Obama’s Jakarta Schoolmates Laud ‘Barry’

JAKARTA ~ US President Barack Obama’s former classmates in Jakarta brimmed with pride and expectation after the chubby kid they knew as “Barry” became the most powerful man in the world this week.

Dewi Asmara Oetojo, a lawmaker in Indonesia’s parliament who went to primary school with Obama in Jakarta in the late 1960s, said her old classmate was a peacemaker with a “global” vision.

“For sure we’re very proud and grateful that Barry, who was part of our childhood, has been elected president of the most powerful country in the world,” she said.

“We’re convinced that he’ll be able to bring change because even when he was a kid he already had a ‘go global’ attitude.

“It will be easy for him to bridge all the differences between West and East. He will bring peace to the world.”

Obama’s ex-classmates, who have followed his rise to the presidency, gathered on Wednesday at his old school in the leafy central Jakarta suburb of Menteng for a party to celebrate the inauguration.

The son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, Obama was raised in Hawaii and moved to Indonesia when he was six after his divorced mother remarried an Indonesian.

In his memoirs he recalled his time in Indonesia as the “bounty of a young man’s life.”

Onny Padma said he was “very, very, very proud” of his old playmate.

“It never crossed my mind that my friend, an Afro-American with a chubby face, would be elected as American president,” he said.

“He has a good understanding about Asian people. When he lived here he learned a lot about our culture. It will be easier for him to build better ties between Indonesia, Asia and America.”

Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world and has had a love-hate relationship with the United States since the 1960s, marked by US support for president Suharto, who was ousted in 1998.

Many Indonesians opposed the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and its approach to foreign relations, and are hoping Obama brings a new style to US leadership with an emphasis on dialogue and understanding.

About 21 pupils from Obama’s old primary school performed traditional dances at a dinner at an upmarket hotel here late on Tuesday to celebrate his inauguration.

One child read a letter entitled “Hope, Prayers and Expectations of the Children of Indonesia,” calling for an end to poverty and war and for better education around the world.

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One Response to “Obama’s Jakarta Schoolmates Laud ‘Barry’”

  1. “College Rag Wrap-Up” « College Media Matters Says:

    […] January 27, 2009 by Dan Reimold I am back from a trip to Bali (where The Bali Times reports that Obama’s childhood friends in Indonesia always knew their young expat chum “Barry” had a “go global attitude“). […]