The President and Bedtime Story

Man of the people. Joko Widodo is the first President of Indonesia to come from outside the political establishment. Pic: AFP/ROMEO GACAD Source: AFP

Man of the people. Joko Widodo is the first President of Indonesia to come from outside the political establishment. Pic: AFP/ROMEO GACAD Source: AFP

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Yesterday, 22 July 2014, was monumental for the history of Indonesia. A new president has been elected, and it was no ordinary.


Because the newly elected leader, Mr. Joko Widodo (better known as Jokowi) is an ordinary man. He is no political elite. He does not have big moneys to back his political campaign. In fact, he was a slum child, poor peasant. Someone probably like you and me. And worse (well, take that as ‘better’ in fact hehe) he has always been known for his clean and anti-corrupt reputation during his 7 years of serving as Mayor in Solo and 2 years as the Governor of Jakarta before running for presidency.

Not an Indonesian soul would have dreamed that this so-ordinary man would make his way to the Istana Negara! Not in a country where corruptions and bribes and dirty plays are the very rules of the politic game!

And yet, today Indonesia wakes up to a new light,new hope. If a Jokowi can be president, everyone can be too.

Honesty. Hard work. Integrity. The love for the people, and the country. All these values, this ‘naive-ness’, which we thought would never find a place in the politics, have in fact brought a Jokowi to the top post.

Yesterday, when the result was officially announced, I was reminded of my own skeptical thinking when I read my daughter her bedtime story sometime ago. It was the story of Abraham Lincoln, one of the most beloved presidents in the history of United States of America, the “Honest Old Abe”. The story is truly beautiful so please allow me to read to you too 🙂


Honest Abe
Retold by Horatio Alger

It is surely no accident that the two most beloved American presidents, Washington and Lincoln, possessed a proverbial honesty. The following stories come from Horatio Alger’s Abraham Lincoln, The Backwoods Boy, published in 1883. (Alger, in turn, is drawing from earlier works.) The tales remind us that honesty in private life makes honesty in public office. More important, they show us that habits of a truthful heart begin early in life.

The Young Storekeeper

As a clerk he proved honest and efficient, and my readers will be interested in some illustrations of the former trait which I find in Dr. Holland’s interesting volume.

One day a woman came into the store and purchased sundry articles. They footed up two dollars and six and a quarter cents, or the young clerk thought they did. We do not hear nowadays of six and a quarter cents, but this was a coin borrowed from the Spanish currency, and was well known in my own boyhood.

The bill was paid, and the woman was entirely satisfied. But the young storekeeper, not feeling quite sure as to the accuracy of his calculation, added up the items once more. To this dismay he found that the sum total should have been but two dollars.

“I’ve made her pay six and a quarter cents too much,” said Abe, disturbed.

It was a trifle, and many clerks would have dismissed it as such. But Abe was too conscientious for that.

“The money must be paid back,” he decided.

This would have been easy enough had the woman lived “just round the corner,” but, as the young man knew, she lived between two and three miles away. This, however, did not alter the matter. It was night, but he closed and locked the store, and walked to the residence of his customer. Arrived there, he explained the matter, paid over the six and a quarter cents, and returned satisfied. If I were a capitalist, I would be willing to lend money to such a young man without security.

Here is another illustration of young Lincoln’s strict honesty:

A woman entered the store and asked for half a pound of tea.

The young clerk weighed it out, and handed it to her in a parcel. This was the last sale of the day.

The next morning, when commencing his duties, Abe discovered a four-ounce weight on the scales. it flashed upon him at once that he had used this in the sale of the night previous, and so, of course, given his customer short weight. I am afraid that there are many country merchants who would not have been much worried by this discovery. Not so the young clerk in whom we are interested. He weighed out the balance of the half pound, shut up the store, and carried it to the defrauded customer. I think my young readers will begin to see that the name so often given, in later times to President Lincoln, of “Honest Old Abe,” was well deserved. A man who begins by strict honesty in his youth is not likely to change as he grows older, and mercantile honesty is some guarantee of political honesty.

– The Book of Virtues, pp. 620-621


Months ago, the story above would be just that to me, a bedtime story. But Jokowi has proven me wrong.

Yesterday, the world witnessed that Honesty is still of great value. Today, I can tell my kid “Be honest, be a president someday!”