the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Miss America Teresa Scanlan Envisions a Political Future

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Could we be looking at a future Sarah Palin in the new Miss America?

Miss Nebraska, Teresa Scanlan, was crowned Miss America 2011 on Saturday night in Las Vegas. The first Nebraskan ever crowned as the pageant’s winner, Scanlan, 17, said in an interview with The Associated Press that she wanted to be not a doctor, school teacher or even television news anchor when she graduated from college.

She wants to be a politician — after she finishes law school.

“At this point, attorneys and politicians are looked down on and have terrible reputations for being greedy and power hungry and I really think it’s important for people who have their heart and mind in the right place get into those powerful positions,” she said in the interview.

And she’s can’t even vote yet. Scanlan, 17, is the youngest winner of the Miss America pageant since its first competition in 1921. The winner that year, Margaret Gorman, Miss Washington, D.C., was 15. Rules now mandate that a winner must be at least 17.

Whenever she decides to run for whatever office, her opponent will already have footage that could be used against the young beauty queen. Or in the glass half-full scenario, Scanlan could use the pageant footage in her own political ad.

On Saturday night, Scanlan addressed the issue of national security and WikiLeaks although her official pageant platform is eating disorders. In the question and answer segment of the pageant asked by American citizens, SFC Chad Momerak of Bismarck, North Dakota, asked Scanlan how do “we balance people’s right to know with the need for government security.” Dressed in a vivid blue evening dress, she addressed bad boy Julian Assange’s brainchild. (Note to Mr. Assange: Don’t try asking her out on a date.)

“You know when it came to that situation it was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation, we have to focus on security first and then people’s right to know,” Scanlan said. “It’s important that everybody who’s in our borders is safe and so we can’t let things like that happen, and they must be handled properly.”

These are the days of candid pageant winners.

Last year, Miss America, Caressa Cameron of Virginia, told reporters in Washington that it would be fine if a lesbian became Miss America.

Politics Daily reporter Annie Groer reported Cameron’s comments: “I don’t think someone’s ethnicity, someone’s religious background, even their sexual orientation has anything to do with their ability to do the job, so I would say yes. It has no bearing on whether they can go to a children’s hospital and visit kids.”

Pageants are a perfect breeding ground for future politicians. Just ask Palin, who was Miss Wasilla and came in third in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984. The competitions are certainly as cutthroat as politics and at times, as dirty.

A Southerner, my exposure to this world came at the age of 5 when I entered a pageant dressed in a white hooped dress and ringlets that would have made Shirley Temple shudder. My dad, ever the keen one, felt something amiss from the minute the hotel doors opened for the pageant. Sure enough, he saw a mother of a contestant pay a judge in cash.

Needless to say, I didn’t win, and I never entered another pageant at my parents’ insistence. “Those things are as corrupt as politics,” my dad always said.

Maybe not all of them are. But the intensity to win mirrors politics flawlessly.

Washington is often an intersection of politics and pageants. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) are both alumnae of the Cherry Blossom Princess program. Former Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina was Duke University’s May Queen. Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan was California’s Miss San Carlos. And current conservative darling, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was in the top 10 of the Miss Anoka Pageant and was crowned Miss Congeniality.

Internationally, Miss Universe 2009 runner-up Ada Aimee de la Cruz was elected last May as deputy mayor of Santo Domingo Norte, the Dominican Republic’s fourth largest municipality.

Sure, Scanlan has a long path to walk on her political track — like casting her first vote. She has said that she plans to register to vote as soon as she turns 18 in February. She plans to attend Patrick Henry College, a Christian-based college in Purcellville, Virginia, founded specifically for home-schooled students.

The college, once dubbed “the Bible college that leads to the White House,” may be just the springboard Scanlan needs to launch her political career. In spring of 2004, seven of the 100 student White House interns in the Bush administration were from Patrick Henry College. Janet Ashcroft, wife of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, once served on its board of trustees.

Get ready, America. One day, the president could be a beauty pageant alumna.

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