Secretary Clinton's Successful Indonesia Visit

Posted by Cameron R. Hume
February 20, 2009
Secretary Clinton in Jarkarta With Children's Choir

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.



David H.
Hawaii, USA
February 22, 2009

David in Hawaii writes:

Dear Secretary Clinton: Congratulations! Your visit to Indonesia in February 2009 is the most successful one in your first overseas trip as the U.S. Secretary of State. You met with both President Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Wirajuda of Indonesia. At the same time, you had so many happy moments with Indonesian people, including Menteng Elementary School 1 children, "Dahsyat " TV show host, actress and supermodel, reporters, as well as Jakarta's North Petojo residents. You have successfully presented our friendship to Indonesian Government and ordinary people.

Born in Sumatra, Indonesia, I am a retired U.S. computer scientist. Please allow me to use Indonesian language to express my regards to you:

Terima Kasih! Secretary Clinton!

New Jersey, USA
February 23, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

Thank you, Ambassador Hume, for the informative post about Secretary Clinton's stay in Indonesia as well as for making this leg of her trip so productive and comfortable for her. As you have discovered, she is a hands-on girl who likes to make contact with all kinds of people, not just dignitaries. That it was possible for her to meet school children, young people, and hard-working adults in Indonesia made her trip, I am sure, well worth the tight schedule.

I know Hillary reached out and grabbed some hearts in Indonesia -- she has a habit of doing that. I want you to know that those of you who took care of her on this trip have the appreciation of all of us stateside who keep her in our hearts and prayers. Everybody involved did an awesome job.

Thank you, again.

California, USA
February 24, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Dear Ambassador Hume,

Thank you so much for your report. Following SoS Hillary's transpacific trip has been an instructive thrill. The heart stuff wins good will -- it is also substantive in the facets of smart power, I would argue. I mean, look at the picture at the top of your post. Gosh, SoS Hillary with glowing kids holding American & Indonesian flags. Clearly, it opens people's hearts which thaws their suspicions. I do believe that respect is the greatest solvent. Who could watch Dahsyat/Awesome and stay hardhearted?

All of you who designed this journey deserve a medal. One of SoS Hillary's greatest gifts (for decades) is that she actually listens. People grok (deeply drink in) this. Her authentic respect for the dreams of others is radiant. I'm so glad you all got her out with people who don't have to pretend to be so serious -- in addition to the important bilateral formal stuff.

I treasure my glimpses of the remarkable and vibrant Indonesia. Thank you.

akhyari H.
February 24, 2009

Akhyari H. in Cambodia writes:

I think, the benefit of Clinton's visit to indonesia is free 'promotion' of Indonesia, by BBC, NHK, CNA, CCTV, and hundreds other TV, and media. This is something Indonesia has been failed to do so. Thank you, Clinton

March 15, 2009

Lia in Indonesia writes:

Yes, it was great success!!

Thanks Madam Hillary for the visit, also the great job from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. Good job Mr. Hume.

It as very touchy to hear the kid's welcoming choir to Madam Hillary under the rainy day, the warm greeting and yelling from people on the street, everywhere while visiting USAID project. We were also enjoying the warm performance with our local artists on RCTI,

It was very honored that we had your earliest visit. We do appreciate the embedded meaning n hope it works well.

We hope Mr. Obama can visit Indonesia and Menteng Dalam, we are waiting.

Lia, East Java

Michigan, USA
August 14, 2009

J. in Michigan writes:

A very well written and informative blog that provided info that I never knew before. Thanks for the details as it gives me the opportunity to stay well informed on matters of this importance.

P.S. The facts given full illustrate the need.


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