A “Coca-Cola” Inspired Controversy: What Does it Mean to be “American”?

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A “Coca-Cola” Inspired Controversy:

What Does it Mean to be “American”?

The Super Bowl features not only America’s best football teams, but the event has also become known for the innovative commercials that air during the game. Knowing that millions over Americans will be glued to their TV sets during the game, companies spend millions of dollars developing advertisements to promote their products. During the airing of the 48th annual Super Bowl, Coca-Cola aired a one –minute commercial that has created some controversy. The advertisement featured several girls singing “America the Beautiful” in various languages such as English, Spanish, Keres-Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French and Hebrew. http://www.celebitchy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/coke1.jpg

First Reflections….

After watching the commercial, why do you think this advertisement caused controversy?

It is likely that this advertisement created controversy in the United States because: _______________


Critics of the Advertisement…

Not long after the commercial aired, Americans, upset by what they saw, begin taking to social media websites to express their opinions regarding the advertisement. Former Florida Congressmen Allen West blogged the following after seeing the commercial:

It started rather patriotically with the words of "America the Beautiful." Then the words went from English to languages I didn't recognize... If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing "American the Beautiful" in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come -- we are on the road to [total destruction].

Todd Starnes, a journalists from FOX news shared West’s sentiments. Starnes tweeted the following after the commercial aired:

Couldn’t make out the song they were singing. I only speak English. So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don't learn to speak English? Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border. #americaisbeautiful

Multiculturalism (n): Celebrating/highlighting differences within a group

Assimilate (v): To fit/blend in with the majority
Glenn Beck, a well-known journalist responded in the following way when asked for his feelings about the Coca Cola commercial:

Every leader of the European Union that tried multiculturalism is now warning America and the rest of the world that multiculturalism doesn't work, you have to assimilate.

Supporters of the Advertisement…

There were many people who took to social media to express their support of the Coca-Cola advertisement. The following piece appeared on a popular news website the day after the controversial commercial aired on the Super Bowl.

“America the Beautiful” by Sami Elmansoury


As the son and grandson of immigrants to the United States, my experiences are shaped by the power of my grandparents' story. My grandfather's brilliance and dedication, while proudly serving our nation as an Apollo 11 engineer at Kennedy Space Center -- at a time when he barely spoke a word of anything but Arabic and French -- is a point of recurring pride and deep patriotism for my family.

[My grandparents] struggled to adjust when they arrived. I still have my grandmother's English dictionary from the 1960s, with exhaustive notes, marking and proving her extensive effort to learn the language of her new homeland. They understood that speaking and understanding proper English is critical for both the benefit of the immigrant, and for the [benefit] of American society as a whole.

But while giving their children and grandchildren the gift of American citizenship, they never failed to instill within us the identity of where we came from. I speak English, Arabic, and French because of them. I enjoy good baklava after a slice of pizza because of them. I committed myself to the advancement of education -- including English learning -- because of them. I am no less American because of the gifts and experiences that they presented to me. To the contrary, they have helped me to better understand, and to fiercely appreciate, our unique American journey.

We often overlook the fact that the United States was once a blend of English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Russian, German, Swedish, and Portuguese-speaking colonies, alongside the native languages of several African groups, as well as the languages found in small areas which remained under Native American independence. We speak English as a direct result of British conquest or influence over the above -- not because English is a prerequisite to our patriotism. [I do not deny that English helps to bring the country together, but I do not think that Coca-Cola's advertisement intended to offend/disrespect the United States when they featured people proudly singing in a different tongue about the greatness of the United States of America].

pride (n): the state of being proud

patriotism (n): pride in one’s country

critical (adj): very important

contrary (adj): opposite

prerequisite (n): requirement


Name: World Geography



What Does it Mean to Be American?

Text Dependent Questions

Section 1. Critics of the Advertisement

  1. Explain why former congressman Allen West believe that “America the Beautiful” should only be sung in English. Used evidence from the text to support your ideas. ___________________


  1. Why do you think FOX News correspondent Todd Starnes tweeted that “Coca-Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border?” _____________________________________


  1. What does the word “multiculturalism” mean? _______________________________________


  1. Explain why Glenn Beck believes that the commercial is an example of “multiculturalism.” ___


  1. What does the word “assimilate” mean? _____________________________________________


  1. What does Glenn Beck mean when he says that immigrants should try to assimilate? ________


Section 2. Supporters of the Advertisement

  1. Is the author ashamed of the fact that his grandparents only spoke Arabic and French when they arrived in the United States? Support your claim with evidence from the first paragraph. ______________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Was life easy or difficult for the author’s grandparents when they first arrived in the U.S.? Support your claim with evidence from the second paragraph. __________________________


  1. Did the author’s grandparents think it was important to learn English? Support your claim with evidence from the second paragraph. ___________________________________________


  1. What cultural “gifts” did the author’s grandparents give to him? Support your claim with evidence from the third paragraph. _________________________________________________


  1. Why did the author include this information (cultural gifts)? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Identify some languages that were spoken during the colonial period in America. __________


  1. Why did the author include this information (languages spoken during the colonial period)? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. The author writes that English is not a prerequisite to patriotism. What does that mean? ____ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Do you think the author supports “assimilation” or “multiculturalism”? Support your claim with evidence from the article. ____________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


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