On July 1, President Obama met with young Indonesians and learned more about how they are making a positive difference in their communities – and how the Obama Foundation can help them and other global young leaders advance on their journey.
By Bernadette Meehan, International Programs, Obama Foundation
As we move forward with the development of the Obama Foundation, we want to be guided in part by the voices of young people from around the globe. When Barack Obama traveled internationally during his presidency, he gained inspiration and ideas from his interactions with young people. At large town halls and small roundtables, he listened intently to the vision, passions, dreams, and obstacles confronting people who wanted to make a positive impact in the world – at a local community level in some cases, and at a global level in others. Even when faced with a strenuous schedule on these international trips, President Obama would make his meetings with young people a priority, and he seemed reinvigorated after engaging with them. He would often encourage his staff to think creatively about how we could harness the ideas of these young people to knock down barriers and create pathways to help them succeed.
That principle is now a cornerstone of the Obama Foundation’s efforts to support and develop the next generation of active citizens and emerging young leaders around the world. As we build our programs, we are guided by your experiences and ideas. Of course, we are also influenced by our own experiences in the world. President Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and has said his time there helped him appreciate the common humanity of all people. That’s why we were excited to have held an international Foundation event in Jakarta, Indonesia. On July 1, President Obama hosted a small roundtable with inspiring Indonesian young leaders to hear directly from them about their experiences and ideas for how the Obama Foundation can help empower, connect, and train the next generation of leaders – in Indonesia and around the world.
We selected these inspiring individuals for the impact they are having in their local communities on issues that are important to President and Mrs. Obama, including gender equality; working with minority populations; promoting LGBT rights; and civic engagement.
We spent time over the past week getting to know more about their lives, their communities, and what civic engagement means to them. We were inspired to get to know them, and you will be too.
We look forward to sharing with you some of the insights we heard from these young people. If you know young people who are working on similar issues and projects in Asia or other parts of the world, we’d love to learn more about them Opens in a new tab .
Justitia Avila Veda
I am passionate about human rights, especially those related to migration, access to justice, and past human rights violations. During my time at the University of Indonesia Law School, I have pursued a career in human rights, serving as a volunteer, researcher, and project assistant in numerous national and international NGOs. As of now, I am working as a campaigner for the Amnesty Indonesia office.
I also joined a friend to develop an organization called Sekolah Kita Rumpin, where we provide alternative education for kids in the Rumpin region. We bring teaching and learning activities closer to their homes when it is difficult to attend the conventional schools due to the land grabbing conflict.
The work we are doing is not easy, because it is so easy to do nothing. It is so easy to get caught up in privileges—having good food and nice clothes we could brag about on social media, or having a good resume that gets you top-tier jobs or ivy league schools. Life is good that way, but if we could take a moment of silence and ask ourselves these questions: have we made the best out of our lives, out of the privileges entitled to us? Have we made changes from which people could benefit?
If the answers to both questions are no, we have to get up from our bed, list the resources we have, and map out how to best utilize them to help those who are less privileged. Focus on things we really want to do. Connect the passion to a strategic plan. Afterwards, hustle hard—persistently and consistently.
I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. I am a member of Suara Kita’s Executive Board. Suara Kita is an LGBT organization in Indonesia that fights for LGBT rights.
Before I joined Suara Kita, I lived in a homogenous environment. A lot of my friends were Muslim, and I had very limited interactions with other groups. I had a narrow minded view on issues like religious pluralism. Suara Kita became my bridge to different groups of people. In 2013, Suara Kita allowed me to join a summer course organized by Volunteers In Asia (VIA) for 3 months. In this course, I studied social sciences with American youth. I spent a lot of time socializing with them, discussing issues, and having fun. I realized that they also face their own unique struggles when trying to achieve their dreams. That experience truly transformed me and my mindset. I believe it is so important to engage with different groups of people to enrich your experience as a human being, make you more humane, and give you a wider perspective in life. It also leads to greater success.
Young people around the world must realize that they have the power to make change, to make a better world. To achieve that, they need to focus and be prepared for every obstacle that may come. There will be people who will appreciate your contributions, but there will also be people who will criticize you sharply, and that's okay. Learn from it and you will be just fine.