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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Miss America 2011 and Women's Issues

Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011
New York, NY
January 20, 2011

 A.M., EST

Date: 01/20/2011 Location: New York, New York Description: Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, Briefing at the New York Foreign Press Center on her role. - State Dept Image

MODERATOR: Good morning, and thank you so much for coming on such short notice. I will be really brief. We have a wonderful guest with us today to brief, Miss Nebraska 2010, recently crowned Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan.

MS. SCANLAN: Hello, everyone. It’s great to be here. I just won the title of Miss America as Miss Nebraska – as the first Miss Nebraska to win Miss America – this year. And it was our 90th year anniversary of the program. And for those of you who don’t know, the Miss America organization is a little bit different than most other pageants here in America. We are the largest provider of scholarships for women in the world. And this year, we made over $45 million of scholarship money available to the women across the country. And we also have a piece of the program that is our platform, so each contestant has a social issue that she focuses her year on. So mine is eating disorders awareness and prevention, and that is the cause that I have chosen today to dedicate my year to as well.

I’m perfectly open to any questions, so I’d love to hear them.

MODERATOR: Before you ask your question, if you could please state your name and media organization.

QUESTION: Okay. My name is Jae Lee, working for Business Magazine, Korea. Are you related to Let’s Move, sponsored by Michelle Obama?

MS. SCANLAN: No, I don’t have any affiliation with the program. That program focuses primarily on obesity in America, and – although, that can be related to eating disorders. Also I believe that a focus too much on obesity causes more pressure on our children and can actually lead to the development of more eating disorders. So we really have to be careful when striking that balance. And I think it’s important that we focus on getting our children healthy and fit and not just focusing on one over the other.

QUESTION: My name is – I work for the Polish radio; my name is Thomas Siemienski. But I work usually in France. And my question is about the difference between United States and France because, of course, we also have Miss France there. And that – the Miss France election is sometimes more of show business even. But here, I see you are in State Department. It’s something very official and political. Can you just explain this difference? Is – does it mean – your presence here, does it mean that you have as kind of role, official political role to play as a Miss America?

MS. SCANLAN: Right, well, I’m not completely aware of the situation of Miss France, but with Miss America, they are chosen in each state across the country and then we go to the Miss America competition. And there, we’re judged by a panel of seven judges from across the country. And basically, the Miss America organization is based on style, success, service, and scholarship. So they really focus on those four areas.

And so when you win Miss America, you do become a political figure to some extent in that many media organizations are interested in what we believe and what our ideas are. So that’s a big part of the Miss America organization – is finding women that have opinions and strong beliefs and know what they believe and what they stand for.

They’re also very focused on finding intellectual women who have career goals and who have a scholastic ambition as well. And I plan on majoring in government and then attending law school to become an attorney. And my dream for several years has to become president or a Supreme Court justice. And any of the women that you find competing in the Miss America organization have big dreams and ambitions because they’re very goal-oriented and focused on those things. So those are the kinds of women that you’ll find involved in this organization.

QUESTION: Alexey Osipov from Israeli Russian Novosty. First of all, first question, where is your crown? Why you came without it? (Laughter.)

MS. SCANLAN: Well, my crown is over in the other room in the box, actually. We didn’t know whether we should wear it or not, but I can certainly put it on for pictures afterwards.

QUESTION: Do you promote your program, your activity abroad of the United States – I mean, in different countries around the world?

MS. SCANLAN: What’s that?

QUESTION: Will you promote the program abroad, outside of the United States? I mean in Europe and Africa, in different countries.

MS. SCANLAN: Well, what’s that?

MODERATOR: (Off-mike.)

MS. SCANLAN: Possibly. I mean, we do some work in other countries as well, but we don’t have very much interaction at this point. Most of it is within the United States, but there is a chance that we will be visiting other countries, and I think, yes, we’re absolutely open to that. I know we visited Germany in the past and we’re certainly open to visiting other countries as well.

QUESTION: Do you have any plan to visit any Asian country concerning your eating disorder matter?

MS. SCANLAN: At this point, no, but I’m certainly open to those ideas. We’re kind of in the planning stages of a lot of things, so I’d be very interested in projects like that.

QUESTION: I’m not sure if somebody asked this question. I know you want to be a politician. So can you explain why do you want to be a politician? And as a would-be politician, what is your vision? What do you want to change this world?

MS. SCANLAN: Well, it started quite a few years ago. I’m the middle child of seven in my family, and my dad would always take the seven of us and sit us down on the couch and bring out newspapers, magazines, and talk about what was going on in the country and the world. And so I started really getting interested in the thing that were going on around me and how they affected us at a young age. And I realized that we needed people who were willing to lead this country and our world. And sometimes, especially at this point in America, many times people view politicians and attorneys in a negative light because they’re known for dishonesty and other things.

And I think it’s so important that my generation, especially, young people continue to be interested in being a part of those things and joining the political arena. And I think it’s very important that we get people in those positions of power that are willing to stand up for what is right and operate under integrity and honesty so that the American people can trust them again. And so I found it very important to be involved in those things and to know what’s going on. At 17, I know a lot of my friends who are my age don’t even really care about politics and government. They don’t care about what’s going on in our world. And I think it’s really important that we get them interested again and that we get everyone involved because it affects all of us.

QUESTION: About your political plans – Renzo Cianfanelli of the Italian Corriere della Sera – do you see a potential candidate for the presidency? Sarah Palin as a possible role model or do you feel closer to someone else, like the Secretary of State, for instance?

MS. SCANLAN: You know, at this point, I’m not sure. I haven’t really found anyone yet that I completely support, but we’ll see who comes up in the next couple years.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Democrat or Republican?

MS. SCANLAN: What’s that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you a Democrat or a Republican?

MS. SCANLAN: I’m actually not old enough to vote yet. (Laughter.) So I will be registering to vote next month, actually, and I will be registering as an Independent, so from there I can vote either way, whichever I feel fit, based on my political opinions and not just based on those party affiliations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) be closer to which – (laughter).

MS. SCANLAN: It depends on which issues we’re talking about, I think.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. SCANLAN: In many ways, I think I tend more conservative. Many of those ideas I agree with, but it depends on issues.

QUESTION: Are you a feminist?

MS. SCANLAN: What’s that?

QUESTION: Feminist?

MS. SCANLAN: You know, to some extent, I absolutely believe that women are powerful and that we should step up into positions of power, but in many terms of the word “feminist,” I don’t think I would go that far. But it’s a relative term, most of the time.

QUESTION: What do you think about (inaudible) between U.S. and China?

MS. SCANLAN: You know, I actually haven’t got enough information on that to make a comment there.

QUESTION: So, you are very young to be – you are very young to be a pageant, so what made you decide to compete in the U.S. America pageant in the first place? And what do you think your success as – of being Miss America would affect your future career?

MS. SCANLAN: Well, I started a couple years ago. My older sister competed in her first pageant when she was 13, and so then when I turned 13, of course, I had to do the same thing and follow my big sister. So I did, and I won that pageant at 13. And so I loved it, I had a lot of fun, and so I kept on finding more pageants to compete in. So then when I turned 17 and was finally old enough to compete in Miss America, I started competing in Nebraska and won my first year there once I graduated high school, and then came to Miss America and won this year. And I think that comes from a lot of things and I attribute a lot to my family and how they raised me because the Miss America organization is looking for substance, and I think that my parents really instilled that in me. And I really think that my success hasn’t come from anything other than this is where God wants me to be right now.

And I know that there’s a purpose for this year. I’m so excited to see all of the things that are going to be happening this year because I know it’s going to affect my future in big ways because politics and pageantry can be very similar sometimes, I think more than we’d like. But it is great practice. I mean, even things like this, all of the media things I’ve been able to do and all of the experiences I’m going to have this year are going to be great preparation for my schooling in the future as well as my career.

QUESTION: And what about Miss World and Miss Universe? Will you participate in such kind of the competition?

MS. SCANLAN: Well, those are very different from the Miss America organization. The two competitions are extremely different. If you win Miss USA, it’s more of a modeling job, and Miss USA will have those kinds of jobs, while Miss America’s job this year is a spokeswoman. We’re also the official goodwill ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. So we will be visiting those hospitals throughout the year and visiting those children, raising money for them and advocating their cause. And then, as I explained earlier, we have the platform element, which means we focus on social issues as well, whereas the contestants in Miss USA do not.

So there’s a lot of differences there. While the Miss USA and Miss World beauty competition is your classic beauty pageant, this really is a scholarship organization that is focused on may other things.

QUESTION: Sorry I got in kind of late. I’m not sure if you’ve already asked this question. I wanted to know – you’re only 17 and your level of eloquence is just incredible, especially considering your age and also your exposure. What – who are your major influences as a – not only as a, sort of, your career goals and life goals but also public speaking ability?

MS. SCANLAN: Over the past few years, especially, I think many of our past presidents are huge role models for me. I’ve always admired Abraham Lincoln because of his honesty and his reputation that lasts to this day. Many other people in positions of, not necessarily power, but just amazing reputation, people like Mother Teresa, whose reputations last forever because of the things that they have done, are just outstanding role models to me because it’s incredible to see that doing those things, that reputation lasts forever.

And my parents, of course, were always extremely important role models to me as well because they showed that anything was possible. They sacrificed quite a bit to give us opportunities that they never had. They worked very, very hard for their children and they showed us that among seven children, they accepted all of our differences and our unique experiences, and they encouraged us to be our own person. So I never felt pressured to be like one of my siblings, which I think was very important, and my parents really showed that to me. And I just really want to be like them when I grow up and have children as well.

QUESTION: And what do your parents do?

MS. SCANLAN: My father is a psychiatrist and my mother is a stay-at-home mom. She homeschooled the six of us for quite a few years.

QUESTION: Hi. Sean O’Driscoll, Sunday Times in Britain. I know you touched on this in the competition about WikiLeaks. And I’m just wondering what you think the answer is to somebody internationally who leaks U.S. secrets. Should he be extradited to the states? Should justice be found in the states, or what do you think the answer is there?

MS. SCANLAN: I think it definitely depends on the situation because there’s really a fine line there, and sometimes it’s extremely hard to understand the difference between national security and freedom of speech, and especially when you’re dealing with relations between countries as well. So it’s a pretty sensitive issue there that has to be very carefully examined, depending on each specific case.

QUESTION: Okay. Frankly speaking, I’m very glad to see you because you are so beautiful. (Laughter.)

MS. SCANLAN: Thank you.

QUESTION: And more than I expect.

MS. SCANLAN: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. This is question. (Laughter.) Okay. Even if you can be very famous actress, which means earning a lot, so, like, a billionaire. Still, you want to be a politician?

MS. SCANLAN: Yes, absolutely. I enjoy acting. I enjoy singing and dancing. I also play piano and guitar. Performing arts has always been a passion of mine, but it’s always been a hobby. And I understand that those things may make a lot of money sometimes. And also, in my plans to be an attorney, I job shadowed quite a few lawyers of different types and they always said that insurance law and things like that make the most money. But I’m not interested there. I’d rather be a trial attorney, where I can be in trial and criminal prosecution and then become a judge because it’s not so much about money. As long as I have enough to survive, I’ll be fine there, but it’s about doing what I really love.

QUESTION: I just wonder, have you followed the careers of female Supreme Court judges and are you interested in any of them as role models?

MS. SCANLAN: Absolutely. I have looked into that a bit. My – because I’ve always dreamed of becoming a Supreme Court justice. And so they’re really fascinating to me and I’m so glad that we do have women on the Supreme Court. I think it’s great to have that balance of males and females. And it’s really incredible to see how that’s changed over the past few years and how women have made a name for themselves and have become very respectable in the political field.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you so much for coming. We enjoyed having you here. And I think we will get your crown and take some more photos with the crown.

MS. SCANLAN: All right. Sounds good. Thank you all so much. (Applause.)