The annual Miss America pageant includes a question-and-answer portion in which women have twenty seconds to give a detailed response to questions related to national and global current events. The answers tend to be non-controversial, even if they do have strong private opinions about the topic. This year, however, Cara Mund, Miss North Dakota (and now Miss America 2018), along with many other contestants, did not follow in the same path. When Mund was asked: “One hundred ninety-five countries signed the Paris agreement, in which each country sets nonbinding goals to reduce man-made climate change. The U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement, citing negligible environmental effects and negative economic impact. Good decision? Bad decision? Which is it and why?” Her response was simply:
“I do believe it’s a bad decision. Once we reject that, we take ourselves out of the negotiation table. And that’s something that we really need to keep in mind. There is evidence that climate change is existing, so whether you believe it or not, we need to be at that table and I think it’s just a bad decision on behalf of the United States.”
Mund knew this would be considered controversial but she was and is okay with that. “You’re the only one that can really stand in your way,” Mund is quoted saying. This is true: no matter how much society pressures us, we are the only ones who will stop ourselves from doing what we ultimately believe to be true or right.
Mund is an Ivy League graduate who majored in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations at Brown University, which is strong in its liberal arts and Humanities traditions. I believe that at liberal arts school we are taught to look at things in life a little bit differently. More specifically, in the Humanities one looks at many different cultures, ways of life, and ways of thinking as well. We are taught to synthesize information to form what we believe to be our own opinions. There are proven historical facts, but even when we look at these facts we are taught to foster a larger context about how we view these facts. The Humanities and an education at a liberal arts school helps us to take the facts we know and form an articulate and sound opinion about how to act in response to those facts.
Even though there has been a tradition in which Miss America contestants do not give controversial answers, Cara Mund’s liberal arts education changed the game a bit. The new Miss America, Mund, took her own route in answering the question and it surprised the nation, but it also shows that sometimes it is important to be able to form controversial opinions and share them with people. The liberal arts tradition helps to foster that growth in people and allows one to be okay with speaking up in a crowd.