ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi, President & CFO of PepsiCo gave a commencement speech to Columbia Business School. Here's the full transcript of her speech. (PDF Format)

This has grabbed attention from PowerLine Blog as well as the New Criterion

I have to say that I think Powerline may be too critical. She probably could've used a more appropriate metaphor, but the example she provides of the US businesspeople laughing about the toilets in Beijing is all too common.

A U.S. businesswoman was recently in Beijing, China, on an international training assignment for a luxury hotel chain. The chain was rebranding an older Beijing hotel. As such, the toilets in the hotel had yet to be upgraded. There were no porcelain commodes, just holes in the floor. Until recently, this was the standard procedure in China.

Now, eight-thousand-miles removed from the scene, you and I – and most Americans – can shake our heads and giggle at the physical contortions and delicate motor skills necessary to make the best of this situation. We’re simply not used to it. But to loudly and insultingly verbalize these feelings on site – in front of the employees and guests of the host country is bush league. And, yet, that’s exactly what this woman observed.

In the hotel’s bar, the woman overheard a group of five American businessmen loudly making fun of the hotel’s lavatory facilities. As the drinks flowed, the crass and vulgar comments grew louder, and actually took on an angry, jingoistic tone. While these Americans couldn’t speak a word of Chinese, their Chinese hosts spoke English very well … and understood every word the men were saying.

And we wonder why the world views many Americans as boorish and culturally insensitive. This incident should make it abundantly clear. These men were not giving China a hand. They were giving China the finger. This finger was red, white and blue and had “the United States” stamped all over it.

Graduates, it pains me greatly that this view of America persists. Although I’m a daughter of India, I’m an American businesswoman. My family and I are citizens of this great country.

It's clear that she's trying to convey to these graduates that they need to be culturally sensitive when abroad and when dealing with others in this world economy. I don't read her statement to have any political thrust... because in some instances, the middle finger is appropriate for international relations (see Iraq, N. Korea, Iran, etc, etc).

I think we may be too eager to criticize for statements that we think are anti-American.... In this regard, I don't think Nooyi was being anti-american... Again, I think the metaphor is kind of a stretch (i'd put the EU or heck, perhaps the UN, as the finger) and the US as the index finger.

***Update***
Apparently some are calling for a boycott of Pepsi. I'm not sure this is wise or necessary. Slublog agrees, although apparently it's only due to the fact that Pepsi is caffeine vehicle of choice over there...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler