I believe it was in 2002, in a discussion at the CSIS on, of all topics, Hayek, that I came to know Pak Hadi personally and I am grateful to have that opportunity for many reasons.
As a scholar and intellectual, no doubt he was among very few Indonesians that the world highly regards. The title of one of Asia's best minds is also of no exaggeration. In some international meetings and conferences I happened to join in, everybody seems to know Hadi Soesastro and want to talk to him.
He was also a very fine economist with a strong awareness for political constraints and context that made him an effective consensus maker. In particular, Pak Hadi was very well versed in trade and technology issues -- two hot topics in contemporary Indonesian economy; but he seemed to avoid (media) controversy and quietly worked in an unassuming way in trying to materialize the benefit of trade and technological progress to the country.
His passion to international cooperation also showed that he believed that the country can only move forward by getting along with the world's community -- a perspective that, alas, many of the country's leading figures tend to underestimate and dismiss, probably due to some inferiority complex. But he was no self-willed and this is why you might find him talking to the other discontented parties, sincerely listening to their concerns -- no matter how absurd they appeared to me.
Above all, Pak Hadi was a very good mentor and teacher. From friends at the CSIS, you would hear that Pak Hadi had put lots of confidence to his younger colleagues to present paper or attend prestigious meetings here or abroad. But his attention was not limited to his home-base. I am not working for the CSIS, but that was what he had done to me, too.
Pak Hadi sent me to one of the earliest conferences where I present paper -- the ASEAN Economist Forum. Probably little that Pak Hadi knew, I was nervous like hell. He also asked me to join the working group for manufacturing industry policy of the Indonesian Economist Association (ISEI). I still remember how I felt in awe sharing the same table with Thee Kian Wie and the likes prominent economists discussing (more accurately, listening to them talking about) what happened to our manufacturing industry.
For that, I sincerely thank Pak Hadi in believing in me as then a young economist to gain academic and policy-related experience. Those exposures mean a lot to me, Pak.
The last time I saw Pak Hadi was in the PECC meeting in DC in which he also asked me to join. Among other things, we talked about food. Pak Hadi knew good food and he suggested me to visit Central where the food is good and --this is important for student like me-- the price is affordable.
He was always modest. I was surprised to learn that Pak Hadi, after the meeting, continued his trip to New York City by taking Chinatown bus with his son late at night. The reason: for him it's comfortable enough and inexpensive. I am speechless. With his stature, taking Acela would not be too much, but his modesty was really admirable.
Last thing, I regret that I would not be able to fulfill my promise and take him to Ray's Hell Burger next time he visited DC, but I guess, Pak Hadi, you will always get the better burger up there. And the ice cream too.
So long, Pak Hadi. May you rest in peace.