Indonesia Ambassador Charms Crowd, Talks of a Changed Indonesia and Ties to U.Va.

March 15, 2011
March 15, 2011 — When Indonesia's former presidential adviser became ambassador to the United States last year, one of the first things he wanted to do was come to the University of Virginia.

"I've always wanted to come here," Dino Patti Djalal told a rapt audience that packed U.Va.'s Nau Hall auditorium Monday evening. "When I first arrived in Washington, D.C. in September, one of the first things I asked my staff to do was to get me to U.Va., because I wanted to see the school where my father went. This school has always been dear in the history of my family."

His father, Hasjim Djalal, was the first Indonesian student to attend U.Va. In 1959, he earned one of the first-ever doctorates of jurisprudence, the highest degree given by the School of Law.

To underscore his admiration for the University, Dino Patti Djalal had an assistant hurriedly purchase a U.Va. tie from the bookstore in advance of his talk so he could wear it during his presentation. "I promise I'm not running for office," he said, grinning, to laughter and applause.

"This is a special day for me," he continued, holding aloft a black, hardbound book. "This is the day I got my hands on my dad's thesis."

He went on to describe his father's diplomatic work, which included ambassadorships to Germany and Canada. The elder Djalal worked extensively on the Convention of the Law of the Sea, which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans.

Addressing the students in the audience, the ambassador said, "I want to tell you from my father's experience, after you get a degree, you may not just get a job, you may even change the country or the world. So don't underestimate yourselves."

Djalal explained that his father's work over 30 years at the United Nations "doubled the sovereign territory of Indonesia." He said his father reformed the international law of the sea.

"How?" he asked. "By using the knowledge that he gained at the University of Virginia."

Apart from his father's legacy, Djalal spoke about how his country has changed during the last three centuries, transforming itself from what he called a sometimes angry and colonized society to one of open-mindedness and global reach in the 21st century.

"In the 20th century, you would talk about revolution. Now we talk about innovation," he said.

The Group of Seven industrially advanced nations has been "the center of the international economic landscape," he said. "But now we live in the G-20 world," which encompasses industrial and emerging-market countries, including Indonesia.

He said technology will be a key driving force of the immediate future, quoting experts as saying "the 21st century will experience 1,000 times the technological change as the 20th century."

Peter Maillet, associate dean for global initiatives in the McIntire School of Commerce, required all of the school's third-year students to attend the talk. McIntire's core curriculum requires they take a course, "Entry Strategies in Emerging Markets," in which students choose a rapidly growing small company and draw up a business entry strategy for one of four countries; Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil or India.

"The course kicked off the same day as the talk," Maillet said. "The timing was amazing – that we had the opportunity that the ambassador could be our kick-off speaker."

"As the largest Muslim country in the world, as well as the third-largest democracy and the fourth-most-populated country, Indonesia is clearly quite important in global business, politics and culture," said Trey Maxham, associate dean of McIntire's B.S. in Commerce program. McIntire has offered three courses thus far in Indonesia, two during the January Term and a summer course that will be repeated this year.

"There is so much energy and momentum around this. We also got to meet personally with the ambassador to talk about ways to move forward, so the connection between U.Va. and the ambassador's office is wonderful," Maxham said.

Maillet said his students will return for the next Ambassadors' Speakers Forum, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs, on April 4, which features Turkey's ambassador to the U.S., Namik Tan, a special guest of the Turkish Students' Association.

— By Jane Kelly

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications