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Coca-Cola's 'America the Beautiful' Ad Reveals America's Ugliness

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Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO  ) recent Super Bowl ad, "It's Beautiful," featured a multilingual version of "America the Beautiful." The message was elegant, simple, and touching, reflecting the melting pot environment that has made America the diverse superpower that it is today. And it's revealing an ugly level of intolerance.

Coca-Cola's "It's Beautiful". (Source: Youtube)

Coke's message was lost on some right wing conservatives, who took to Twitter to vent their displeasure at having the unofficial national anthem being sung in languages other than English. Fox (NASDAQ: FOX  ) News' Todd Starnes, for example, had this to say about the ad:

Source: Twitter.

"I only speak English."

That one sentence defines Mr. Starnes' ignorance and reinforces the unpleasant stereotype of the ugly American that is often held in other countries.

In addition, claiming that "new immigrants don't speak English" is an absurd view that overlooks the fact that most children of first-generation immigrants speak their native languages at home while speaking English in public.

Texas the beautiful

On a personal note, I grew up in Texas, a state that is considered conservative by modern American standards.

However, Texas is a state that embraces diversity to a higher degree than many other states, mainly due to its history as a part of Mexico and its brief time as a sovereign nation. Throughout Texas, there are cities like New Braunfels where German is primarily spoken, or Corpus Christi, where Spanish is usually spoken first.

As a result, we have had governors (George W. Bush, Rick Perry) who attempt to give speeches in Spanish. Perry has regularly supported illegal immigrants with in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities -- a stance that arguably cost him his bid for the White House in 2012.

Texas, more than other states, still holds on to the melting pot ideals that made America great in the first place -- an idea that is casually trampled by conservative commentators on Fox News and people like Newt Gingrich, who casually called Spanish "the language of living in a ghetto" during a 2007 speech.

As a result of growing up in a Taiwanese-American household in Texas, I'm able to speak English, Chinese, and Spanish, for which I am very thankful.

Unlike Mr. Starnes, I believe that speaking multiple languages is a strength, not a weakness, and the freedom to do so is what makes America one of the greatest nations in the world.

Other companies that have pushed divisive issues

In a previous article, I noted that companies can often get in trouble for voicing controversial opinions. Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy notably ignited a firestorm in 2012 after he openly discussed his Christian beliefs and his adamant opposition to gay marriage.

Although Coca-Cola's commercial is hardly controversial to most people, other companies have previously made bold moves to promote their political positions.

J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) , McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) , and IKEA have all launched ads featuring same-sex couples. The backlash against all of these ads was the same, and filled with hateful, slur-filled tirades.

Meanwhile, a seemingly harmless commercial for General Mills' (NYSE: GIS  ) Cheerios featuring a biracial couple (a black man and a white woman) attracted so many hateful comments that YouTube eventually disabled the comments for the video.

Cheerios' biracial family ad. (Source: Youtube)

As much as that backlash can make us lose our faith in America, bold statements made by corporate America can inspire us to stand up against hate and ignorance.

The Gap, for example, sent a loud message to racists who defaced several of its subway ads in New York. The ad, which featured a Sikh man wearing a turban, was defaced with hateful comments such as these:

(Source:, Twitter.)

In response to the "make bombs," "stop driving taxis," and "Bin Laden" comments, the company simply changed its entire Twitter cover to the defaced poster:

(Source: Twitter)

It was a graceful move that sent a loud and clear message to the ignorant masses:

"You might catch the attention of a few dozen people on the subway, but we have over 300,000 Twitter followers who might beg to differ."

It's a positive sign when companies use advertising as a tool to express their thoughts on the fragmented state of mind of America, tapping into the power of advertising to not only sell clothes, but to promote social equality and tolerance.

The bottom line

In my opinion, conservative critics such as Todd Starnes accomplished the very opposite of what they were trying to achieve. By attacking a harmless commercial (in the same manner they declared war on the idea of a black Santa), they have simply advertised their irrational fear and ignorance to the world.

Just remember this -- as the rest of America was enjoying Super Bowl XLVIII, Fox News anchors were hiding behind their couches, frightened to death by a simple, sweet ad from Coca-Cola illustrating the multicultural evolution of America over the years.

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Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 12:15 PM, foolsORliars wrote:

    YOU may think the response is one of intolerance, but I think that the response is spot on....

    We The People should be striving for ONE nation, not a divided nation of mini-nations. A nation divided ALWAYS has fallen. Check history, I'm not making this up.

    People come here from all over the world, and that's great! We are all much more tolerant of foreigners than ANY other country in the world.

    America the Beautiful is just a song, but it represents this nation as a whole. Not pieces. Coca-Cola's representation of that song is a dis-service to all who came to this country, and learned ONE language, to make this country what it is.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 12:47 PM, stimepy wrote:

    Just an FYI, the official language of America is.... Not English, Spanish, German, or any other language I am aware of. We do NOT have an official language.

    We have a most spoken language, which is currently (American) English. And while I DO encourage those whom don't know English to learn I also encourage those whom only speak English to learn at least one other language. Why, because we ARE a melting pot. We should more so then any other country speak multiple languages and appreciate them.

    I applaud Coke for this Ad, and hope more appear like it.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:02 PM, MarshallJohn wrote:

    The world is sprinting right past the right wing hate bunch. The cry like stuck pigs.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:15 PM, JackEllisTahoe wrote:

    The folks who would complain loudest about the Coke commercial are probably the same folks who expect foreigners to speak English in their native countries as well.

    I liked the ad and I agree with the author of this article. For those who don't like it, perhaps it's time for you to return to the birthplace of your foreign ancestors.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:15 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    As @stimeply accurately states above while there is no "official" language specified by law the "defacto" language of the country and most "official" business by governments and private organizations is first conducted in "American" English and then in some cases in other languages.

    There is no mandate to use English but most people will be hard pressed to get by in this country w/o knowing the language. And most people would not go to a movie whose actors spoke English or read a newspaper or book written in anything but English. Therefore, any attempt to "force" people to use a language other than English here will be met by hostility and in some cases outright anger.

    I say we stop the dividing the country into little groups (liberal vs. conservative, GOP vs. Dem., etc.). let's all work together as a "team".

    One last thought: If you didn't like the ad don't watch it. If you liked it fine but don't try to force it upon others.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:13 PM, BoltonBruin wrote:

    America is the melting pot where people from all cultures comes to America. Before liberalism and multi-culturalism took hold, immigrants learned English and were PROUD to become Americans. Now, new people to America keep their cultures and customs EVERYDAY and expect Americans to change our culture and customs so they DO NOT assimilate into our culture.

    Coke was wrong to sing God Bless America in non-English in America. If they chose to air the commercial in Mexico or Honduras, or Panama in Spanish, that's fine. Sing it in Portuguese in Portugal or Brazil, not in America. We do not export our values and require other countries where a minority of Americans live, such as Costa Rica, to change their country's language to English. Why is it acceptable to change the culture and spirit of America because a MINORITY of new people want it so? i was furious while watching the ad and will continue communicating this as a stock-holder in Coca-Cola

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:52 PM, coachtlang wrote:

    Intolerance: unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs.

    You wrote about it, he wrote about it. It appears both you and Mr. Starnes fit the definition of intolerance to the letter.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 4:47 PM, NoAssumptions wrote:

    The author is showing his own hate when he assumes that anyone not in lock step with his view of the world must be a 'right wing conservative'. Essentially he is stating that anyone who debates a patriotic viewpoint must be a 'right winger'. Silly boy. Go fish.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 8:01 PM, JayAF wrote:

    Haha, NoAssumptions. You put forward the age old argument that anyone criticising racism is just as intolerant as the racists he is criticising. Nice one...

    Besides that, Leo never said that everyone disagreeing with him was a 'right wing conservative'. You either made that up or you didn't quite understand the point of the article.

    I applaud TMF and the author for speaking out against racist ignorance.

  • Report this Comment On February 06, 2014, at 1:14 PM, DavidsonFreeman wrote:

    JayAF the entire point of the article is make implied attacks on everyone who didn't like the ad by associating them with one guy on Twitter.

    I hated the ad. It's not a melting pot when there's no melting. Just because I want my nation to be unified in language doesn't make me a racist. Exactly which race do I feel superiority towards?? Am I racist towards German, French, or Italian immigrants whom I would expect to embrace the language and culture of the country they choose to become a part of?

    Language is the primary uniter of a people. When the language is divided, so are the people.

  • Report this Comment On February 06, 2014, at 1:25 PM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    "One guy on Twitter."

    Please read this article then:

    Then please come back and share your thoughts.

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