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

Narelle
|
Australia
October 29, 2007

Narelle in Austrailia writes:

It's a shame that the views shown of Niagara Falls can only be seen from Canada. Why weren't the falls on the American side of the border shown?

Sam
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Sam in Canada writes:

If this gratuitous video is supposed to be "Portraits of America", then why does it include a scene from a foreign country. There is panorama of the Horseshoe Falls, located in Niagara Falls, Canada.

I don't see London Bridge, the Eiffel Tower or the Galapagos Islands. Perhaps the video should advise viewers that not all tourism opportunities shown are available in America.

Bonnie
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Bonnie in Canada writes:

Nice video. Although I find it odd that in a video to promote tourism to America you would show a Canadian site. Horseshoe Falls (part of Niagara Falls) is entirely in Canada. You may be able to see it from the U.S. side but it's much farther away and the view in your video is clearly shot in Canada.

To be honest and truthful you should have shown the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls which both lie on the American side of Niagara Falls. Not as big but fairly nice anyway.

Sandra
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Sandra in Canada writes:

Great video but the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara are in Canada, not in the U.S.A. This was taught in grade school and the Disney Corporation gets it wrong?

Debra
|
Michigan, USA
October 29, 2007

Debra in Michigan writes:

I really enjoyed the vidio, we have alot of people from all over the world come to the UP of Michigan to see the Picture Rocks National Lake Shore and our fantasic water falls. We meet these people all the time and they are always welcome and feel at ease when visiting here.

Deborah
|
Florida, USA
October 29, 2007

Deborah in Florida writes:

It is wonderful that you want to make the rest of the world welcome in our country. Yet, I am an American and I do not feel at all welcome in my own country when I go through the "air nazis" in any airport in this country. I am sickened and nauseated by the violation of my own personal freedoms - just as much as the international visitor, if not more so.

So, when America routinely allows the violation of personal space by people who are authorized to violate one's person on a regular basis (TSA)- no one will ever feel Welcome! One always feels violated by the air nazis - and a slick video will never suffice to overcome the mental and physical anguish of this legalized American rape. And, that statement goes further in clearly and plainly communmicating the lack of desire to visit any American destination, whether one is an international visitor or an American countryman.

Can you communicate that with clarity to anyone who even cares to listen? It is not the target video audience who needs to listen - it is your government, your employer who needs to listen. Good luck.

Debbie
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Debbie in Canada writes:

I think it's sad that a video to promote America would claim a Canadian landmark as part of United States. The Niagara Falls the video shows is in Canada, the video is taken from Canadian shores.

Ian
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Ian in Ontario writes:

I do agree that the U.S.A. boast many great sceneries that worth a visit. So, why did you shot most of your video in Canada?

Kathleen
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Kathleen in Canada writes:

As a citizen of Canada and the United States I am insulted that instead of showing shots of the two portions of Niagra Falls that actually lay on the American side instead of the Horeshoe falls. I've been to the falls on both sides many times and to get that shot of the Horeshoe falls, which is on the Canadian side, you have to be standing IN Canada. The U.S. is a vast nation with many other wonderful landmarks that can be showcased without taking something from somewhere else and calling it your own.

Dave
|
New Jersey, USA
October 29, 2007

Dave in New Jersey writes:

A wonderful video...brought a retired crusty NCO to tears...

John
|
Greece
October 29, 2007

John in Greece writes:

@ William in Texas --

This time, I strongly disagree with you.
Hebrews (I did not know that meaning, I had to look it up in the Webster's ...I think you mean Jewish, in general? (I am not sure about the meaning) and Greeks are not the only ones that created America's ideas, and of course the "ideal".
To my opinion, "America" is made up from everyone who is or has been there during the historic creation of this "freedom's" philosophy!
Italians
Irish
English.
..Everybody
From every country, race, color and religion.
As long as they respect the American values, the President and the Constitution.
As long as they are legal citizens.

Melissa
|
Illinois, USA
October 29, 2007

Melissa in Illinois writes:

The video seems like a great start! Returning from China to Newark Airport recently, I was dumbstruck by the lack of signage... In some states, there are road signs in multiple languages; here in Chicago public information is dispensed in English, Spanish, Polish and Simplified Chinese; but the international terminal of our largest international offered nothing but English. It seemed arrogant and unfriendly - these are people we ought to be welcoming, for both economic reasons and becuase their impressions are the foundation of our county's image abroad. (and if perhaps the luggage trolleys in the international terminals could be made free? Who has local coinage when they first get off a plane? I certainly never do when I've traveled abroad.)

Michael
|
Virginia, USA
October 29, 2007

Michael in Virginia writes:

Niagra Falls is on the U.S.-Canada border. If the photo had been shot from the other shore than people would be complaining that the picture was aimed towards the Canadian side of the falls. Give it a rest. Its a landmark shared by both nations and its ridiculous to get upset over a picture of it. And Ian from Ontario made a pretty ignorant comment about most of the video being shot in Canada. Just wondering what the basis for that conclusion was Ian; a 3 second shot of Niagra falls??

Sam
|
New York, USA
October 29, 2007

Sam in New York writes:

Great video, but you guys seem to be contradicting yourselves with the Horseshoe Falls from the CANADIAN side. Does this mean you guys trying to promote tourism in Canada too? If you are, you might as well include Mexico with it. Oh, and get a few shots of the polar bears, because they won't be around for long.

Seriously, there are so many other great places in America, and you guys instead chose Niagara Falls? Perhaps, next time you want people to visit the U.S., you should research some landmarks that are actually PART of America, instead of Canada... of France, or England, etc. It also makes me wonder why Disney made this video, when they are usually known for capitalizing on mice.

Ronald
|
New York, USA
October 29, 2007

Ronald in New York writes:

Sorry... but a Disney film does not replace decades of great cultural sharing done by the USAID programs. Millions around the world learned about America's diverse culture from American artists, musicians, writers, and scientists, who visited and gave from the heart. Bring USAID back, and share the best America has to offer.

PR
|
Virginia, USA
October 29, 2007

PR in Virginia writes:

As usual, the Bush Administration attempts to cloak the significant challenges facing the United States with a "happy and glad" video of smiling people and beautiful scenery. Reality is much harsher... an unwanted war that leaves the nation with nearly a trillion dollars of war debt; a costly and failing health system; environmental challenges that it will take generations to overcome; and a level of paranoia and incompetence in the Federal Government that finds our nation discredited by our allies and enemies alike.

Don't get me wrong--I love my country. I know its beauty and its squalor, its strengths and its weaknesses... Yet, until we right the wrongs of this administration and our own ill-considered politics, by turning the perception of "equal opportunity" into reality, by assuring quality education and health care, by assuring equitable wages for all levels of the economic strata, and by working to terminate the necessity of war, will we fully realize the principles established in our Constitution, in our Declaration of Independence, and in the Gettysburg Address. Read them--know them--and act within them!

Peter L.
|
Massachusetts, USA
October 29, 2007

Peter in Massachusetts writes:

So the NY Times and the AP are making a big deal about two seconds of slightly misplaced footage rather than appreciated the integrity and value of the finished work.

The Internet Movie Database has a link to mistakes made shooting multi-million dollar productions and those links point to a myriad of errors. This one would hardly rate.

But leave it to the NY Times to make a giant tsunami out of a waterfall, as long it was consistent with their Bush-bashing agenda.

Damn fine film and no one watching will care a whit about or notice such a minor glitch.

Bravo, Disney and bravo Ms. Hughes.

PS: You didn't plan this little glitch to increase viewership, did you? I almost wish you had because I would otherwise have missed a fine film and warm depiction of America and Americans.

David
|
Florida, USA
October 29, 2007

David in Florida writes:

@ Ian in Ontario --
I don't think that most of the video was shot in Canada. 7 minutes of looking at a waterfall that isn't that impressive anyways would not seem like a good "welcome to America" movie.

@ Sam in Canada --
Actually, we do own the london bridge, at least the original one. It's in Arizona. What your thinking of is the TOWER bridge.

@ Sandra in Canada --
I'm not sure what grade school you went to, but in America, we aren't that interested in teaching useless information on waterfalls to our youth.

@ Pamela in Canada --
I think what you meant to write was "WHEN folks come over to the canadian side"

We Americans are deeply sorry for "stealing" your waterfall. It is misleading to all the millions of tourists who come to America to see Horseshoe Falls and realize Disney has played a nasty little trick on them.
And finally, like all of you, I am annoyed. We in the USA want no claim to Canada.

Russell M.
|
Texas, USA
October 29, 2007

Russell in Texas writes:

Karen Hughs should be fired. The stupidity--layered on stupidity--that she manages in this "premiere" is more than can be expected even from a Bush Administration appointee. First off, where did she get the idea that people who sit around in American embassy waiting rooms haven't thought about visiting America--they're not at the American embassy looking for a visa to Israel. And why play the video in American airports in Washington, DC and Houston? Once you're in Houston, you're already visiting America. Need I go on? Oh yeah--the shot of Canada is a real inspiration. If they don't fire you, Karen, please do the country a favor--and quit.

William
|
Texas, USA
October 29, 2007

William in Texas writes:

@ John in Greece --

I would contend that the basis of western civilization lies on the Athens, Jerusalem axis. You are correct that these ideas transcend nationality, but they can be traced linearly to those foci.

RE: From every country, race, color and religion.
As long as they respect the American values, the President and the Constitution. As long as they are legal citizens.

You are correct and all this emanates from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They balance the tension of an unrestrained liberty with a constraining ethos - simplistically, but accurately the Greek and the Hebrew (Jewish).

You are, of course, also correct that I omitted all of the intervening stages and individuals.

My best to you.

Shirley
|
Canada
October 29, 2007

Shirley in Canada writes:

You can't make the Horseshoe Falls an American landmark, it is all on the Canadian side and not shared as you would like people to believe. If you are willing to mislead people about that, what else are you lying about? You people are a piece of work!

J
|
United States
October 29, 2007

J in U.S. writes:

This is shameful, making Americans look more stupid than ever to the rest of the world. Change this foolish thing, scrap it, apologize and withdraw. Do not persist in stupidity. You make me ashamed to be American. I have long wanted to travel, and now that I am financially able to, I cannot because Americans are hated all over the world. This makes it all worse. This smugness in our idiocy infuriates me. You should be embarrassed to show a quintessentially Canadian feature as American. Like we couldn't find enough of our own.

Shame on all of us.

suzanne
|
Hawaii, USA
October 30, 2007

Suzanne in Hawaii writes:

It is a beautiful video, showing the best of America. However, I do think it is important to be true and accurate. If Canada doesnt mind us (U.S.A.) showing and representing their portion of Niagara Falls as ours then that part is ok. Shouldn't we ask them how they feel about it? This is so typical of the way America has become.

Pat
|
United Arab Emirates
October 30, 2007

Pat in U.A.E. writes:

@ J in U.S. -- Why so angry J? Get over yourself. As a Canadian I don't object to portraying the falls from the Canadian side. The falls are shared, I see no sinister plot to misrepresent anything or to annex the Canadian side. Give me a break.

Tina
|
Alabama, USA
October 30, 2007

Tina in Alabama writes:

That's the Canadian side of Nigara Falls!!! Welcome to Canada too?

Girth
|
Alabama, USA
October 30, 2007

Girth in Alabama writes:

@ J in U.S. -- Please move out of the country.

Canucks: Get over it.

Under Sec'y Hughes: Excellent video.

Moon
|
Illinois, USA
October 30, 2007

Moon in Illinois writes:

What's the beef? America stretches from Tierra del Fuego to Pt. Barrow and more.

Canada is part of America, Brazil is part of America, and so is Cuba!

Just because it's mostly slanted to the United States of America doesn't mean they couldn't include a little bit of the rest of the American landscape!

Laura
|
Virginia, USA
October 30, 2007

Laura in Virginia writes:

This is such an optimistic, rosy picture of America. There were actually tears in my eyes as I watched and I realized it's because I miss that patriotic feeling about this country I had when I was a child. I know that the people who see this will realize it is all in the name of good public relations, an excellent marketing product and not truly the way this country is once you scratch the surface. I just wish the truth about this country made me feel this happy.

nadja
|
Florida, USA
October 31, 2007

Nadja in Florida writes:

To all the Negative comments,
FYI in nearly every European airport you see a video about the country you are entering. This way it gets promoted and people start a relationship in their mind before entering and interacting with its citizens. They also only show positive things in those videos and not the corruption or mistakes of their specific governments ! daaa.....

Obviosly all those negative comments about this video of the U.S. show a low intelligence and ignorance towards their own country. The lack of knowledge of those people who post those comments is frightful and all they do is repeat what a manipulative media puts in front of them. Every counrty tries to promote itself and it has nothing to do with the administration in power at that time. But of course the media has to blame Bush and Co and all the brainless lemmings follow.......

And who cares if the Niagara Falls are part in Canada, don't you people have bigger problems then to discuss what part is where? It is a natural wonder and that is what really counts.

John
|
Greece
October 31, 2007

John in Greece writes:

@ Russell in Texas --

I think that Mrs Karen Hughs has to be promoted!!!
And, with all the respect, Sir, I am sure that you are out of step with the real concept of this project.

1. The video, ...I am not able to "judge" if this specific video should be the video that must be chosen to be displayed, or maybe some other video, or the same video edited- after all, is a perfect communication platform "a sharp tool- and an intelligent strategy to promote something that is vital for the image of the U.S.A.: to present and promote what really America is.
And, (maybe you do not understand this in TX, on the ground that you "automatically" love America, I hope), this kind of projects, promoting ideas and ideals are extremely important for the rest of the world, which is "bombed" with ANTI-American propaganda on a daily basis.

2. Besides, the concept of this important "communication synergy" attempts to make it easier, better and more comfortable for people standing in lines. I am sure you understand that no matter if someone has already "chosen the journey" nobody likes to wait in lines for, let's say 20 minutes. A displayed video makes it better while you are waiting.

3. Nevertheless, the most critical objection of mine has to deal with your delusion that anyone that enters the U.S.A., or waits in an embassy is "automatically" a real friend of this country.
9/11 has already proved that! Some are not so-friendly guys.

You can not "skip" the lines ...as long as you want to have security-, but you surely can make the waiting better by promoting your Good Will and your spiritual human ideas, functioning as a host who respects his guests.

Moreover, Great people talk about Great ideas, but they do talk!
Small people talk about small things.
What's the reason to "dismiss a great idea", even if the video had some reactions?

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