Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Indonesia Greets President Obama

Today, Tuesday, November 9, President Obama is visiting Indonesia to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other governmental officials on the second day of his ten-day trip through Asia. While in the capital city of Jakarta, Obama plans to make a speech to approximately 5,000 Indonesian people at the University of Indonesia. The US President's popularity in this country is due in no small part to the fact that Obama lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971. (Read more on the President's visit here.)

In honor of the President's recent visit to Jakarta, we're offering a special sneak peek at Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President by Dinesh Sharma (publishing June 2011). Distinguishing itself from the mass of political biographies of Barack Obama, this first interdisciplinary study of Obama's Indonesian and Hawai'ian years examines their effect on his adult character, political identity, and global world-view. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4: Global Schooling in Jakarta.


[W]hen Ann Dunham decided to uproot her family to a sleepy kampong on the south side of Jakarta, Indonesia, and place her young son in an Indonesian school, she was simply driven by the sense of an adventure....As a result of this move, Barack Obama became the beneficiary of global elementary schooling for approximately four years from the tender age of 6 to 10 years. While he did not attend any international schools, the schools he did attend were and continue to be significant local institutions of learning, imparting elementary and high school education to Indonesian children even today. […]

I followed the trail that had been laid out by Barack Obama in his autobiography. I was in search of the school teachers and friends who may have played a critical role in Obama’s life during these early formative years. I also wanted to examine Obama’s early cultural environment, the neighborhoods, the streets, the parks, the homes where he grew up and the local religious and cultural institutions, the churches, the schools and the mosques where he may have studied and prayed with his Indonesian peers. […]

Several weeks before I arrived in Jakarta, a group called the Friends of Obama, a non-profit organization, had erected a statue of the 10-years old Barack Obama in Menteng Park near the Besuki school....With his right arm stretched out, resting a butterfly on his finger tips, it was supposed to encourage kids in the park to “dream big”. […]

It was during these elementary school years, when he was in the 3rd grade at the age of 9 years that Obama wrote an essay during a class assignment titled “What is My Dream.” … The 3rd grade school teacher relayed the story to me in exact detail and in the manner she remembered it:

“My name is Barry Soetoro. My mother is very beautiful with long hair. My mother is my idol, my hero. I love to live in Indonesia because it has good weather and good views. I go to school by walking. I want to be President one day. I want to visit around the world after I become President.”

Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President By Dinesh Sharma
Praeger, June 2011

• Shows how Obama's early experiences fostered a repertoire of social and psychological skills ideally suited to dealing with the complex cultural and geopolitical issues that confront 21st-century America
• Provides new keys to understanding Obama by looking at the varied cultural and religious influences that shaped his attitudes, beliefs, and hybrid cultural identity
• Examines Ann Dunham's doctoral dissertation, based on her social anthropological fieldwork in Indonesia, for clues to the perceptual prisms she inculcated in her son, Barack Obama

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