November 9th, 2010
12:42 PM ET
Delivered at Istana Merdeka in Jakarta, Indonesia
President Yudhoyono, Mrs. Yudhoyono, to all the distinguished guests who are here today, thank you for this extraordinary honor. I am proud and humbled to accept this award on behalf of my mother. And although she could not be here in person, I know that my sister Maya Soetoro would be equally proud.
But the fact, Mr. President, that you would choose to recognize my mother in this way speaks to the bonds that she forged over many years with the people of this magnificent country. And in honoring her, you honor the spirit that led her to travel into villages throughout the country, often on the back of motorcycles, because that was the only way to get into some of these villages.
She believed that we all share common aspirations - to live in dignity and security, to get an education, to provide for our families, to give our children a better future, to leave the world better than we found it. She also believed, by the way, in the importance of educating girls and empowering women, because she understood that when we provide education to young women, when we honor and respect women, that we are in fact developing the entire country. That’s what kept bringing my mother back to this country for so many years. That’s the lesson that she passed on to me and that’s the lesson that Michelle and I try to pass on to our daughters.
So on behalf of our entire family, we thank you. I am deeply moved. It is this same largeness of heart that compels us tonight to keep in our thoughts and prayers all those who are suffering who from the eruptions and the tsunami and the earthquake. With so many in need tonight, that’s one more reason for me to keep my remarks short.
As a young boy in Menteng Dalam 40 years ago, I could never imagine that I would one day be hosted here at Istana Negara - never mind as President of the United States. I didn’t think I would be stepping into this building ever. (Laughter and applause.)
And I know that much has been made about how a young boy could move between such different countries and cultures as Indonesia and the United States. But the truth is, is that our two countries have far more in common than most people realize. We are two peoples who broke free from colonial rule. We are both two vast nations that stretch thousands of miles. We are both two societies that find strength in our diversity. And we are two democracies where power resides in the people. And so it’s only natural that we should be partners in the world.
I am fortunate to have a very strong partner in President Yudhoyono - Indonesia’s first directly elected president, and a leader who has guided this nation through its journey into democracy. And our two nations are fortunate that we are forging a partnership for the 21st century. And as we go forward, I’m reminded of a proverb: bagai aur dengan tebing - like bamboo and the river bank, we rely on each other.
And so I would like to propose a toast. In the spirit of friendship between our two countries, we are reminded of the truth that no nation is an island, not even when you’re made up of thousands of islands. We all rely on each other together, like bamboo and the river bank. And like my mother riding between villages on a motorcycle, we are all stronger and safer when we see our common humanity in each other.
So President Yudhoyono, and to all the distinguished who are here, thank you for your extraordinary friendship and the warmth with which you have received Michelle and myself. And I promise that it won’t take so long before I come back.
(A toast is offered.)