Scott Johnson at Powerline quotes a report from Columbia MBA graduate, Wes Martin about the Business School commencement address of PepsiCo president/CFO Indra K. Nooyi. Here’s how Martin summarizes the main portion of her commencement address:
Ms. Nooyi began to compare the world and its five major continents (excl. Antarctica and Australia) to the human hand. First was Africa – the pinky finger – small and somewhat insignificant but when hurt, the entire hand hurt with it. Next was Asia – the thumb – strong and powerful, yearning to become a bigger player on the world stage. Third was Europe – the index finger – pointing the way. Fourth was South America – the ring finger – the finger which symbolizes love and sensualness. Finally, the US (not Canada mind you) – yes, you guessed it – the middle finger. She then launched into a diatribe about how the US is seen as the middle finger to the rest of the world. The rest of the world sees us as an overbearing, insensitive and disrespectful nation that gives the middle finger to the rest of the world. According to Ms. Nooyi, we cause the other finger nations to cower under our presence. But it is our responsibility, she continues, to change the current state of world opinion of the US. It is our responsibility to make the other fingers rise in unison with us as we move forward. She then goes on to give a personal anecdote about some disrespectful US business women in an Asian country and how that is typical of Americans overseas. No talk of what the US has done for the world throughout its history. No discussion about the ills that have been cured and the rights that have been wronged by the US. Just how wrong we are for the way we are perceived and how right they are in their own perceptions of the United States.
With PepsiCo in damage control mode, we’ve now got “a clarification” from Nooyi at the PepsiCo website:
- The point of my analogy was to emphasize America’s leadership position. Equally critical is the need for each of us as citizens to take a constructive role in whatever we choose to do in life to ensure the U.S. continues as the world’s “helping hand.”
And a link to the speech prepared for delivery [PDF]. A full reading of the speech confirms that Martin’s account, as opposed to the (*shock*) patently dishonest spin the Pepsi PR hack initially tried to put on it. Finally Johnson shares reader reaction to the story here.
Update: Nooyi could take a few pointers from Vice President Dick Cheney who delivered this commencement speech at Auburn University last Friday.