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Andrei Yuri

The devastating memory of Michael Moore’s interview with Miss Michigan in his movie, “Roger and Me” stands prominent in my thoughts on beauty pageants and the like. I remember with a degree of clarity the vacant and embarrassing replies of Miss Michigan to the massive GM layoffs and the downfall of a city. The most powerful reflections the so-called beauty queen could muster were some scarcely coherent mumblings about how “people should have work.”

Despite this somewhat commonly held image of Miss You-Name-It as a passive and dullish glitter-girl of the vanity-age, Katie Harman is different. Harman, who became Miss America last September, possesses substance if not brass, compassion if not fire. She grew up in our very own Gresham, studies speech communication at our very own PSU, and hopes for a master’s in bioethics – a familiar term in our very own Oregon.

More, Harman has been asked to deliver the keynote address at Commencement 2002.

Welcome to the prickly business of controversy.

Without regarding Harman’s admirable qualities – she was valedictorian at Centennial High School, spent a lot of time as a protagonist for women suffering from breast cancer, and of course was crowned Miss America (an amazing feat to understate things a good deal) – the fact remains that she has not earned a degree, is not an academic figure, and is not currently a student at PSU. And though Harman has maintained she will return, $50,000 is a lot of money, and PSU is no Yale.

These concerns are not reflections on Harman’s character, but rather the capacity in which she will be addressing the student body – Miss America and all that comes with that title. While each of these complaints is legitimate, they should not be taken to mean that she doesn’t deserve a fair chance to prove herself in a collegial setting.

Perhaps Harman will deliver something truly memorable – of course I write this with a measure of sarcasm not on Harman’s behalf, but because graduation addresses in general usually amount to sessions of torturous nonsense performed by accomplished wizards of belaboring the point – in that case she would deserve all the applause of something delivered by the chair of the Kennedy School of Int’l Relations. And perhaps otherwise.

My point is: despite your opinions on the Miss America enterprise, Harman has been invited and deserves an equal chance at success. She has proved herself to be a pretty outstanding individual. And that is how we should treat her when she presents. No different than Bill Clinton or anyone else who has had the privilege of speaking to PSU’s graduates in years past.