Happy 235th Birthday, USA

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Today, in backyards across this great, sprawling nation, with its hodgepodge of cultures and landscapes, Americans in all 50 states will spend the day grilling food, consuming all kinds of beverages and igniting fireworks (mostly illegally) as a way to honor the birth of the United States of America.

Of course, there were only 13 original states, or “colonies,” as our former owners the British called us, back around 1776.  Yes, 13 is an unlucky number; but so far, we’ve turned out pretty well as a country and people when compared to the rest of the world.

Some of our domestic and foreign policies have not been looked upon too favorably by our neighbors around the world.  Starting an unprovoked war and an unparalleled thirst for fossil fuels are just two reasons why the USA gets bashed and bashed some more on the global stage.

(Note: If you disagree with me on the following two points — or any other — that’s certainly your prerogative.  What truly makes this nation great, along with baseball, apple pie and hot dogs, is the fact that we can disagree and live to disagree again without fear of ending up getting bashed on the shins in a windowless room.  The PRDude wholeheartedly encourages dialogue.  This is a blog after all!)

But decades ago, our countrymen (and women, I guess) were tagged with the term “ugly American” as a reference to perceived arrogance and boorishness.  The term actually was coined from a 1958 political novel that was made into a movie starring Marlon Brando; the setting is a fictional nation in Southeast Asia, which of course was the location of some pretty awful stuff in the decades to follow.

Have you heard the phrase “ugly American” today?

Actually, these days we’re called a lot of nasty names by people from various cultures  — names that are much worse than what’s inferred by the “ugly American” moniker.  Some even consider us the modern Satan, or Beelzebub, Lucifer or one of the other names for the real Bad Guy.

But despite our (perhaps) diminished status on the world stage, we’re still pretty popular outside our borders.  Some statistics I found on Wikipedia reveal that in 2006 the USA accepted “more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.”  Is this true today?  If you have stats to share, please send them my way.  I’ll bet those newly-minted Americans don’t consider themselves “ugly.”

Perhaps what we need today — and I’m not a fan of more government, especially on the Federal level — is an office or department or bureau of Public Relations.  Perhaps our various government bureaucracies can assign a skilled public relations practitioner — preferably one with the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR credential, which I proudly hold — to develop a real PR plan for the nation.   The key goal would be to enhance our reputation for all the good that the USA does here and internationally.

Have it based on the four steps in a real plan with measurable results:

1. Define the opportunity or threat

2. Conduct research and define publics

3. Communicate — execute the plan

4. Analyze results and make revisions

Apple pie-in-the-sky?  Maybe.  But it’s assuredly a lot less costly than a war or some of the nation-building exercises we’ve engaged in recently.  What do you think?

So get out and celebrate Independence Day.  Today’s national birthday celebration — our 235th — should be honored with parades and fireworks, brats and beer.  Or doing just about whatever you want to do, as long as it’s legal and doesn’t bother your neighbor.