As Candice Bergen notes in the film Miss Congeniality, “This is not just a beauty pageant….Our young ladies are eloquent, graceful, and beautiful.”

In 1989, the Miss America Organization adopted the platform program which requires each contestant to choose a social issue she would advocate nationwide in the event she is crowned Miss America. With the addition of the platform, Miss America suddenly became more than a beauty queen. She is now “seen as a dynamic, articulate speaker and the champion of a cause,” says Miss America Magazine.

When Erika Harold, Miss America 2002 and future Harvard Law student, decided to advocate abstinence, however, the Miss America Organization silenced her and forced her to shift her platform to youth violence. Past Miss Americas have supported free condom distribution and government-run needle exchange programs for drug addicts. But abstinence, they determined, was just too controversial.

After much media hubbub, though, the Miss America Organization has stepped down from their anti-abstinence views.

The Independent Women’s Forum and applaud Erika Harold for standing her ground. At a time when over 60% of college women say they have felt badly after a sexual “hookup,” an alternative viewpoint is a welcome one. We understand only too well that a female public figure who tries to push a message of personal responsibility and self-reliance has a hard time getting her message past the political-correctness police. The fact that Harold persevered, and the pageant officials were willing to compromise, is therefore highly commendable.