Why the “America the Beautiful” Coke Ad Should Not Be Controversial

by Ericka Andersen on February 3, 2014

I was taken aback at all the hatred — mostly from conservatives — toward the “America the Beautiful” Coke commercial that aired during the Superbowl last night.

The commercial was a beautiful display of the diversity found within our country — so why would anyone be upset over it?

I’ll tell you.

The individuals in the commercial sang “America, The Beautiful” in multiple languages, including English. Apparently, many conservatives took this to mean that Coke doesn’t believe English should be the official language of the United States or that what they were really singing was “open borders for all!”

Let’s calm down before we jump to hasty conclusions, people.  Many people, including most of our ancestors, came to America speaking little to no English. Yes, most of them eventually learned English – something citizens of this country should do. There was nothing in the commercial that denounced that.

The U.S. is comprised of people from different countries, many who speak two, three or more languages. I only wish I could say that of myself.

The was was Americana at its most diverse and it showcased some of the nation’s most iconic scenes: the California coastline, New York streets, Arizona desert and more.

The backlash was ugly and I was embarrassed by it. Is this really how you want to respond, conservatives? I’d think again.

Coca-Cola is quintessentially American and the brand has always used that identity to appeal to cultures globally. This commercial makes sense and is the epitome of patriotic for what it displays.

After reading far too many tweets spewing critical commentary about the commercial, I felt discouraged to be a part of such reactionary, negative people.

James Poniewozik of Time responded to the criticism wonderfully:

People like my immigrant mother and her immigrant sisters learn English as adults and raise their kids to speak it, and also speak French and Arabic at family get-togethers and on phone calls. We speak English in school and Spanish with grandparents and Spanglish with friends. We speak Creole and Chinese and Tagalog sitting down to family dinners–maybe with a bottle or two of Coke around the table, which is why Coke is smart to recognize this.

We come to America, in other words, and we become American–but we don’t erase everything else that we were before, we don’t forget our cultures and languages as if they never existed, and we don’t hide them as if they’re shameful or less than patriotic. We bring them out and share them, and they make this country better and stronger. America isn’t weakened because people don’t submit to a monoculture; it’s strong because it can absorb the peoples and aspirations and talents of the rest of the world without erasing their cultures.

I don’t believe in open borders, free for all amnesty or changing America’s official language. That doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the country we are – with the thousands of languages spoken within our borders every day from sea to shining sea.

* For another perspective on the issue, check out Victory Girls blogger Cassy Fiano with her take. We may disagree but I always welcome healthy debate and conversation!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

rick February 3, 2014 at 9:20 am

Amen

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Ron Keffer February 3, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I think it was a disgrace to the american public. Probably would not have felt that way, but the way things are going towards a dictatorship, the constitution, the muslims, praying in the military, the irs scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the voter fraud…..the fact that government is looking into everyones underwear to make sure they are clean. Making people take the flu shot….who is making the money on that decision…..then I found out that the people over 65 who died and had the flu are not counted because of stupid reasons….I remember when they got on the band wagon about Driving Under The Influence and if they had a drink in the past 24 hours it was alcohol related no matter what your age was………………….you tell me

What the hell is going on with our leaders…actually they are not leaders they are followers just like the general public. We have a President of the United States Of America who is known to sleep with the same sex……..where have our morals gone…….forget about religion, what about morals,

. We need to take our country back…..Oh what difference does it make……..hillary clinton 2013

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Denise Quinn Nanke February 3, 2014 at 9:27 am

My first reaction to the ad was: pretty voice singing America the Beautiful, cool. As I watched and listened to the entire thing I had more of an unsettled feeling than anger and I actually just thought, oh brother, more PC bilge being spewed. Whatever, move on. What really got my goat was the reaction from quite a few libertarians and millennials posting and tweeting about how stupid, racist, and idiotic those of us were who didn’t like or appreciate the ad. Those of us who didn’t share their perception of the ad and thought it was divisive, politically correct bait put out there to accomplish just what it is accomplishing. Namely, pitting people against each other who actually have much in common. This is cynical and Coca Cola is hiding behind people to advance an agenda. That’s what I really didn’t like about this ad – not Americans of different ethnic backgrounds singing a song about America. Would I have liked the song sung in English, yes but to me the trouble I have with this ad goes much deeper than that. That’s my opinion.

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Jodi February 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Excellent comment, Denise.

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obie moore February 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm

we open or borders what do you think would happen I will tell you we would be so for in det we would all be out a job because cause they would work for 5.00 a hr we have more people on welfare that’s been on it for years Mexicans come over and get collage education and send their money back home they don,t pay for heath insurance car insurance and we are paying for it so all you goody two shoes can shovel up your butte

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obie moore February 3, 2014 at 12:17 pm

you can kiss my ass

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creeper February 4, 2014 at 8:07 am

Thanks, Denise, I agree. We’re bombarded with political correctness everywhere we turn.

I live in The United States of America. We speak English here. It’a just that simple.

Coke can at least be certain they won’t be seeing any of my money soon.

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Ken February 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I cannot agree more with this statement. As the grand child of immigrants, my grand parents stressed for us to be American. To them, speaking English (one was Norwegian another was German), getting a good education, and working hard was what being an American was all about. I find it hard for me to be Racist or a Bigot about this at all.

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Deanna Fisher February 3, 2014 at 9:28 am

Thanks for addressing this, Ericka. I agree completely. The ad reminded me very strongly of my own roots, of my great-grandmother who never learned to speak English (for a myriad of reasons), and all of the kids in my daughter’s grade at school – Indian, Mexican, Japanese, and others – who, while they might speak different languages at home and have parents who need interpreters, those kids are becoming American every single day.

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Ericka Andersen February 3, 2014 at 10:14 am

Thanks for your comment. I am glad to hear your story!

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Jon Lester February 3, 2014 at 9:38 am

Lost in the controversy is the fact that Coca-Cola’s product is equally unhealthy for everyone.

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redfish February 3, 2014 at 10:11 am

I agree with you that critics of the ad are jumping to conclusions and overreacting. Still, I find a common response to the critics much worse than the criticism itself… jumping to conclusions in claiming all of the critics are racist.

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Ericka Andersen February 3, 2014 at 10:14 am

Yeah that’s definitely over the top. I certainly don’t think critics are racist…gotta find a middle ground. It’s not always as extreme as people make it out to be.

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Kit Lange February 3, 2014 at 10:28 am

I think the fact that conservatives are angry represents a smidgen of hope for this nation, quite frankly. The fact that some conservatives are NOT angry is disturbing, because it means that too many have bought into the global mentality. The whole point of immigration is assimilation. We see in Europe what happens when immigrants do NOT assimilate. Obviously we are all the children of immigrants. My great-grandmother came from Germany when she was a child, and other members of my family came from other parts of Europe. She could speak German until the day she died at 107…but she also spoke perfect English. She taught her children English. She taught them what it was to be an American. Not a German-American, not an Irish-American. Just American. My family has a proud immigrant heritage that can be traced to 1620 in Prussia and Ireland. But we also trace a long military history, because when my family came here they chose to become Americans, with all of the responsibilities and the love for THIS country that being Americans requires.

There is a reason why the song Deutchland uber Alles is banned in Germany. It’s because of what the song represents, and what it means to sing it. Conversely, we have songs here that are sacred. They represent our freedoms, our heritage and birthright. To hear them sung in accented English by immigrants who have chosen to BECOME Americans is a beautiful thing. To hear them sung in other languages by those who just wanted to live here and “get some freedom” is a slap in the face of every immigrant who chose to come here and become part of the fabric.

We are a melting pot. We are not beef stew. We are a flag of stars and stripes and blood and honor and courage. We’re not a patchwork quilt. That ad was a disgrace.

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Dene February 3, 2014 at 2:35 pm

THANK YOU KIT!!!! You nailed it!

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Jen February 3, 2014 at 10:50 am

Agree with Kit’s assessment and would add this.
Coke is a product and the ad is an attempt to get me to buy their product. None of these advertisers are spending 4 M. on a 60 sec. ad because they want to make us all feel patriotic, happy, etc. I resent the PC implication from Coke that I should feel happy that an iconic American song about the greatness of our country is being sung in foreign languages because those singing can come here and take advantage of what she offers without accepting the responsibility to become one of us. So happy, in fact, that I will rush out and buy more Coke to thank them.
No thanks, there are alternatives.

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Jodi February 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Ditto that. ^^^

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Adam February 3, 2014 at 10:56 am

Why don’t you read some of the views of the Coca-Cola executives on the issue of immigration?

You are being naive. It was pro-amnesty commentary.

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Dean Isaacson February 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

I am in strong agreement with Kit and Jen. And, I would like to add, Erica, I am in strong disagreement with you. You have argued with reliance upon your feelings and have ignored reality.

It is also offensive that you lump all who disagree in the haters’ camp. What Coca-Cola did was trample our heritage for political and financial gain. I resent this but it does not make me a hater.

“Let’s calm down before we jump to hasty conclusions, people.” You think you take the high road but you have jumped to hasty conclusions against those who disagree with you. And, you have faithfully responded to those who agree with you – those who prop you up – but you have not engaged in conversation with the ones who disagree. You are not only evaluating this event by your sentiment but you are also acting as a hypocrite.

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MCPO Airdale February 3, 2014 at 11:38 am

The United States of America does NOT have an official language.

The ad is, in and of itself, innocuous. As a part of a subtle campaign aimed at the Balkanization of America, it is insidious.

Do you know how billions of taxpayer dollars are spent at the local, county, state and federal levels to support “multilingual access” in official dealings?

Finally, When I lived in Spain, Morocco and Italy, I was expected to learn the language. But, in America, it’s not necessary? Don’t believe me? Spend a week in Dearborn, Michigan.

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Hotspur February 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm

So, Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote America The Beautiful, was a lesbian, and a lifelong republican, until she left the party over it’s opposition to the US joining the League of Nations.

I’d wager she thought they were xenophobes then as well.

Just thought I’d shoot that out there.

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Recovering Lutheran February 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm

The League of Nations didn’t exactly work out as advertised. In fact, it is chiefly remembered for being an enabler of Hitler’s aggression. And the demise of the League of Nations spawned the sinister United Nations (that august body of cranks, crooks, and crazies) which ignored genocide in places such as Rwanda and sent “peacekeepers” to rape, murder and loot in Africa and elsewhere.

So it would appear the “xenophobes” were right and Katherine Lee Bates was wrong.

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Hotspur February 4, 2014 at 7:22 am

Hahahahaha

I agree. I just thought I’d add some flavor to the debate.

I love to see liberals’ heads explode when reminded of the LoN conduct during the late thirties. But hey, the parties switched sides in the fifties and sixties, so it was really the republicans who were Hitler lovers.

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holly swanson February 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

All that hate – what a waste of time and energy! Wrote to Micelle Malkin earlier today asking her to work her particular brand magic regarding all things racial. She counteracted the MSNBC Cheerios hate mail by inspiring a conservative diversity lovefest on Titter earlier this week. Am sure that was somewhat draining but, having done that…

I believe she is up to the task of leading the charge to counter-act an equally foul response to the Coke ad. With very few exceptions, we are all immigrants whose parents and grandparents proudly learned English once thy arrived on our shores. Where is the harm in celebrating our multi-cultural roots?

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holly swanson February 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Type-o correction – Michelle Malkin… sorry about that!

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macko February 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I think having the immigrants sing the song in their native languages sent a message that they feel that America is beautiful and they want to come here. If they had the immigrants sing the song in English while showing their faces I think the message would have been more powerful and show that not only do the immigrants want to come here but, they want to become a part of it and become English speaking Americans

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Kimosaabe February 4, 2014 at 5:43 am
PaddyORyan February 4, 2014 at 6:24 am

Not liking the Coke commercial does not equal hatred! Many viewers, such as myself, are tired of multiculturalism being crammed down our throat at every turn. “Celibrate diversity” and “Coexist” have become shorthand for “hey white Christian (especially males), your narrow-minded,racist ways are responsible for centuries of suffering and bloodshed in this county and your days of bigotry and chauvinism are over!” What made this country great was the idea of a melting pot. Immigrants used to come to this country and leave their former cultures behind to become Americans, first and foremost. This meant naming their children with American sounding names and learning English as soon as they were able. When my German great-great grandparents came over in the 1800s, they gave all their kids American nicknames and forbid them to speak German except at home. The quickest way to divide a country is to have more than one common tongue. (That’s what the story of the tower of Babel was all about!) Conservatives are NOT against diverse people from all over the world coming to live in our country. We just expect them to adopt our language (English) and embrace our customs and ways. A much greater commercial would have shown people various ethnic backgrounds struggling to sing America the Beautiful in broken, heavily accented English. THAT would have brought a tear to my eye!

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Scott February 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm

My take on the ad, which I haven’t seen communicated by anyone else yet, and which REALLY puts the haters into a bad light, is that Americanism, like Coke, is something that is EXPORTED. Our culture IS A PRODUCT. Like Coke, America is found all over the world. To me, the commercial wasn’t about what is happening IN the US, immigration or otherwise, or even really for US audiences. It was about how “America” like Coca Cola is found all over the world, in every language, and enjoyed and sought after by many different kinds of people. To me, the multi-language version of “America the Beautiful” was merely advertising the beauty of America in the native tongues of peoples all over the world, communicating DIRECTLY to them the greatness of our ideology. It was supposed to make Americans feel good about ourselves, the way we feel good when we gulp down a cold Coke on a hot day. America is like that for many, many people around the world, and the idea of hearing “America the Beautiful” in their own language would reinforce it.

But the “haters” had to go and prove the people who hate America right.

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