Friday, January 1, 2010

Time for the Young to Take Over

THE YEAR OF THE PRODIGY. Last year of 2009 saw prolific young men rising to the next level and taking over the lead from the older generations. (From top left, clockwise) Anies Baswedan, Gumilar Somantri, Firmanzah, Barack Obama, Jonathan Favreau, and Josep Guardiola.

Persons who are in charge of top-level management positions are usually on the age of 50s or 60s. But few months ago my university friends and I were covered in disbelief as we found out that our newly-elected dean, impressively, did not follow suit. Still at the age of only 33, Pak Firmanzah rose against the seemingly impossible odds to beat other more experienced candidates to become the youngest-ever dean in the history of University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Economics (FEUI).

Because of his young age, at first many consider him as green and lacking on experience to lead the faculty –but so far he has proven the critics wrong. It has only been eight months since Pak Fiz –that’s how we usually call him– took charge as our new dean, but his hard-working attitude and attentive leadership style have made him a popular figure among us FEUI students.

My respected dean is not alone in this case. Recently such occurrence can no longer be considered as unlikely; up to this day we have seen a significant increase in number of younger people who have been given huge responsibility to hold an important role in high level –and so far they have proven to us that they can perform the given task as well as the older and more experienced generation does.

Before Firmanzah, In Indonesia the predecessor includes the person to whom he has to report now, Gumilar Rusliwa Soemantri, who became University of Indonesia’s rector at the age of only 44. UI sees a significant increase of its THES QS universities rank from 287th to 201st this year among 4000 universities which were evaluated, thanks to various internal reforms in UI that were encouraged by Gumilar himself.

Even more impressive is the achievement of Anies Baswedan, the rector of Paramadina University whose intellect earned him a place as one of the members of the so-called “Team 8”. Anies Baswedan was merely 38 years old when he was appointed as the head of the University and despite his relatively young age today he is highly regarded as one of the brightest political analysts in Indonesia.

Young people are rising and we can see that this phenomenon does happen in almost every sector in the world. In sports, this year many football pundits heaped praises on Josep Guardiola’s managerial ability as he rose to become the youngest UEFA Champions League winning manager ever. Only in his first season at the club, Guardiola, the former Spanish international who just turned 38 this year, successfully lead his star-studded FC Barcelona team to win the competition, having beaten the veteran 67-year old Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United team in the final.

In world politics, perhaps this year will be best remembered because of the historic victory of Barack Obama, who, despite the robust challenge by far older and more experienced persons like John McCain and Hillary Clinton during the election, has been able to win the US presidential election and become the fifth-youngest man in the US history to occupy the oval office.

Barack Obama seems to read the wind as he also trusted several of his key posts to be given to the younger colleague of his. More experienced economist like the 66-year-old Joseph Stiglitz was left out in the cold and Obama decided to choose younger faces like 48-year-old Timothy Geithner as his Treasury Secretary or 40-year-old Peter Orzag as his Director of the Office of Management and Budget instead. Obama also appointed a young writing-prodigy named Jonathan Favreau, 28, as his Director of Speechwriting –and a brilliant speech deliverer and best-seller book author like Barack Obama definitely doesn’t trust ordinary man in doing that task, which allows the person to have a massive authority in controlling his words.

But unfortunately we did not have much choice during the last presidential election. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono certainly represented the older generation when he took oath as our president in the age of 60, and the same can also be said to his vice-president Boediono who was 67. Other candidates are very much the same and the youngest among them all is vice-president candidate Prabowo Subianto who, despite all of his youthful spirit and stirring speeches which he brought to us, was actually 57 and surely he will be a bit long in the tooth if he is to represent younger generation in the 2014 election.

Indonesia is lagging behind on the regeneration and this becomes a millstone around our neck today; you can just look to the last presidential election’s candidates or SBY’s ministerial cabinet formation and you will realize that both are still dominated by stale and old-timer politicians. We may have just finished our presidential election this year, but as we usher to the year of 2010 and are gearing up to the next 2014 election we might well start considering about rejuvenation.

Yes, the bitter fact is that Indonesia still highly depends to the older generation up to present –public are fed up staring at the same old faces and are ravenous for having younger generations to replace them.

In this year of 2009, people like Firmanzah, Gumilar Rusliwa Soemantri, Anies Baswedan, Barack Obama, and Josep Guardiola have proven to us that young people are up against the challenge. In the next year of 2010, will there be more number of young people who emerge at various top levels just like last year? Or will this be the year of revelation for someone waiting in the wings to bring about the rejuvenation in Indonesia’s 2014 election?

This article was part of the limited edition copy of The Jakarta Post special report; Review 2009 and Outlook 2010

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