LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
McDonald's, Paraguay and Kansas
Have you seen that annoying McDonald’s commercial with the two young women in an upscale coffee house? If you haven’t, you should be rewarded for not watching television. One of the women reveals that McDonald’s now has upscale coffee like cappuccino, latte’s and such. They get all giddy over the prospect of swapping their air of pretension for their neighborhood McDonald’s presumably dressed in jeans and flip-flops.There are many people in Kansas who find this particularly annoying. Why? Well, as the two women ramble on one says: “And I don’t know where Paraguay is.” The other looks puzzled and replies: “Paraguay?” At least I think these are the quotes. Hundreds of Kansans are a bit offended that this interchange is dropped in this commercial with no apparent connection to anything. Have you ever been in a group and someone insults a friend of yours? You probably feel a little offended. You may even speak up for your friend. Is the intent to be funny? Insulting?Hundreds of Kansans have the same reaction to the McDonald’s commercial because Paraguay and Kansas have been friends for over 40 years through Kansas-Paraguay Partners that is part of the Partners of the Americas program. Over the years Kansans have been hosted by the warm Paraguayan people.Kansans have shared their expertise with Paraguayans including helping upgrade the zoo in the capital city, starting a school for children with disabilities and sharing agricultural practices.Kansans have donated emergency medical equipment to help volunteer Paraguayan firefighters.Kansans have worked to promote democracy in a country that had the misfortune to be dominated by dictatorships for far too many years.Space does not allow listing all of the work that Kansans have accomplished in Paraguay or visa-versa.The friendship between Paraguay and Kansas has not been one-sided.Paraguayans have visited firefighters, cattle producers, small business development centers in Kansas.Paraguayans have taught in Kansas including Spanish and Guarini, the two official languages of the country. Many Paraguayans attend and have graduated from Kansas universities and colleges. One estimate is that 700 Paraguayans have studied in Kansas. Some Paraguayan students have expressed surprise at the McDonald’s commercials. What do they mean? Is my country the butt of a joke?The 40+ year friendship between Kansas and Paraguay is no joke and is one way to reduce foreign policy to people and families. It is a rare opportunity to get personally involved in our countries foreign policy. Maybe the commercial uses Paraguay because it is one country where there is no McDonald’s. If you want to get a glimpse of a pre McDonald’s world, visit Paraguay.