Heroes Work Here

At a Walt Disney Company shareholder’s meeting in Kansas City last Tuesday, Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger announced a new plan for the company to hire 1,000 armed forces veterans over the next three years.

“As a new generation of America’s military men and women transition into civilian life, we are increasing our commitment and support for these modern day heroes,” Iger said in a press release on the Disney corporate website. ”It’s a measure of our respect for how much they have sacrificed on our behalf, and our sincere gratitude for their extraordinary contributions to this country.”

Because this is Disney, or honestly just the business world, the program has a name: “Heroes Work Here.” It will focus on more than just hiring; it will also help military families transition back into civilian life, initiate a VoluntEars program where Disney employees engage in projects with veteran’s organizations across the country, commence a public service awareness program that will encourage other companies to hire veterans, and lead the company to invest in non-profits that support active duty service people, veterans, and their families.

The press release includes a link to a 30-second video that is the first of many in that third initiative: the public awareness campaign. The video makes it clear that Disney seeks out veterans for employment because the company believes that those who have served in the military demonstrate the problem-solving skills and ability to work hard that the House of Mouse looks for in its employees.

Also linked on the press release is the section of the Disney employment website dedicated to the Heroes Work Here program. There veterans can learn more about the program, read about upcoming job events, and browse the list of positions currently available.

The Heroes Work Here program comes as no surprise. Disney’s always offered special discounts to its parks for military members and their families, but now they’re taking a real step in showing support for those who’ve made so many sacrifices to our country. It’s a fantastic idea.

Then why do I feel a little bit cynical? It’s probably because I’m not convinced that Disney’s investment in this is entirely altruistic. They’re making much too big of a fuss of it. The majority of the press releases on Disney’s website have to do with money: quarterly earnings reports, shareholder information, those sorts of things. I get that they’re trying to launch an awareness campaign to inspire other businesses to also hire vets, but I can’t help but feel like Disney’s loudly announcing its intentions in order to reap the public relations awards.

Couldn’t they just do all of the above, only quietly? How many silent meetings must they have in board rooms across the country with execs from other companies, couldn’t they do the encouragement there? Couldn’t they perform the VoluntEARS service, hire the vets, support them and their families, without making a bunch of videos on YouTube that essentially say “Look At Us! Look At What We’re Doing! Aren’t We Great?”

I guess years of Disney reporting, ones that have included me seeing the company’s darker corporate underbelly, have made me too skeptical sometimes about the House of Mouse. If this public awareness campaign is what lets vets know that they could have a Disney job waiting for them that they might not have learned about otherwise, then it’s worth it. So what if Disney also gets rewards from it: at least the company’s supporting an excellent cause. I should just praise Disney for its good work – job well done, Disney, and I mean that sincerely – and leave it at that.

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