next President of Liberia.? These are the words of Sam Kabbah, Chairman of the Citizens United to Promote Sherman (CUPS).