About the Author: Cameron R. Hume serves as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia.
This is the rainy season in Jakarta, and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton has just taken the city by storm. Fortunately, the rain held off until just after her plane had departed and she had completed a highly successful two-day visit.
The Secretary's visit to Indonesia -- the world's third-largest democracy, the most populous Muslim majority country and an important developing Southeast Asian power -- was significant. It was the new Secretary's first overseas trip, and the U.S. Embassy and the people and Government of Indonesia were honored to host her.
Strategically, she choose to recognize the growing importance of Asia to the U.S. in the 21st Century by making her first official visit to this part of the world and including Indonesia among her four stops. The visit demonstrated clear U.S. interest in developing our already strong relationship with Indonesia into a long-term partnership based on shared values.
It was her first trip to the country since she visited as First Lady in 1994, and it was clear from the minute she landed in Jakarta that she was eager to see and learn how the country has progressed. As hosts, we and our Indonesian friends were delighted to show her how and why we consider Indonesia's democratic transformation to be among the world's great success stories.
Despite a tight schedule, Secretary Clinton made time to exchange views with both senior government officials and a good cross-section of representatives of Indonesia's vibrant civil society. Also, she visited ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan at the regional organization's headquarters and underscored U.S. commitment to the region and appreciation of Indonesia's leadership role in ASEAN. (Indonesia constitutes more than 40 percent of ASEAN's population.)
Unusual for visiting officials, the Secretary reached out to meet some ordinary Indonesian citizens. For example, she appeared on "Dahsyat "("Awesome"), a popular, youth-oriented TV variety show and discussed everything from U.S. policy towards the Middle East to her preferences in music (she likes the Beatles and the Rolling Stones plus classical music), and even tried to master a phrase in the Indonesian language.
She also exchanged views with seven Indonesian reporters who covered the recent Presidential elections in the U.S. They seemed fascinated with her explanation of how she could work for President Obama after campaigning against him the Democratic primary. She said after a hard-fought election in any democracy, the candidates have a responsibility to pull together and work for good governance and the betterment of the nation. She also talked about the need for more cooperation in higher education and for more exchange programs. Several times, including in public remarks at a dinner with civil society leaders, she said that we need to establish linkages between U.S. and Indonesian universities.
Her schedule also included a walk around Jakarta's North Petojo neighborhood, where she talked with local residents about their efforts to maintain a healthy environment. She saw firsthand how USAID and community partnerships collaborate on a number of environmental and maternal and child health programs to give people things like safe drinking water and community-based waste management.
On several occasions during her Jakarta visit, she mentioned how President Obama values his experience as a child growing up in Jakarta. She said she enjoyed meeting the 40 students who came out to the airport to help welcome her with a song. The students all attend the same central Jakarta public primary school that President Obama attended when he lived in Jakarta with his American mother and his Indonesian step-father.
As Ambassador, the most important part of the Secretary's visit for me was her substantive meetings with both President Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Wirajuda. In these important sessions, she discussed the two countries' intentions to develop a "comprehensive partnership". She understood that the world economic crisis and other challenges create an opportunity for deeper cooperation and the promotion of shared interests bilaterally, regionally and globally.
One of her clear messages was that the U.S cannot deal with the world's problems alone and wants to work more closely with Indonesia to advance the interests of both countries in a brand range of sectors. She said these included democracy, education, environment, trade and investment, counterterrorism and regional security. She emphasized that our two countries share many common values, including democracy, and noted that the world could benefit from seeing how Indonesia has successfully combined democracy, Islam, modernity and women's rights.
All in all, the visit was a diplomatic success. One Jakarta daily summarized the trip succinctly with this headline and a photo of the Secretary with school children splashed across the entire front page: "Clinton says U.S. is Ready to Listen." After this visit, our two countries, indeed, seemed ready to work more closely together.