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By Eve Zibel, ,
Published December 23, 2015
President Obama praised Indonesia, a country he lived in for a few years as a boy, for its religious tolerance and Democracy, but also addressed trying to mend years of "mistrust" and "frayed tensions" with the country.
To cheers and a standing ovation with flashing cell phone cameras, President Obama addressed more than 6,000 people at the University of Indonesia, speaking warmly of his years spent in Indonesia as a child.
"Let me begin with a simple statement: Indonesia is a part of me," Obama told the crowd in Jakarta, speaking in the language of Bahasa, the national language of Indonesia.
Obama spoke about how much Indonesia has changed since he first came to the country as a small boy, including both political and religioustransformation and the president addressed the issue of what he called "frayed tensions" between the United States and Muslim communities.And he said the United States is committed to easing those issues, something he reminded the audience he first addressed in a speech inCairo, Egypt last year.
"I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. But I believed then, and I believe today, that we have a choice. We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress," Obama said. "And I can promise you - no matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. That is who we are. That is what we have done. That is what we will do."
The speech at the university was the last of the president's events in Indonesia as he hurried out of the country as a volcanic ash threatened to close air space around Jakarta.
Earlier in the day the president visited the largest mosque in southeast Asia, Istiqlal which he said was just being built when he left Indonesia.
"Istiqlal means independence, and its construction was in part a testament to the nation's struggle for freedom. Moreover, this house of worship for many thousands of Muslims was designed by a Christianarchitect," Obama said.
It was the second time in the day the president mentioned the melding of religions in Indonesia. The president and Mrs. Obama were led on a tour of the mosque by Grand Imam Yaqub and the president remarked how Yaqub told the first couple that part of the mosque was modeled on the church next door and that during the Christmas season church-goers use the mosque parking lot to accommodate all the cars.
"This is an example of religions working together, " Obama told the Indonesian and U.S. press gathered at the mosque.
The events in Indonesia on Wednesday followed a state dinner Tuesday night where the president had a meal of his favorite foods he remembered from his time in Indonesia as a boy including nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) and basko (Indonesian meatball soup). At that dinner the president of Indonesia also presented the president with an award for his late mother, who not only lived in Indonesia but continually came back for work and study.
"The fact that you would choose to recognize my mother in this way speaks to the bonds she forged over many years with the people of this agnificent country," Obama said.
The president is now in Seoul, South Korea the G20 summit and then he will travel to Yokohama, Japan for the APEC summit.