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Indonesia’s U.S. ambassador cites a "new cultural confidence"

Djalal told students and faculty that some of the world’s developing nations are “finding new rigor in traditionalism.”

Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States and a candidate in the Southeast Asian country’s 2014 presidential election, spoke at Lehigh on Monday about power shifts and changing mindsets in the developing world.

“There was a time when Indonesian diplomats would only ask for assistance when they talked to other countries,” said Djalal, who was spokesperson for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono before becoming ambassador to the U.S. in 2010.

“Today, we talk about trade and investment. There’s a new cultural confidence in Indonesia, in India, in Brazil, in China, in Turkey. What was traditional can be modern; what was old can be new. They’re finding new rigor in traditionalism.”

Djalal met with Lehigh Provost Pat Farrell and with faculty members before speaking to a packed room of students. His visit is the most recent result of a relationship that originated with the United States Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP), an undergraduate student exchange program developed by Lehigh, the University of Michigan and Universitas Gadjah Mada in Indonesia.

Today, five universities in the United States and Indonesia participate.

As part of his visit to Lehigh, Djalal met with Mohamed El-Aasser, Lehigh’s vice president and associate provost for international affairs, to discuss expanding the new USIPP Consortium, which aims to increase the mobility of people and scholarship between the two countries. The consortium was founded by 12 higher education institutions in the U.S. and Indonesia, including Lehigh, and the Institute of International Education.

In the afternoon, Djalal delivered a talk to students before answering their questions about Indonesian politics and the country’s role in international affairs. He spoke about the emergence of developing countries as they create new societies and economies in the 21st century.

Djalal said that in addition to sociopolitical changes like the end of Western colonialism, this emergence is also due to shifting mindsets in these countries.

“If you ask me what is the most precious thing for national progress, I would say it’s confidence,” he said. “When you’re confident, you see opportunities. You take risks. You embrace change.”

Djalal also suggested that in order to remain competitive, the United States must embrace change and globalization as well.

“America must be ready and willing to reposition itself in this new world,” Djalal said. “Why? Because everybody else is doing it. If America thinks it doesn’t need a new position, you’re wrong. You have to love change.”

Story by Emily Groff

Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013

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