Every May 20, Indonesian people commemorate National Awakening Day that was the establishment of Boedi Oetomo organization in 1908. At first, Boedi Oetomo only engaged in education, culture and social aspects. The organization was founded by Dr. Soetomo and the students at the Dutch medical school STOVIA or School Tot Opleiding Van Inlands Artsen, and then it became the forerunner of a movement aimed at achieving Indonesian independence.

Long before Boedi Oetomo was established, during the Dutch East Indies colonization until 1908, the struggle of the Indonesian nation to expel the invaders was still regional. Figures such as Imam Bonjol, Tjut Nyak Dhien, Prince Diponegoro, and Pattimura fought separately in their respective regions. They were unable to defeat the colonization which had power, especially better weaponry. They were not able to make the Indonesia’s independence into reality.

On 20 May 1908, Boedi Oetomo was established. In addition to engaging in education, Boedi Oetomo also used a new way in the struggle of the Indonesian nation to achieve independence through political movement.

The National Awakening is the rise of the spirit of Nationalism, Unity, and Consciousness as a nation to advance itself through a movement that has not previously emerged during colonialism.

Forty years after the establishment of Boedi Oetomo, or three years after Indonesia declared its independence, precisely in 1948, the first Indonesian President, Sukarno declared May 20 as the National Awakening Day. The reason was because at the beginning of Indonesian independence, the country needed a unifying tool. Sukarno considered that the birth of Boedi Oetomo was the right symbol to illustrate how the Indonesian nation began to rise up and unite to fight against the occupation.

Now, 109 years have passed since the establishment of Boedi Oetomo, which became the pioneer of the struggle and the symbol of unity for the Indonesian nation. The National Awakening Day should not only be celebrated by holding rituals and ceremonies. The Indonesian people must understand the importance of unity, especially at the present, when the symptoms of disintegration starts to arise due to discrimination of ethnicity, religions, and race as well as majority and minority issues.

Don’t let the Indonesian people be apart as happened before the independence era. Unity will make the country and the nation strong. On the contrary, disunity will make it weak and easily influenced or even colonized, at least politically, economically and culturally, by foreigners.


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