To paraphrase the words of Ronald Wilson Reagan, “There they go again!” Whether it’s the speech police or the antics of the Health Gestapo, the fast food fringe fanatics are winding up their little hysteria and this time have their sights set on none other than Ronald McDonald. Yep, the loveable red haired clown has become Public Enemy #1 by the self appointed purveyors of public health. Last week, representatives from the advocacy group Corporate Accountability International attended a shareholder’s meeting for McDonalds, and requested that poor Ronald be given his honorary gold watch. They weren’t real sure how to package the golden arches. David Klinger, a retired Chicago physician represented the left winged loonies proclaiming “Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium, and calories.”
Kid you not! I almost strangled on my Krispy Kreme donut reading this drivel in the newspaper. Klinger added, “On the surface Ronald is there to give children enjoyment in all sorts of way with toys, games, and food. But Ronald McDonald is dangerous, sending insidious messages to young people.” You have to be kidding me! I think Klinger and his battalion of bumpkins might actually be the dangerous ones. I’m not sure if this dudes’ any relation to the MASH Klinger or not but he’s certainly well on his way to his own section eight.
I didn’t say anything when the urban legend got started about Mr. Clean. I figure any guy running around dressed in all white sporting an earring in his left ear is probably asking for it. Nor did I shed a tear when the Health Gestapo went after Joe Camel and strung up his buddy the Marlboro Man. Although I did get a little annoyed when they questioned whether the Lucky Charms elf really had magical powers. Certainly he does and his little charms are magically delicious – we all know that!
But I draw the line in the mustard when they go after Ronald. Ronald McDonald is not just a fast food mascot or a nifty little branding icon. To many children throughout the world, he is a symbol of hope when many face a world seemingly filled with hopelessness. His house, any Ronald McDonald House, is a place where the parents of children in a nearby hospital can stay for a reduced price or even a small donation.
In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility conducted by Nye Lavalle & Associates. The study showed that Ronald McDonald House was ranked as the 2nd “most popular charity/non-profit in America” of over 100 charities researched.
When I was president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) in 1992-1993, the Ronald McDonald House was one of the leading projects for which our Junior Chamber Chapters conducted fund raising projects. Jaycees were, and still are, enthusiastic about raising funds for a charity in which 83 cents of every dollar is spent to fund programs globally. For nearly 35 years, Ronald McDonald House Charities have been creating, funding, and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well being of nearly four million children worldwide every year.
Last week, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner told the corporate accountability group to get a life. Well, maybe he didn’t say it in quite those terms. But he did state when confronted by Klinger and his merry little band of dumb dwiddles, would McDonalds retire the 50-year old clown, “The answer is no.” Good for you Skinner! It’s time Corporate America stood up to these fringe groups. If I want to “Biggie Size it” get off my back. Quit trying to remove the calories from my Breyers Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream and lay off Tony the Tiger. Better yet, take your greedy paws off my trans fats! Personally I think the whole world would be better with a little sweet iced tea, barbecue pork, and a few hush puppies on the side. Oh, and bring on the ‘nanna puddin’.
Now that I can rest easy that the world is again tilted back on its axis and the curmudgeons of crazy town are scampering back to the mushrooms from which they hide, I can get back to my rendezvous with Little Debbie. We have a standing date every night at ten. And baby can she bake a mean oatmeal cake!