Dr. Wahidin Soedirohusodo

Dr. Wahidin Soedirohusodo. (Photo: Poros Ilmu)

May 20, 1908: Originator of Boedi Oetomo

IO – On May 20, the Indonesian people commemorate National Awakening Day. This day is considered as one of the pillars of the nation’s struggle to start moving towards independence. 

National Awakening Day refers to the founding of the Boedi Oetomo organization on May 20, 1908. Boedi Oetomo itself is an organization that is active in various fields such as social, economic, and cultural without involving political elements. Its members include Javanese intellectuals. 

Boedi Oetomo was formed by STOVIA (School tot Opleiding Van Indische Artsen) students in 1908. STOVIA students took advantage of ethical-political policies implemented by the Dutch East Indies colonial government at that time. 

At that time the number of educated people was very small and not many people could go to school. So that to carry out ethical-political policies properly, educated people are needed to bring enthusiasm and raise self-esteem as “Indonesians”. 

Ethical politics brought Indonesia into a new chapter, exploited by dr. Wahidin Soedirohusodo, the key figure who initiated the formation of the Boedi Oetomo organization. 

This STOVIA graduate medical doctor was very happy to associate with ordinary people, so it is not surprising that he knew of the many sufferings of the people. He was also very aware of how backward and oppressed the people were as a result of Dutch colonialism. According to him, one way to free themselves from colonialism was for the people to be smart. For that, the people must be allowed to attend education in schools. As a doctor, he often treated the people without charging a fee. 

Hence, he was concerned with expanding education and cultivating national awareness. 

Wahidin often toured major cities in Java, visiting community leaders while giving his ideas about a “student fund” to help bright young people who could not continue their studies. However, this idea received little response. 

He also put forward the idea to STOVIA students in Jakarta about the need to establish an organization to advance education and elevate the nation’s dignity. This idea was welcomed by the STOVIA students. 

Wahidin moved the hearts of three STOVIA students, namely Soetomo, Gunawan Mangunkusumo, and Suraji to establish the Boedi Oetomo organization. Other founding members were Gondo Soewarna, Soelaiman, Angka Prodjosoedirdjo, Moehammad Saleh, and RM Goembrek. 

Derived from the Malay language, “boedi” means awareness, and “oetomo” means primary. It didn’t take long for the organization to be greeted enthusiastically by students from various regions, with 10,000 new members within a year. Through Boedi Oetomo, youth trained themselves and became leaders of the various independence movement organizations to follow. 

The methods applied by the STOVIA pioneers received positive responses from the colonial government. Meanwhile, indigenous organizations in other areas engaged in violent actions against the colonial government at that time. 

Gradually, the Boedi Oetomo concept gave rise to organizations with similar visions in various regions in Indonesia. Wahidin Soedirohoesodo, who was born in Mlati, Sleman, Yogyakarta, January 7, 1852, died in Yogyakarta, May 26, 1917 at the age of 65 years. He was made a national hero and remembered as the initiator of the Boedi Oetomo until the date of birth of this organization was decided as National Awakening Day. 

National Awakening Day was established on May 20, 1959, and is a national day that is not a holiday. It was based on Presidential Decree number 316 of 1959. 

On National Awakening Day 2021, the theme is “Rise! We are a Strong Nation”. The theme wants to invite all Indonesian people to be strong and resilient in facing various problems of the nation, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. (RP)