Sunday, March 27, 2011

Return to the Alma Maters

 Last week I traveled to Indiana to speak as an honored alum of Ball State University.  Jay Zimmerman, psychologist in the Counseling Center, brought me to BSU for a keynote address about my platform Straight for Equality: Let’s Talk.  They hosted a private dinner with some of my most influential professors from the Honors College, and College of Fine Arts (both visual art and theatre/dance) as well as members of the faculty, community and the LGBT groups on campus, Spectrum and Continuum. Following dinner, we went to Pruis Hall where almost 400 students and faculty gathered to hear me speak.  I did my 20-minute speech and then as planned, opened it to Q & A.  We answered impromptu questions from the audience for 1 hour and 40 minutes!  With the current state of Indiana legislature on the HJR6 proposed constitutional amendment that would completely eliminate even the possibility of marriage equality OR even civil unions/domestic partnerships, I urged the people in the audience to be not just allies, but advocates - requiring action.

READ the Ball State Daily News Article
READ the Muncie Star Press Article

I say “we” because I was honored to invite a new friend on stage.  On Monday before I went to BSU, I received multiple text messages reading “Did you hear about the new Miss Ball State?”  People informed me via text messaging that the new Miss BSU had an LGBT Equality platform as well and that “I [Claire] told her to be confident and proud of who she is and what she believes in.”  I searched through emails and facebook messages (I've received quite a handful of contestants who have told me about stopping pageants because of their sexual orientation, or being motivated to compete again because of the inspiration I gave them...) Well, come to find out when we had lunch together with Executive Director, Carol Cosisko – who got me started in pageants! – Kara Mitchell, the new Miss BSU, had followed my journey and heard my message, which told her to be open about who she is.  Now that’s cool.  So as I finished my speech, I wanted to introduce Kara to the audience because as I return to NY and continue my work, the torch is passed to her and she carries this legacy and leads the fight on Ball State’s campus.  Just two days after being crowned, with no warning, she came up on stage with me and fielded those almost 2 hours of questions so eloquently, tackling difficult questions about religion, marriage equality, and more, all offering a beautifully confident perspective as an openly gay woman.  It was incredible and I was so honored to share the stage with Kara. This evening reminded me once again why I worked so hard to become Miss America, but why I continue as Miss NY with the best job in the world.  I also loved having tea with Ellen Bryan, a fellow Emens Scholar at BSU and 2-time runner up at Miss Ohio.  Good luck to both Kara and Ellen as they prepare for Miss Indiana and Miss Ohio!

Tyler Fox (big fan/advocate),  Megan Thwaites 1st RU Miss BSU (My 1st Outstanding Teen),  Kara Mitchell Miss Ball State 2011,  Miss NY,  Courtney Jurick Miss Three Rivers Festival 2011

As I returned to Indianapolis on such a high from the evening, I began preparing myself for the next day – shifting gears to a high school discussion.  I returned to my high school alma mater, Perry Meridian High School, where I spoke to the entire female population of the school in two assemblies, speaking about leadership.  I shared my leadership experience in the same school they attend now, same clubs, stage and community and then worked my way through my college career and finding my place in the Miss America Organization.  My leadership now is my advocacy.  Following the presentations, I went into multiple classrooms: theatre, history, and speech.  In the history class we compared the civil rights movement now to that of the Sixties; in the theatre class we talked about the power of words and how they can harm or benefit the people around us; and in speech,  discuss the preparation that has come from pageantry and how it has benefitted the rest of public and personal relations in my life. 


All in all, GREAT trip – and it happened to be the same week as my brother’s surprised 30th birthday party! Not bad timing :) Here's a peek at our fun day!




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