Why Did McDonald’s Go the Moon? There Are No Financial Deposits in the Spiritual World


Read in Japanese.

By Akio Matsumura

In September of 1973 I was working down to the last moment to arrange the Japanese Parliamentary Study Mission to Asian Countries on Population and Development headed by former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. It was hosted by the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London and the UN Population Fund in New York. General Draper called me from Washington to tell me that Mr. McDonald would be joining the mission and would be arriving the following day in Tokyo from the U.S. I was to meet with him and explain the program for the trip. I didn’t know who Mr. McDonald was, so I asked a Japanese friend who he might be. He said, “Oh yes, a McDonald hamburger restaurant just opened at Ginza, so he might be the owner of the McDonald restaurant company.”

Akio, Mr. Satoi and Mr. Toner

The next day we met and ate lunch at the Hilton Hotel in Akasaka. He was an older gentleman, with white hair, so I asked him at the beginning of lunch, “Mr. McDonald, when you were 31, like I am now, what did you dream of being?” He told me, “Akio when I was your age I was so interested in the universe, and spacecrafts. My dream was that one day man would go to the Moon. And Akio, when we first landed on the Moon in 1969, many of my company’s products went there.” His face was glowing with pride–he was telling me the story as a grandfather would to his grandson.

Yet, despite the fondness with which he reflected on his life, I could not get past one question: why did the McDonald hamburger go to the Moon? The more I listened the more puzzled I became. I quietly looked at his business card under the lunch table. I read

JAMES MCDONNELL, CHAIRMAN OF MCDONNELL DOUGLAS CORPORATION

It was not the McDonald hamburger company!

General Draper arrived in Tokyo to meet with Mr. Konosuke Matsushita, Founder and Chairman of Matsushita Electric Industry, now Panasonic Corporation in Osaka, outside of Tokyo. Mr. McDonnell and I accompanied General Draper for the three hour ride on the Bullet Train. On the train I told General Draper about my McDonald mix-up and he laughed all the way to Osaka.

We finally arrived and Mr. Matsushita welcomed General Draper, having arranged the American Flag and United Nations Flag in his office. (General Draper was a senior advisor to the UN). I was immediately impressed with his statesmanship, and then after with their global views and the quality of the discussion between them. We departed, and on way to the train station I told General Draper of my benefactor, Mr. Tatsusaburo Satoi, Secretary General of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and President of the International Osaka Airport. Mr. Satoi had encouraged me to work at the IPPF in London and told me of General Draper’s great contributions to Japan during the post-war reconstruction. Hearing this, General Draper wanted to meet Mr. Satoi before returning to Tokyo.

Mr. Satoi was deeply honored to receive General Draper in his office, and in fluent English thanked him for his efforts in Japan’s post-war economic recovery and for guiding me in my work at the IPPF. Mr. McDonnell also spoke with Mr. Satoi, asking him many technical questions about the construction of the new Kansai International Airport. Mr. Satoi politely asked me in Japanese who this other guest was, as they had not been introduced. I immediately introduced him, though probably as Mr. McDonald again, by accident. Later, departing at the Osaka station for Tokyo, I was struck by Mr. Satoi’s overall demeanor. He had received us so graciously and had been so earnest in thanking General Draper for his kindness to me; his international protocol and overall manner made a lasting impression on each of us. Shortly thereafter we left for the Japanese Parliamentary Mission.

Decades later I made the acquaintance of Mr. John Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State and former Chairman of Goldman Sachs. His white hair, global vision, international protocol and tremendous listening skills immediately brought Mr. McDonnell to mind. Was it coincidence that both of them served as President of the United Nations Association of the US?

Leaving these great memories of these sophisticated business leaders, I would like to think for a moment about our current situation with the anger over the AIG bonuses. President Obama has said the executives are greedy and shameful. But step back a moment from all the criticism of the greed and shame that these business leaders have brought, and put yourself in the shoes of their employees across the world. Of course they are rightly upset and angry with their executives, but for what reasons?

The great cause for concern here is larger than within the AIG corporation–this behavior is changing the image of the United States. Corporations have such a strong influence worldwide–even the president of the United States does not have as large of a direct influence. AIG has 116,000 employees in 130 countries. Their professional reputation has been damaged from within their own company, a reputation that affects international perception of Americans as a whole. In many countries the relationship between a company and its employees is very strong–familial, even. Together they are viewed as having a mutual responsibility to their society and it is regarded as a last option to fire an employee. How do many of America’s corporations fit this image? We, finally, cannot forget the link between the global perception of America, influenced largely by the perception of its business leaders, will have a direct or indirect cost to young soldiers worldwide. If greedy leaders do not care for their own staff, imagine the difficulties in persuading them to consider world peace.

We are passing problems of huge national debt, international conflict, environmental deterioration, scarcity of natural resources to our own future generations. Can we at least pass along quality business leaders as well? Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Whitehead have always stood out in my head as exemplary leaders, bringing an ethic of responsibility and statesmanship to the business world. They encouraged and inspired me in my path working for human issues, which I cannot say for AIG’s leaders today.

I wonder when our greedy leaders will realize that in the spiritual world there is no bank in which you can deposit your money.

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