My summer break in my INSEAD journey began on 1 July with one of the craziest experience ever.
I MET OBAMA AND HAD A MEETING WITH HIM!
It was a Jakarta Roundtable Meeting with the Obama Foundation (https://www.obama.org/jakarta-participants/) which was covered by several national media. I shared one of the media releases here (PDF and its print media version). I translated the contents and you can find them at the end of this post.
The article mostly talks about how the meeting came about, how I got into the meeting, what were the contents of the meeting, a bit about me, my internship with Grow360 and my MBA with INSEAD. But I would like to share a couple of things that I thought were also important related to the meeting.
There was a time when I actually asked a question about diversity. ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what is your opinion on how the minority can integrate within the society better? What is the best narrative in order for minorities to blend in?’
Coming from a minority society myself, this has been a question that I would always want multiple answers from. And having the chance to actually listen to the answer directly from Obama, it was an honor.
His answers were the following, in summary (I had to first disclaim this is not a direct quote nor an official statement. This was my understanding of the answer): The way the majority sees the world is different from the way the minority sees the world. Within that difference of thinking, the battle is often not just about ‘the fight for my rights’, but also, equally important, about what each society can offer to the other so that integration is the best way to see those positive benefits be realized. When the two narratives of ‘rights’ and ‘impact’ combine, we would be able to provide a holistic view to the society why unity and integration are imperative. Then we exercise the pride of being unique and different, and by embracing that, we are entitled to mutual progress for better diversity understanding.
I find that refreshing. Of course this applies to both majority and minority, and I think it speaks of the most fundamental concept of individuals regarding his/her rights and duties. Often times, diversity is a battle of mere majority vs minority where there is a battle of rights – but often the question left behind is ‘what can we do together, to create a better world to live in for our next sons and daughters to come?’ .
Now, I understand that this might be an over-generalized, or even, over-simplified view. The minority has had a long history of discrimination, and that is not easy to overcome. And these situations persist – and the differences of opinions and views were context-dependent of the past occurrences. And how I wish I lived in a world that is free of discrimination.
If you ask me honestly, I have no idea as well how do we end the cycle of discrimination. But I do know that if we persist and clamor on the past and maintain the blame game, each side will always be defensive, and the ugly cycle will persist. What I am offering is this – let’s try changing the method, and give it a shot: what about learning from our past failures, what went wrong, and look at what we could do how we could do better from each side? We need to ask ourselves if we actually have done that. I am not saying we should move on from that because obviously the past has great historical lessons to create better future, however I am saying we should empower ourselves to move forward. ‘Then what’s next?’ is the ultimate question.
While differences create the dissections of majority and minority, differences harness uniqueness. And uniqueness is the source of individual forces with its exclusive strengths. These forces will then be used for good. It seems that it is easy to forget our final objective of the war. We focus on every micro battle of rights, that we conveniently forget the macro destination of unity and integration and creating impacts together, for generations to come.
There is one thing that I further learned, especially in the context of a superpower President visiting and having a round table with the youth: if Obama, one of the greatest world leaders, believes in us, then why would we stop believing in ourselves? It’s time, to move forward.
So I move forward from June 2017, when I had to say goodbye to the Fontainebleau campus for a while, to the summer break. Eventually I decided to move forward to be able to create more with my limited hands and the unlimited resources of the world and its people.
I decided to take a remote internship with Grow360.com, a startup providing self development space platforms. It is a great way of learning how technology is leveraged for people development, and it has been a great and humbling experience to be able to learn various things. It was exciting, to be empowered and empower each other during the process – and envisioning legacies of creating an everlasting platform for self development with such a great team with a great energy and vision.
I started my study project – which is to create a book. Very ambitious, but I am glad I am supported by many people along the progress – titled ‘Can We Please Talk?’, the book collects stories of successfully resolved or failing conflicts, and analyses these stories from Organizational Behavior researches and finds patterns of successful conflict resolutions, and transforms these learnings into potential self-exercises for better conflict management skills. The vision is simple: by harnessing individual unique experiences and differing actions, we empower readers to gain valuable insights in order to create a more harmonious world. Conflicts happens everywhere and it is unavoidable, but conflicts are always manageable and transformable into insightful conflicts that bear fruits of learning and progress.
I’d like to end this note this month with one final story, as the summer break gave me the chance to reflect more on ‘Invisible Hands’.
When I shared the story of the Obama meeting with my awesome INSEAD career coach Gene Cleckley, he asked me how did the Obama meeting invitation come about. And it hit me, because as I thought deeper to the past – this meeting is the culmination of a series of invisible hands who have been helping me throughout the journey of OTP Institute (my startup before coming to INSEAD) – starting from the founding team, the people from US Cultural Center which we had projects with, the events that maintained our relationship with the center until we managed to get connected to US Embassy, and the connections that had me referred to the YSEALI program (see the article below), and finally to the Obama Foundation.
Sometimes, it is so easy to forget how many small invisible hands have helped us in climbing the mountain, and we become less human as we get more privileges in our life.
The meeting was a simple encounter and recognition of my work, but it means that I am grateful I have met all the persons in my life who has interacted and worked with me in any capacity. That was just one segment of my life. Long story short, it takes a village to make a man/woman’s life. My life, your life, our lives.
Why not spend a minute or two to always thank the people around us and remind them that they are precious?
Because at the end of the day, no matter what differences we have, aren’t we all humans?
Let’s change the global paradigm. Because we can move forward and be better than our past.
PS: I’d like to take a few rows of this blog to thank everyone during my INSEAD journey. It’s painful growth, it’s humbling, and it’s been an honor. Thank you. Special shout out for INSEAD MBA blog team for allowing me to ramble here!
= TRANSLATED VERSION OF THE ARTICLE IN MEDIA INDONESIA =
Note: I translated the article as published, there are some details that might not be the same as what my answers were… Apologies if there are any inconveniences.
Collaborating with Obama
He became one of the nine Indonesian youth whom Barack Obama met.
During his visit on 23 June-2 July, former US President Barack Obama was welcomed warmly by the Indonesian people. Obama has a historical tie with Indonesia, a country which is a part of his childhood. He did not just come for a holiday, but he has also prepared a program to contribute amidst his home visit agenda.
After speaking and opening the 4th Indonesian Diaspora Congress in Kota Kasablanka (KoKas) Mall, Saturday (1/7), the 44th US President held a round table meeting with nine Indonesian youth, one of whom is Bryan Gunawan, founder of OTP (On That Point) Foundation. The social organization trains Indonesian youth in communication skills, civic engagement, and freedom of expression. He has trained more than 10,000 individuals for 10 years.
Bryan has also become the organizer and trainer in personal development programs held by US Department of Justice. He was also appointed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Indonesia to organize ASEAN Youth Expo 2014 and 2015, as well as FEALAC Youth Conference 2015. ‘Muda’ (‘Young’ – the name of the rubric for Media Indonesia) talked with Bryan in Monday (10/7). Let’s take a look!
Date of Birth: Jakarta, 20 April 1989
Education: Sang Timur Jakarta, Kindergarten to Senior High School; Binus University Undergraduate; INSEAD MBA
- Top 10 Best Speaker, EFL Category, World Debate 2010
- Founder & CEO OTP Institute, Social Venture in Communication and Leadership
- Has trained over 10,000 individuals from various education, corporate and government institutions in Indonesia and Asia
How did you get selected to meet Obama?
I was a participant of the Young Southeast Asia Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) 2015, an exchange program designed during Obama’s presidency. The program has various themes, and I participated in civic engagement. For five weeks, we learned at the University of Massachussetts. I think the Obama foundation knew my profile from that program.
Did you join a selection process for this meeting?
Due to the limited number of seats available, it seems that there was some kind of selection process. The Foundation exchanged e-mails and phone calls with me. They asked what my current activities were. In the beginning, they only said that they would hold a gathering with Indonesian youth. After the interview, they notified us that we would meet Obama at the upcoming 1 July meeting in Jakarta.
How did it feel to meet Obama in person?
The meeting was confidential, we did not even know who were the participants. There was a little drama, I had purchased my flight ticket to go home for the summer break because I will do an internship from July to August in Grow360.com, a leadership development company based in Singapore. My flight was scheduled to arrive at 10.10am in Jakarta, while the meeting was scheduled to happen 12.30pm. I had to arrive at the location, Mandarin Hotel, Central Jakarta, at 11.30am. I went immediately from the airport to the venue, with my heart pounding because I was worried of being late. I had to attend the meeting, it was a golden chance for me.
What were the points of discussions?
Obama really cares for Indonesia, he wants to focus on the youth so we can bring change together to the the communities. He hoped that by meeting the nine of us, there would be more people exposed to positive impacts, and we would be able to channel their talents and potentials.
Obama listened to the vision, dreams, and the passion of the young Indonesians, such as one of our wishes to have equal distribution of information for the society. He would like to create a site that is filled with Indonesian young community activities to connect the Indonesians. There are various positive communities, such as schizophrenia patient integration and traditional dance education for the disabled to integrate them within the society.
What would the Obama Foundation do for the future?
They are planning for the long-term now, to create a portal that would strengthen the connections and skills of young Indonesian and Asian leaders. Inspired, the nine of us are planning to create a social media campaign for International Friendship Day. If there are no significant challenges, it will be held on 31 July. We would like to feature the theme of diversity because Indonesia is currently shaken with that issue.
What were the learnings from the meeting?
It was very positive, as he is very forward-looking. He also identified the potentials that Indonesia has, and that can be realized through the development of Indonesian youth. I do not see this as politics, I see that he is truly passionate in social and youth sectors.
Could you share more about Grow360.com?
Grow360.com is a part of my summer break activity, from the MBA (Master of Business Administration) program that I currently take at INSEAD Business School, Singapore.
How is OTP doing?
OTP institute is still operating. Although I am abroad, the team performed reasonably well on a daily basis. Right now, we are executing several projects related to debating and critical thinking, one of them is with Badan Bahasa (the Government’s Language Center) in form of a Workshop and Debate in Indonesian for Foreign Speakers. Other than that, we are discussing to organize a debate workshop at the University of Pattimura, Ambon (The Moluccas), as part of the OTP Foundation social program.