Students, staff members, and the public gathered at Perry World House Saturday for the 2019 Penn Indonesia Conference, which was designed to educate the community about Indonesian culture.
The event was hosted by Penncasila, Penn's Indonesian student association, and featured guest speakers and panels based on the theme, "Indonesia on the Global Stage."
Speakers included Ambassador of Indonesia to the United Nations and Chair of the Security Council Dian Triansyah Djani, former United States Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake Jr., and attaché of education and culture at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Popy Rufaidah. Additional business leaders, activists, and academics spoke at the panels, with topics ranging from Indonesia’s rising start up ecosystem, its sustainable development practices, and the role of women in business.
In addition to members of the Penn community, students from Temple University, Drexel University, and colleges in Boston and New York attended the event.
“I wanted to highlight Indonesia’s potential and aside from that create a space where undergrad students from all across the U.S. can meet,” Wharton sophomore and Penncasila President Janice Utomo said. “I hope that this conference can be a place where undergraduate students [from] Indonesia can network and meet each other and build a community together.”
In his panel, Blake addressed Indonesia’s potential, beginning with the question, “Why is Indonesia important?” He emphasized the diversity of Indonesia — which has hundreds of different ethnic groups, six major religions, and 300 different languages — and the sense of unity that brings the country together.
Blake also emphasized Indonesia's status as a democratic nation, adding that at a time when freedom is “declining around the world, Indonesia’s freedom really matters.” He described how this year, Indonesia held the world’s largest one-day election, where 193 million Indonesians voted freely to select the president at 800,000 polling stations across six islands.
“All that went off, really, without a hitch,” Blake said.
“It’s really, really impressive how we’re such a diverse country but we’re still a successful democracy," said College and Wharton sophomore Hugo Leo, who is Penncasila's vice president for education. "Even mature countries like the U.S. like to learn from Indonesia."
Penncasila advisor and College junior Gabrielle Utomo said another major goal of the panel was to increase representation of Southeast Asians on Penn’s campus.
“Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world, and we only have maybe four people come [to Penn] from Indonesia,” she said. “One of the bigger picture goals that we had is hopefully to push the University to pay more attention to Southeast Asia, because it is such a growing region of the world."