Saturday, May 21, 2005

In Defense of Pepsico's Indra Nooy

(First a personal disclaimer - I am addicted to Diet Mountain Dew. However said addiction has nothing or almost nothing to do with the following commentary)

Over the last few days the blogosphere has erupted over the commencement address of Pepsico executive Indra Nooy given at Columbia School of Business. In this address Ms. Nooy was said to have made disparaging remarks about the United States. Like many right-wingers my first response was to react with intemperate dismay. Then I decided to actually read what Ms. Nooy had said.

As as student of communication ( I preach for a living) I found the address while a bit unfocused, certainly not as "liberal" and hate-filled as many of my type had blogged. In fact, while it may pain me to admit and others to hear, she was making a valid and certainly memorable point.

She was dealing with a perception (rightly or wrongly one may argue) that the United States is seen by the world as "giving it the finger." And this is a criticism that we must take to heart. The actions of a few; be it overzealous prison guards or reckless journalists, do reflect upon how we are seen by other nations.

Stan Lee was right when he reminded Spiderman that with great powers comes great responsibility. And the need to use such power wisely. We are the greatest nation in the world and as such we are held to a higher standard by the rest of the world. And we should aspire to that standard ourselves. President Bush has realized this. He knows that might alone will not win the day. There is a time to be a cowboy and a time to be a statesman. It is a fine line to walk and sometimes we cross that line. But the mark of a great man and a great nation is to be willing to hear the critics and learn from them.

I believe that Ms. Nooy wants this to be a great and respected nation. Her counsel to these graduates is sound. We who proudly represent this nation must be aware of how we conduct not only our business affairs, but all our interactions with others. To be sensitive to others cultures and perspectives is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

There is a time to give the finger, but there are other times when an offered hand can do more good. The wise know the times and act appropriately.

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