14 August 2007
Written by Media
Over the last two days, I've been wrapping up my lecture tour here in Indonesia with a three-day stop in Medan, the largest city on the island of Sumatra. It's been extremely valuable for me to gain exposure to these additional voices and places here in Indonesia and I'm beginning to understand the true scope and diversity of the place. The nearest equivalent I can offer is that the first week I visited Jakarta, the New York City of Indonesia, made a stop in Yogyakarta, which is like Philadelphia, and now have visited Medan, which is much like seeing Minneapolis or St. Louis. MedaManagen is a large city, but somewhat removed from the urbanized metropolis of Jakarta or the cultural and historic significance of Yogjakarta. While here I have been escorted by a number of incredibly devoted Americans working for the State Department. Sean Stein, the US consul here, is to my right in the first picture. In these first two pictures, you can see me delivering my lecture to a group of youth organizations and discussing ways to duplicate organizations like Vote Smart in developing countries. Kirana, my translator is hurriedly making the translation just to the right of me. Many of the youth leaders were thrilled to here about Vote Smart and joined me for many pictures after the talk.
Today's events were in much the same vein. I spoke to a number of Islamic party officials in the morning and was welcomed with very pointed questions on American notions of democracy, many friendly smiles and good jokes, and a ceremonial Sumatran shoulder wrap. This was a real honor and this group contained some of the most nuanced and insightful observations and discussions.
The last event today was being interviewed by high school student journalists in Medan. Students from many different public and religious schools attended the informal event at the US consul's home. Many of the students were so fluent in English that they could blend in completely to any American school or college. In fact, many of them asked me about going abroad for college, so I hope Guilford's admissions office is prepared for some applicants with a Medan postmark. With only a radio interview and a brief lecture tomorrow, I begin my 26-hour trek back to the U.S. Thank you all for following my adventures and experiences here in Indonesia. It has been an honor to represent Vote Smart and all the members, interns, staff and supporters that make Vote Smart the special jewel of American politics. I think we may need to reconsider some marketing of Vote Smart though--when I told our high school journalists about Vote Smart and the Great Divide Ranch, one student called us "the Cowboys of Democracy"! What a better compliment than that is there?