Obama’s Indonesian Dazzles at State Dept.

Jan 22, 2009 1:13pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia Reports: As President Obama worked the rope-line at the State Department Thursday, a State Department staffer named Charles Silver, knowing the President once lived in Indonesia, shouted out, "good afternoon" in the local language.

Obama responded back in what Silver later told ABC News was "very good" Bahasa Indonesian.  The two then chatted briefly about the neighborhood Obama once lived in.

When the staffer asked if Obama had lived in the Jakarta neighborhood where embassy staffers live, Obama replied that was for rich people, and he lived in another neighborhood with a similar name, one that Silver said is where the "real people" live.

Silver told ABC News that he has been stationed in Indonesia off and on since 1969. He’s currently working in the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.

As far back as March 2007, Obama pointed to his years in Indonesia as helping to prepare him for the presidency.

"If I go to Jakarta and address the largest Muslim country on earth, I can say, ‘Apa kabar,’ — you know, ‘How are you doing?’ — and they can recognize that I understand their common humanity," Obama told the National Jewish Democratic Council during a Washington, D.C. forum.

"That is a strength," he continued, "and it allows me to say things to them that other presidents might not be able to say. And that’s part of what’s promising, I think, about this presidency."

ABC News’ Teddy Davis contributed to this report.

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