Friday, November 23, 2007

Welcome to America

When the Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of State wants to welcome the world to America, who they gonna call? If you answered “Disney”, you’d be right. The creators of countless American icons, the tellers of hundreds of great American myths and legends. No one tells the stories America wants to hear, or builds the places America wants to visit, or understands American dreams, better than Disney. That empathy with the American emotional landscape made Disney the natural choice to create a multimedia welcome to America for international visitors. The resulting seven minute film Portraits of America features hundreds of Americans from all states and situations. If you’re looking for poverty or conflict or discussion of global problems, you won’t find them here. This initiative is unashamedly up-beat and emotive. The road to winning minds lies first through the heart and no one understands that better than Disney.

The US Government clearly knows it’s got a problem with how the world feels about the experience of crossing its borders, and that it’s time to start turning that around. They’d be right. Every one of us without an American passport seems to have a story to tell about that time we came into America, and seldom are the stories happy ones! Portraits of America can help inspire different stories but it can’t alone offset the prickly authority America currently presents at its borders. The Government’s challenge is huge. “To ensure passengers entering the United States experience a process that is welcoming, understandable, respectful, time-efficient and less stressful.” That means the right people working in the right spaces following the right processes and all inspired by the same idea, “Welcome to America!”. Here is where Portraits of America plays its part. It certainly shows that the nation has much to be proud of, with a diversity of people and places that are hard to match. That's something else we often forget – what an achingly beautiful country it is.


Kempton said...

Hi Kevin,

I wish I can remotely agree with the up-beat and emotive intention of "Portraits of America" but I can't.

Canada and US, being next to each other, has a tradition of helping each other out especially in the case of border towns/cities. So it was upsetting to watch the following two stories unfolded recently.

1) Ambulance carrying heart-attack patient delayed at U.S. border
"Federal and provincial officials are calling for a review of border procedures after an ambulance rushing an Ontario heart attack patient to a U.S. hospital was held up at the border. [...] Laporte, 46, had already been revived twice, according to media reports."

2) Quebec firefighters delayed at border while hotel burned
"An overzealous U.S. border guard is being blamed for keeping a group of Quebec volunteer firefighters from reaching a fire in Upstate New York in time."

Now, if emergency services were held up (one life and death, the other one a historical hotel in NY was burnt down) at the border, how much welcome can people expect at the border?

Sorry for this long rant. At the moment, campaign or not, America is sadly very far from being a friendly or welcoming place to visit by any measure.


Piotr Jakubowski said...

You know, it's about time the United States developed some type of program to work on this concept. I know countries like Malaysia and Thailand have been pressing tourism programs, sites and advertising to drive visitors to their countries.

I would be interested to see how the "Discover America" site is created, and what type of hotspots it will feature (let's hope it shows where the 2 ladies on the beach in the video are from ;)). One of my favorite programs on TV is "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", where the host travels around the country in search of hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve great food.

And I was hoping they'd start stamping our passports with Disney Characters!