About the Author: Tristram Perry serves as the Public Diplomacy Officer covering broadcast media at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.Watch the "Dahsyat" interview on YouTube.
It's an hour before show time, and I'm backstage at the "Dahsyat" ("Awesome") studio in the Four Seasons Hotel, talking to supermodel, actress and host Luna Maya. "I'm so nervous!" she exclaims. It's not every day that the host of the highest-rated youth TV show in Indonesia is jittery about interviewing a guest. But then again, Secretary Hillary Clinton is no ordinary guest. Used to chatting and joking with famous actors, singers and other celebrities, the idea of talking to the 67th U.S. Secretary of State leaves Maya and her co-host, news anchor Isyana Bagoes Oka, visibly shaken.
I try to reassure them, but it's our Information Assistant Dian Agustin, who points out the irony of someone so famous being so star-struck. Both co-hosts laugh at this and visibly relax. Even so, there's an air of tension and excitement and everyone from the stage crew to the station executives are anticipating Secretary Clinton's arrival on set.
A daily celebrity- and music-focused variety and talk show, "Dahsyat" draws millions of viewers and is very popular with youth, enjoying many times more viewers than even the number-one national news program in Indonesia. Broadcast live on top-rated national TV station RCTI, the program is a mixture between the Tyra Banks Show and MTV, featuring celebrity guests and performances by major Indonesian recording artists.
Suddenly, we get the signal, and everyone snaps to attention. Secretary Clinton enters the room a few moments later and I introduce her to Luna and Isyana. The Secretary greets everyone and walks around the set, shaking hands, warmly greeting the crew and posing for dozens of photos before putting on her lapel microphone. The co-hosts take the stage, to introduce their special guest. The music swells, and right on-cue, Secretary Clinton walks on as the audience applauds.
Questions alternate from policy to personal, with Isyana tackling Gaza and U.S. relations with the Muslim world, while Luna is more interested in Secretary Clinton's taste in music. "When I work, I listen to classical music, because I find it very soothing," said Secretary Clinton, "but I am someone who loves the music of my youth...for me it's the old standbys, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones..." and the entire studio -- including crew -- erupts into cheering and clapping. Later in the program, Secretary Clinton discusses the situation in Palestine, pointing out that "President Obama and I have promised that the United States will get re-engaged in trying to help in the Middle East," and cites Special Envoy Mitchell's appointment and her upcoming trip to Cairo as examples of their renewed efforts.
Soon, the interview ends, and the Secretary thanks her hosts and departs the studio, pausing for a round of photos and even signing a book for a fan. The studio crew is euphoric, and the crew begin congratulating each other. They can't believe that the Secretary is so friendly in person, and how well she connected with the young people in the audience. Later in the car back to the embassy, my phone buzzes with dozens of text messages from friends and colleagues who saw the show, remarking on how good the interview was, and wishing our two countries continued good relations.