I think Monday night might have been the first time I walked into a room full of Ohio State Buckeyes in absolute awe of a Michigan Wolverine.
As she stood on stage, illustrating her platform of cultural competency, Miss America Nina Davuluri was picture-perfect. She came off as incredibly poised, articulate, elegant and even more radiant in person than all the cameras, evening gowns and famous acquaintances could ever make her look.
Davuluri spoke about growing up in a predominantly Caucasian community and how she handled racism then, and even now, after garnering negative backlash on social media when she earned the crown and people said she wasn’t a “real” American. Throughout her discussion, Davuluri remained sincere, candid, extremely relatable and down-to-earth — an embodiment of what Miss America should be, regardless of the color of her skin.
Davuluri actually touched on exactly that. In what I believe to be her most poignant point of the evening, she said, “I’ve always viewed Miss America as that national icon, that symbol of the girl next door. And the reality of that situation is the girl next door is evolving as the diversity of America evolves.”
There is truth in Davuluri’s words. Even if Davuluri had lost out on the crown, two of the ladies in line behind her were not Caucasian but also of Asian descent. As I stated in a previous commentary about Davuluri, and as she so eloquently summed up on stage, the conventional blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty is simply not representative of our nation anymore. And after personally hearing her speak, I couldn’t think of a better candidate to carry the crown.
Throughout her reign, Davuluri has met with the president, members of the military, Hollywood actors, appeared on television news shows and has traveled to countless hospitals, schools and universities. Her purpose has been to empower and inspire young people and to create circles of unity among Americans — quite the opposite of what terrorists, as some called Davuluri when she first won, attempt to accomplish.
Davuluri isn’t trying to tear our country apart, but instead she stands for unity with her project, Circles of Unity. She has no ties to al-Qaida, but rather secures bonds with children, members of the military and our country’s leading politicians. She doesn’t fix sandwiches at Subway, but she hopes to fix her patients’ aches and pains as a doctor (Davuluri plans on using the scholarship money from the Miss America pageant to fund her dreams of attending medical school). We’d like to pretend she didn’t go to the University of Michigan, but eh … we’ll let that one slide.
To the ignorant, I’d like to say: Open your eyes. Take a look at your classmates, your co-workers, your neighbors. The color of their skin doesn’t determine their level of patriotism or degree of patriotism, but rather it can be defined in the pride they carry in our country and the value they attribute to their contributions in making it a better place for all of us. At the root of it, I think Davuluri is trying to convey just that. And when she takes off her crown and boxes it up before leaving stage as she did here at Ohio State, Davuluri’s spirit, commitment to service and patriotism don’t get boxed up with it, but rather shine on their own.