There is no transcript of the speech available yet as the Columbia Spectator has closed for the summer and Pepsico, apparently in full damage control, has yet to provide a transcript of the remarks. Several Powerline readers seem to corroborate the story.
The original post from Powerline reader Wes Martin, Columbia MBA '05
At yesterday's recognition ceremony for newly minted Columbia Business School MBAs, we had the president/CFO of PepsiCo as our distinguished guest speaker. After beginning her speech with words of praise and recognition for the graduates and their families, Ms. Indra Nooyi began to make the political statement du jour. After talking of her childhood back in India, 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%
My brother, Julian Steinberg, just graduated from Columbia (MBA 2005) and I was at his recognition ceremony this Sunday. Wes Martin's report is 100% accurate. Ms. Indra Nooyi initially spoke with a lot of humor and grace, so as she worked into the political part of her speech, I was a little disarmed and not ready for what came next. Mr. Martin pretty well sums up her speech and is very fair. It was rather shocking. Not just America's role as the middle finger of the world, but the typical condescending lefty views about the developing world. Africa's role in the world? Insignificant, but able to hurt the whole hand. Latin America's? Hot-blooded and romantic. Aren't these stereotypes we generally stay away from?
Ms. Nooyi closed with a story about some boorish American businessmen being obnoxious in a hotel in China that did not have facilities they were used to and seemed to be describing the general status of our jingoistic attitudes and behavior. She did allow that we had the ability to change all this and get back into the good graces of the rest of the world (Europe, the pointer finger and path finder, perhaps?).
Just drink COKE.