The Strawberry Statement

This morning we carried the report of newly-minted Columbia MBA Wes Martin on the speech given by PepsiCo president and chief financial officer Indra Nooyi at the MBA recognition ceremony this past Sunday. Here is the statement that PepsiCo Director of External Relations Elaine Palmer forwarded to us in response:

Thank you for checking with us on Indra Nooyi’s speech at Columbia. We saw the item on your blog and are shocked to see that you took Ms. Nooyi’s comments to be anything but pro-American and supportive of the United States and its role as a global leader. The characterization of Ms. Nooyi’s remarks could not be more off the mark. No one is prouder of the U.S. than Ms. Nooyi, who has elected to make this country her home. Ms. Nooyi was simply encouraging the U.S, and Americans to be all they can and should be, which is something we all strive towards.
In her remarks Ms. Nooyi stated:

This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, The United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg-up in global business since the end of World War 1…
This land we call home is a most-loving, and ever-giving nation -a ‘promised land’ that we love dearly in return. And it represents a true force that – if used for good – can steady the hand – along with global economies and cultures.

We encourage you to set the record straight and explain that Ms. Nooyi was talking to the students about the necessity of working together in the world.

We’re happy to publish Ms. Palmer’s message, but we’re not impressed. (See also the update posted by Enlighten here at the site Enlighten-New Jersey.) In a telephone conversation I asked Ms. Palmer for a copy of Ms. Nooyi’s speech. She said she didn’t want me to be able to quote selected excerpts from it to prove a point. I said that what she had forwarded to me were precisely such excerpts. She responded that she had not received permission to forward the text of the speech. I requested that she ask for permission. Unless and until PepsiCo produces the text of what was, after all, a public speech, one cannot help but treat its protestations skeptically.
In any event, we also carried the message from Rayne Steinberg, who attended the ceremony in honor of his brother. Steinberg seconded Martin’s report. I spoke with Martin twice; he stated that his parents had traveled from Dallas to attend the recognition ceremony. He reported that his parents supported his recollection of the speech and shared his feelings about it.
We have also received a report from Hadar Weiss, another one of the graduating Columbia Business School students. Weiss wrote:

My name is Hadar Weiss, and I was at the ceremony because I am graduating.
I can also confirm that Wes gave you an accurate rundown of [Ms. Nooyi’s] remarks. It was especially odd given her opening remarks and the type of audience she was addressing. Columbia

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