Born with motor impairment, Sarwono Kusumaatmadja grew up with low self-esteem. Yet, within this awkward, shy boy lay a steely resolve to overcome his weaknesses. It was this same resolve that propelled him to study at high school in the United Kingdom, thousands of miles from his native land. Navigating life on his own in the UK forged Sarwono into an independent and resilient individual; one who never flinched in the face of challenges, but also one who never wanted to play the hero either.
His unique character and integrity acted like a magnet for opportunities back home in Indonesia. He was chosen to be Chairman of the University Student Council of the Bandung Institute of Technology even though he did not campaign for it. And when he made it into the national parliament, it was at the behest of the military. He then became Secretary General of Golkar, the country’s ruling party, without having to pull any strings.
In taking on all the opportunities that came his way, Sarwono remained true to himself, which later meant saying no to President Soeharto when the latter tried to recruit him to be part of his inner circle.