Disney Video Launch “Welcome - Portraits of America”

Posted by Karen Hughes
October 26, 2007
Biscuits Fortified with U.S. Wheat Flour in Bangladesh

Karen Hughes is the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

This week I attended a movie premiere, but without Hollywood stars – this is Washington after all. The stars of this film are the men, women and children of America, shown at work, at play and going about their daily lives. This new film was produced by Disney, at no expense to the taxpayers of America, and generously given to the U.S. government to help us welcome international visitors to our country.

As a communicator, I believe the first principle of effective communications is clarity – and this video clearly says: We want you to come to America, you will be most welcome. At the same time, it quietly communicates the greatest strength of our country – our people.

When I first started working on America’s public diplomacy a couple of years ago, a few things became very clear, very quickly. First, all our research shows that people who have visited America and seen us for themselves have much more positive views – in fact, travel industry research found that 74 percent of those who visit here are more likely to feel extremely favorably about America. So, one of my first goals became to attract more people here.

But that collided with another reality – that in the aftermath of September 11th, new security regulations designed to protect both our citizens and our guests had slowed the visa process, made our airports seem less friendly, and generally created a perception that was more off-putting than welcoming. I remember coming through an airport after an international trip – it seemed confusing and intimidating – even though I spoke the language. The only TV monitors were blank, and I didn’t see even a single sign that said welcome or we’re glad you’re here.

I started looking for partners to help us put out a better welcome mat, and realized that the travel tourism industry had a shared interest in bringing people to our country. We started brainstorming ways to make the entire process, from getting a visa to standing in an airport security line, more customer friendly. One of the things we all talked about from our very first meeting was using television monitors to display a welcoming video message as people stood in lines to go through customs.

Providing a warm welcome is more than something nice to do. Attracting people to our country is vital to our economy, our national interests, and especially to public diplomacy. I believe our education and exchange programs have been our single most effective public diplomacy tool of the last 50 years, and I’ve worked hard to make them more strategic and expand them. We’re bringing key influencers like clerics, journalists, teachers, business leaders – and we’re sending more Americans overseas to learn languages and more about the rich cultures and contributions of other countries.

I meet with veterans of these exchange programs and they almost all say the same thing – the experience changed my life. It also has the potential to change the world – more than 130 of our exchange participants have gone on to become leaders of their countries, including the current prime minister of Great Britain, the president of France, and the president of Turkey. We want to make sure the same thing is true 20 or 30 years from now.

I like to describe the way others view our country as a complex tapestry that is woven by many different artists from many different threads– from the pop culture of Hollywood to government policies of Washington, from the products of our companies to the personalities of our people. This video will now become one of those threads, illuminating the many smiling faces of America to welcome international guests.

We have already sent the video and associated posters to embassies and consular offices across the world, where it will greet aspiring visitors long before they arrive on our shores. We’re going to play it in waiting rooms and at embassy events – and we hope it will inspire many who otherwise might not have thought about traveling to America to come and see it for themselves.

Comments

Comments

PI
|
California, USA
October 26, 2007

P.I. in California writes:

The short answer might be that if one needs to ask this question about children purchasing tickets to visit America in the first place, then it's logical to conclude there's vast room for improvement on the implementation side of the Peace Corps, UNICEF and World Learning.

Ralph
|
Greece
October 26, 2007

Ralph in Greece writes:

What a wonderful video in a way that only Disney does so well! It reminded a bit of "Soaring over California" at Disney's California Adventure park. The concept is outstanding! Welcome to America.

Living in Greece and seeing their antagonistic attitudes towards immigrants, I like to politely remind them that they themselves were welcomed to America many years ago, and should have the common decency to welcome their own immigrants as we do in America.

God Bless America!!

Charles
|
Ohio, USA
October 26, 2007

Charles in Ohio writes:

Some observations:

What percentage of the smiling kids in this film do you think will be denied access to decent health care because of GOP opposition to SCHIP?

Why do you think the film fails to depict the wall the U.S is building to keep people out? Our ancestors - remember the ones from Europe? - fortunately did not face such a welcome.

Finally, why go to the number one fantasy corporation in the U.S. to do a movie on our great country? Fantasy? Reality? Ah, no real difference in Bushworld.

Murat
|
Turkey
October 26, 2007

Murat in Turkey writes:

This is indeed a brilliant idea and a very necessary step by the U.S., given the world's current social and political conditions. If I were you, I would do just the same! (By the way, I haven't seen the movie yet, so my views about the movie are yet to come.) Despite the underlying principles of the "New World" such as respect for human rights, freedom of speech, rule of law, etc. that are the definite "musts" for a free and democratic society, America is being perceived as a "bad guy bullying around" among many nations all over the world, as far as I observe on global media and internet, as well as in my own country. This is partly due to some deadly wrong steps in the U.S. foreign policy and partly to provocations of extremist evil forces who deliberately spread anti American sentiments as a part of their main policy to prevent anti-democratic and oppressive countries' people from reaching a modern, free, democratic lifestyle. In my opinion, the biggest enemy of the humanity is the widespread hatred among nations of the world that is trying to be resurrected by dark and evil forces. Everybody should keep in mind that humanity suffered a lot from wars in the past. In my opinion; America, for its part, should be severely concerned about the fast rising anti American sentiment among nations mainly in Latin America and Asia, and should work hard to reverse it. This is a good start for such a healing process. I hope this "marketing" work doesn't stay as a "sole marketing" approach and is also supported by some necessary policy changes, too. Only this way, may America begin to be perceived as a symbol of "hope for a better life, real liberty, and real New World" again.

James
|
Virginia, USA
October 26, 2007

James in Virginia writes:

Ms. Hughes,

That is spot on, and I hope it can be shown around the world as well. The message is subtle and clear -- that's rare these days.

Thank you for sharing it here.

Barborka
|
Poland
October 26, 2007

Barborka in Poland writes:

Brilliant! We need more of these great "vignettes" that show who and what we are. Big kudos to Disney.

William
|
Texas, USA
October 26, 2007

William in Texas writes:

Not bad, but I missed the clip of a Marine precision drill unit or a seven man firing party at Army veteran's funeral or a Blue Angel flyby or even a snippet of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The complex tapestry of America is woven in the thread of the United States Armed Forces and dyed in their blood. Just one brief scrap of tape of a Civil War reenactment would have gone a long way in defining why this is the premier destination of those yearning to be free - all of those beautiful, smiling, free faces depicted by Disney. Even tourists perhaps specifically tourists should see that.

Beto
|
Brazil
October 26, 2007

Beto in Brazil writes:

Beautiful video!
Hope I feel this welcome the next time I arrive at an American airport.

Philip
|
New Jersey, USA
October 26, 2007

Philip in New Jersey writes"

Take a look, world!

Kashif
|
United States
October 26, 2007

Kashif in America writes:

Portraits of America was diverse yet it was something that Disney could have shot anywhere in the world, America may be diverse but it does not hold a monopoly on diversity. I personally liked the "It's a small World After All" ride I went on in Disney when I was a kid which was more amusing and had a more universal message I thought was appealing. America is diverse by diversity I mean it has different nationalities in it that consider themselves American as well as Korean for example so that universal bond plays a more important role than a look at us as we are American and we are diverse which to me seems like hey okay I get it you are diverse what do you want me to do with that. Touting diversity as strength is fine so long as you remember it is not a solution to life's problems. It's great that you have Bush running around taking pictures with all these different people all the time like the Dalai Lama but that isn't going to hide the fact that it will take more than photo ops to solve the world’s problems.

William
|
Texas, USA
October 26, 2007

William in Texas writes:

@ Charles in Ohio --

a) None.

b) Because, unfortunately, it hasn't been built yet.

c) Because your view of America is the same as Murat in Turkey.

Murat
|
Turkey
October 26, 2007

Murat in Turkey writes:

Now, I'm back from work and I've had a look at the movie. As I expected, it seems to be a good job and I hope it will serve the purpose. Now, let's make my view about America clear. Personally, I can not feel antipathy to a country which provides a majority of its own people with a free, democratic and prosperous life opportunity. Though I've never visited U.S. yet, I can observe the family values of traditional U.S. citizens-via internet forums, websites, books and media- and can draw some parallels with our way of life. Beginning from my childhood, I generally wiew America as a mighty and civilised country of mainly happy people and home to many opportunities for the people from all over the world. As a person fully in favour of cultural interaction among all nations-so long as no single party oppresses the others- I like the American approach of diversity. However, America has gained much antipathy even enmity from other counries in recent years, and this is partly due to its own foreign policy actions. If only the world's suffering people weren't made to blame their woes on America's policies, sometimes even threats and attacks. So, I'm not among those whose views of America are intended to be changed in the positive way by this movie, but I take this movie as a very good starting point to work against the rising anti-American sentiment, of which I'm also concerned for the sake of a peaceful world. I like hamburgers and cola, just as well as I like kebaps.

Layne
|
Colorado, USA
October 26, 2007

Layne in Colorado writes:

Great video! Great cinematography, wonderful music, and a broad cross-section of everything that makes America such an amazing place to live. Democracy breeds a vibrant culture, and this film captures that concept very well.

Charles
|
Ohio, USA
October 27, 2007

Charles in Ohio writes:

Bill,

On SCHIP, see Sen. Cornyn earlier this week:
"Census data reports that there were approximately 8 million children without health insurance at some point in 2005. In the State of Texas alone, there are roughly 500,000 Medicaid-eligible children who are not covered by Medicaid and an additional 200,000 SCHIP-eligible children -- up to 200 percent of poverty level -- who are not signed up for that program." (http://cornyn.senate.gov/)

Make believe cannot overcome the plain, hard facts on the ground.

Three images of the non-existent border fences:

http://www.viewimages.com/Search.aspx?mid=72124417&epmid=1&partner=Google

http://www.viewimages.com/Search.aspx?mid=72116723&epmid=1&partner=Google

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19513246/

William
|
Texas, USA
October 27, 2007

William in Texas writes:

a) There appears to be about 145 miles of the proposed (700 mile) fence completed ã all of it behind schedule. The U. S. Mexican border is approximately 2000 miles long ã that's only 13% and not nearly enough. As an aside, this view runs across political, ideological, racial and ethnic lines. If you doubt the polls, please look at the comments on the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle sites when the topic of illegal aliens is in the news.

b) The key phrase in Senator Cornyn's statement is: "Who are not signed up for that programã" It is simply not the case that there are masses of U.S. Citizens who are not covered whether they are adults or children. As my last word on health care I have no difficulty "contributing" to the destitute, but I have real problem subsidizing those who may exceed 200% of the poverty level, most especially at the expense of my family.

c)What I object to in your comments is the suggestion that America is somehow the focus of evil in the world. I vehemently oppose that this is the case at any level. If it were, to paraphrase and old saw, they wouldn't be breaking in. The tenor of your comments here (any forum to bash America) and, I suspect, your world view in general is incompatible with mine. We are not going to agree.

To get back to the topic at hand, America is not a race or ethnicity; it is an idea and an ideal. It is the very best of ideas and ideals and it is most worthy of sharing and above all protecting.

Wang
|
China
October 27, 2007

Wang in China writes:

Fantastic!!! It shows me a more impressing and attracting America!!!

Daniel S.
|
United States
October 27, 2007

Rapeeporn in U.S.A. writes:

Fabulous!! Yes, it is America indeed. However, I think we can't explain America less than 7 minutes...

John
|
Greece
October 28, 2007

John in Greece writes:

Although I am not an American citizen, I strongly agree with the "C" point of William from Texas. America should not be considered as a race or ethnicity. It is certainly an idea and an ideal for all the globe. Moreover, according to my point of view, even if someone is not an American citizen, no matter where he lives, he can consider himself so, by accepting and respecting the political and ethical values of Americaãs democracy, which is a global philosophy for freedom and human dignity.

Concerning the video, "using television monitors to display a welcoming video message as people stand in lines to go through customs" is a great idea. However, I think that they can do a better editing and scene selection, although the video is good enough already. They also can add a welcome title as the video runs in order for everyone -- moreover for those that do not know what they are watching -- to understand that this is a "welcome to America video." When the video is displayed as people stand in "embassies security lines" they can write something like: "This is America."

Nevertheless, the most important is the strategy, since "people who have visited America and have seen you guys for themselves have much more positive views." That's why Karen Hughes is absolutely right in everything she writes concerning the wide scale concept and strategy of the project.

Yan
|
China
October 28, 2007

Yan in China writes:

I feel dazed when reading the article in several minutes, do you have to make this background as dark black!? since it is very uncomfortable for my eyes for catching the context with this unfriendly interface.

Murat
|
Turkey
October 29, 2007

Murat in Turkey writes:

"America is not a race or ethnicity, it's an idea and an ideal." (William in Texas and John in Greece).I admire this view and fully agree. I also agree that this view is regardless of borders on the map. This is what makes America a global dream rather than a regional-though mighty- state. I hope this movie and other necessary steps I mentioned before will help Amreica be seen this way by many people all over the world, again. This will surely contribute to world peace.

chris
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Chris in Canada writes:

Next time America makes a video about America maybe they should use natural wonders that are actualy on American soil. That shot of Niagara Falls is in Canada not America. Just another example of American ignorance and arrogance.

William
|
Texas, USA
October 29, 2007

William in Texas writes:

@ John in Greece --

I appreciate your comment. There are too many who were born in the U.S.A. who do not. The American ideal was founded on the soul of a Hebrew and the mind of a Greek; and, I believe that spark exists within all of us. Too many have suppressed it and too many who are immersed in their own depravity scorn it. My best to you and freedom loving people everywhere.

Pamela
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Pamela in Canada writes:

Why did you choose to show the Canadian side of the Niagra Fall, shot from Canada in a video that supposedly shows the beauty of the U.S.???

Rather misleading, don't you think? Oh well...when folks come over to the CANADIAN side, to see the falls you've posted...we'll just ask them to stay. What the heck...it's no big deal, since we're sharing stuff anyways..right?!

Rommel M.
|
Maryland, USA
October 29, 2007

Rommel in Maryland writes:

Oh Canada! Everyone knows that the best view and the best set of the Niagra River's falls is on the Canadian side! And Disney, being the money-grubbing, greedy little suckers that they are, chose this set of falls over the Bridal Veil, or the American because of the shear aesthetic beauty and wondrous view from the ground and air which the Horseshoe Falls provide. I have visited Nigara Falls only once, but I have seen all three sets of falls, and without doubt, the Horseshoe on the Canadian side is the most spectacular. Disney's producers and director knew which of the Falls would be most appealing as well, and as any tourist will tell you, its the pictures of the Horseshoe Falls that everyone clamours for. Too bad, U.S., but Canada has us beat on a more beautiful natural wilderness, and much better preserved too, as well as the better of the three falls at Niagra.

Barry
|
New York, USA
October 29, 2007

Barry in New York writes:

Maybe you all should read this:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21516459/

And maybe spend more time on promoting American places instead of taking something Canadian as your own.

David
|
Maryland, USA
October 29, 2007

David in Maryland writes:

Disney has done it again. Another amazing cinematic adventure into, what seems to be, the heart of how we would prefer ourselves to be perceived: Warm, Romantic, Dramatic, Robust, Happy and Healthy.

The question of security "For All" does not seem to be any part of this video and that is how it should be. Those that visit, not just in The U.S.A., but anywhere in the world, should have the freedom to go about and enjoy the wonders of all cultures without the fear of "9/11" happening again. The reality of our situation (border security) is necessary and in my opinion allows us the peace of mind to live our lives and does not take away from enjoying ourselves. However, it does bother me that some people find security measures a nuisance and irritating. These people do not see beyond themselves and are removed from the reality of what would happen if these measures weren?t there to protect and serve.

For those who voluntarily put their lives on the line so we may live our lives as free individuals, I give my thanks and undying gratitude.

Steven
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Steven in Canada writes:

Ummm, if this is supposed to be a video of the U.S., why does it show the Canadian side of the Niagara falls? Please explain this, we Canadians don't show videos claiming to own Elise island.

Neel
|
California, USA
October 29, 2007

Neel in California writes:

You should be ashamed of that shot of Niagara Falls; clearly on the Canadian side and not on the American side. I question the integrity of the rest of the video. Not impressed.

Lee
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Lee in Canada writes:

I would like to say how nice of a video that is. it quite a complent that they used scenes from Canada. Niagra Falls is 100% Canada not U.S.A. Its ours not yours. I'm sure that if the states is such an awsome place to visit they could have found landmarks thats theres to promote.

Colin
|
Japan
October 29, 2007

Colin in Japan writes:

You would achieve more by sending your airport staff to courses on customer relations.

Bad news travels faster than good and believe me travelers talk about American airports!

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