On this exact day in 1928, Indonesia’s national anthem Indonesia Raya was sung for the first time. It accompanied a momentous day known as the Youth Pledge, as a result of the Second Youth Congress. Although Indonesia’s independence came 17 years later, the pledge had set the stone of a unified nation.
“Firstly, we the sons and daughters of Indonesia, acknowledge one motherland, Indonesia.
Secondly, we the sons and daughters of Indonesia, acknowledge one nation, the nation of Indonesia.
Thirdly, we the sons and daughters of Indonesia, respect the language of unity, Indonesian.”
How it all began
Before the pledge and the youth congress, there was an education-based organisation named Budi Oetomo in 1908. The date of its launch is commemorated as the National Awakening Day for Indonesians today. Since Budi Oetomo, more youths are eager to start a youth movement, even though they are still tightly clutched to fellows of their own tribe.
A Javanese man named Satiman started the beginning of a youth movement in Java named Tri Koro Dharmo, a student association that recruits native students from across Java. The name then changed into Jong Java in order to expand their recruitment to Madura, Bali and Lombok (who speak different languages, but still within the extension of Java island).
Jong Java held many congresses to spread the importance of youth role to the society. Their main goal is to eradicate illiteracy, so the youth can be open-minded to the world outside of their cocoon.
Since Jong Java’s formation, youths from other tribes started their own associations: Jong Batak, Jong Minahasa, Jong Celebes, Jong Ambon, Sekar Rukun, Jong Islaminten Bon, Pemuda Kaum Betawi (Betawi Youths) and more. The emergence of these associations brought up the initiative to gather their thoughts in a mass assembly.
The First Youth Congress was then held from April 30th to May 2nd, 1926. Unfortunately, each association was still bound to their provincial ego which prevents them from uniting. So, at the Second Youth Congress, from May 27th to 28th 1928, they gathered again on the basis of being in the same boat and going for the same goal. The congress ended with the declaration of Youth Pledge, along with the first hearing of Indonesia Raya―the future national anthem.
Passing the baton
The image of youthful revolutionary heroes continues to be associated with progress and development in Indonesia’s contemporary scene. Young Indonesians today are still deemed as a positive change as they were back in 1928 and 1945 (independence).
There is a baton passed from the young generation of 1928: the nation’s unity. A unity that is beyond (not ignoring or disrespecting) cultural differences.
Unfortunately, the challenges are as strong as it was then. The widespread use of fake news and the commonly believed stereotypes have resulted in the growing intolerance and hate among fellow Indonesians, including the youths. A threat that will break the nation apart if their future generation is cultivating it.
However, we must not ignore the rest of the young Indonesians who support one another through positive actions. From the emergence of digital charities, social enterprises, environmental movements to fight against corruption―these are the kind of actions that will contribute to the betterment of the nation; not by eliminating those who express different opinions from us or come from a different ethnicity.
Today’s youth also have been blessed with sophisticated technology that literacy is no longer about the ability to read letters, but the ability to interpret information. As their access to information is only a few clicks away, the young generation today should not waste the facility around them by being critical, aware of their surroundings and start making positively impactful actions for a change. It doesn’t have to be as “revolutionary” as their predecessors because every positive impact counts.
The Youth Pledge is a symbol of the youth’s ability to start a positive change. Educated youth, especially, are central to Indonesia’s future, just as they were in the formation of the country. Today, Indonesians celebrate the youth who gave the ideals of the nation and will shape the nation’s future.