One day, one person, two messages of inspiration: on the same day that Barack Obama the president picked up his Nobel Peace Prize, a statue of Barack Obama the child was unveiled on a bright afternoon in Menteng. One ceremony was televised around the world, the other was a more modest affair, with a red sheet whisked off the 110-centimeter-tall bronze statue in Taman Menteng, Central Jakarta, in front of a group of businesspeople who had funded the project, US Embassy staff members and schoolchildren.
Playing at Thursday’s unveiling was the marching band from SD Menteng 01 — the primary school the young Obama attended during the four years he spent in Indonesia with his mother, Ann Dunham, and his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro.
The statue was erected in the hope that Indonesian children would be inspired by the idea that a little kid from Menteng could grow up to become the US president.
“Hopefully this can motivate the children,” said Sylviana Murni, mayor of Central Jakarta. “Who knows if there will be another child from this country who can become a world leader?” Asked why the work had not been erected at the school, Sylviana said Taman Menteng was chosen so everyone could view and be inspired by the statue.
Ron Mullers, chairman of the Friends of Obama Foundation, added that they decided on the park because young “Barry” used to play with his mother in Menteng. “He ate bakso , he ate nasi goreng , he understands the Indonesian culture.”
Anwar, 28, street vendor in Menteng
I am aware that they are going to hold a ceremony to unveil the Obama statue there in the park. I think it is a statue of little Obama.
I don’t think it is necessary to do that, it’s too much. It doesn’t have anything to do with Indonesia in general as a country. It makes us sound like we’re being invaded. They’re doing it just because he used to attend one school here in Menteng. It would be fine if they put up a statue of Sukarno, not Obama.
Kayla Putri Nangkana, 9, fourth-grader
This is great. I think it is a really good idea that they erected the statue of President Obama. With Obama becoming the US president, our school [SD Menteng 01] has become really cool.
But I think it would be much better if they located the statue in our school so that people can get to know him well.
I really admire Obama. He studied here and now he is a president. I would love to meet him in person.
Khairunissa, 15, tourism school student
I think it is weird. It’s really not necessary to put up a statue of someone just because he spent his childhood here. He was just a kid, a nobody. He only lived here for four years, and as a child.
If there really needs to be a statue here, I would say a statue of [former] President Sukarno would be more proper. I know we have one on Jalan Proklamasi but there aren’t many people who visit the site there, unlike Taman Menteng. A lot more people would be able to see his statue here.
Besides, what has Obama done for Indonesia?
Angga, 20, security officer at BB’s, Menteng
First of all, I have no idea what the purpose is of erecting the statue there in Taman Menteng. But it shouldn’t be a big deal if it is just as a reminder that he once attended a school here in this neighborhood. It wouldn’t be right if [it was] for political reasons.
Isn’t it a source of pride for Menteng that a kid who used to live and study here in the area could become a US president? Who knows if they would erect SBY’s [President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] statue there in America?
Raditya Ayu, 11, sixth-grader
I think it is not a good idea to place a statue here. It is a public place, anyone can come here anytime. What if some bad guy draws graffiti on the statue?
But it is not a good idea either to have Obama’s statue here. He is a president from another country.
I think people should make a statue of someone if that person has done something for the people. And I don’t think Obama has done anything for Indonesia.
I think they should have erected a statue of SBY here, or even a statue of Michael Jackson. If you travel to a place where there is no TV, I’m sure you will find that people will still know him [Jackson]. He is really great.