Jake Tapper reports:
JAKARTA, INDONESIA — At a state dinner honoring President Obama this evening, Indonesian President Yudhoyono presented Mr. Obama a gold medal on behalf of his later mother, Ann Dunham, who lived and studied in Indonesia for more than a decade.
“I am proud and humbled to accept this award on behalf of my mother,” President Obama said. “And although she could not be here in person, I know that my sister Maya Soetoro would be equally proud.” He said he was “deeply moved.”
Dunham died in 1995 at the age of 52. She received her doctorate in 1992 from the University of Hawai’i for her 14-year study of life among rural metalworkers of the Javanese village of Kajar. In 1967 she moved to Indonesia with her second husband, Lolo Soetoro and her son, then known as Barry Obama Jr. Four years later, concerned about her son’s education, she sent her son back to Hawaii to live with her parents.
“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,” President Obama said today. “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.”
President Obama today said his mother “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.”
Mr. Obama said that as “a young boy in Menteng Dalam” – the Jakarta neighborhood where he lived – “40 years ago, I could never imagine that I would one day be hosted here at Istana Negara” – the state palace – “never mind as President of the United States. I didn’t think I would be stepping into this building ever.”
The president offered 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.”