Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nostalgic Obama charms Indonesians by Fardah

     Jakarta, Nov 10, 2010 (ANTARA News) - The brief visit of US President Barack Obama, especially thanks to his smart interactions with the Indonesian leaders and people directly and indirectly, has been a great success for both Obama and Indonesia.
     Obama, who had spent around four years during his childhood in Jakarta and joined local elementary schools, opened up about his nostalgic feeling about Indonesia, especially its people as well as local food, during his short visit in Jakarta.
    Equally, many Indonesians have loved him since he had declared his US presidential candidacy. Unfortunately some of them "had lost" interest in Obama due among other things to the fact that he twice canceled a trip to Jakarta earlier this year, the slow progress in US-sponsored Middle East peace talks, his policies on Iraq and Afghanistan.

     However, those who had turned cool towards Obama, were warmed again as Obama has spread his genuine intelligence and charm since the first minute he landed in Jakarta on Tuesday afternoon (Nov 9).

Not only his gestures, greetings, and approaches towards Indonesian leaders, guests and crowds, but his speeches with his friendly words on Indonesia, were very sympathetic, too.

The Indonesian people loved him and were very proud when Obama talked nostalgically about his childhood in Indonesia, and particularly when he said it in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language).

In the gala dinner hosted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential palace Tuesday evening (Nov 9), Obama began his remarks by thanking the host for providing "bakso, nasi goreng, emping, kerupuk, ... semuanya enak," he said. (" the meat balls, fried rice, crackers .... they were all delicious").

At the dinner, Obama approached and shook hands with a number of dignitaries in a hearty manner.

When speaking at the University of Indonesia (UI), on the southern outskirt of Jakarta on Wednesday (Nov 10), Obama thrilled Indonesians by declaring "Saya bagian dari Indonesia (I am part of Indonesia)." Spontaneously the audiences gave him a big applause.

He recalled that he first came to this country after his mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro, and he was glad that the people of Indonesia had quickly made him feel at home.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961, Barack Hussein Obama II lived in Jakarta from 1968 until 1972.

"So much has changed in the four decades since I boarded a plane to move back to Hawaii. If you asked me - or any of my schoolmates who knew me back then - I don`t think any of us could have anticipated that I would one day come back to Jakarta as President of the United States," Obama said.

One of his Indonesian teachers, once, had told a media that the little Obama had actually said that he wanted to be a president one day, when he was asked about his future goal.

Every time he used Indonesian words during his speech, he was applauded by the audiences who were charmed not only by the nostalgic stories of the charismatic "Menteng Dalam boy" - where Obama lived as a child - but also by his inspirational statements on democracy, tolerance and hard work for human progress.

On the occasion Obama thanked the Indonesian government for bestowing "Bintang Jasa Utama", the nation`s highest civilian honor, to his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who had moved to and worked in Indonesia after she had married an Indonesian man, Obama`s step father.

"I stayed here for four years - a time that helped shape my childhood; a time that saw the birth of my wonderful sister, Maya; and a time that made such an impression on my mother that she kept returning to Indonesia over the next twenty years to live, work and travel - pursuing her passion of promoting opportunity in Indonesia`s villages, particularly for women and girls. For her entire life, my mother held this place and its people close to her heart," Obama recalled.

Despite his nostalgic feeling, Obama did not forget that he came here as the US President carrying a mission for his country`s interests.

"So today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a President who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries. Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbors on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies - the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values," he said.

President Obama and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a comprehensive partnership agreement and affirmed their commitment to boost bilateral ties especially in the economic, education and security cooperation.

When being asked by a foreign reporter on his insight of Obama, who had spent some years in Indonesia, President Yudhoyono at a joint press conference with Obama in Jakarta Tuesday evening (Nov 9), said that Obama has better understanding of developing countries, and it is an advantage for developing nations like Indonesia.

The visit of Obama has made the Indonesian people very proud as he spoke nicely and friendly about Indonesia. And in return, equally, the very warm and emotional welcome that the Indonesians demonstrated toward him, must have made Obama proud and glad, too.

Almost all Indonesian print and electronic media had made friendly headlines about Obama over the past two days. Media Indonesia daily, for instance, wrote on this Wednesday headline: "Obama Memesona" (Obama Enchants).

However, his already brief visit that he called "pulang kampung" (home coming) in Jakarta, Nov 9-10, was forced to be even shortened more due to anticipation of possible volcanic ash spewing from Mount Merapi which has been erupting since October 26.

Obama promised that he would come to Jakarta for next year`s ASEAN summit which is now under the leadership of Indonesia. He reiterated his wish to take his two daughters to Indonesia one day.(*)

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