(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields waves to the crowd after being named Miss America 2017, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Atlantic City, N.J.

What does Miss America want from a candidate? Spirit of compromise

Savvy Shields was crowned Miss America 2017 on Sunday. Asked about her vision for America, she said she hopes voters start to reward politicians for compromise.

Savvy Shields had only been Miss America 2017 for less than an hour, but she already had a clear vision of what she hopes America will look like at the end of her term next year.

"I hope that at the end of my year, we're starting to reward politicians for compromise," she said.

Shields, who represented Arkansas in the pageant, won the crown Sunday night in Atlantic City. She was asked during her onstage interview what she thought of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; she answered that while both Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have done a good job thus far, "they also need to watch what they're doing."

Meeting reporters after the pageant, Shields elaborated.

"What I want both candidates to focus on is compromise," she said. "Our country was founded on compromise. We're in a state now where both parties just seem to be yelling at one another."

When Ms. Shields talks about political compromise, perhaps she means something like what happened in California last month.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, Senate Bill 1146 has been at the center of heated debate between faith-based private universities and gender equality advocates across the state – and the nation. Among other things, the measure would have made it easier for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students at religious colleges to sue for discrimination if they are penalized for violating church doctrine.

Suddenly the bill, for months a source of bitter division, became compromise legislation that both sides could support. Gender equality advocates won provisions that would compel religious colleges to disclose their reasons for applying for exemptions to federal anti-discrimination law. They would have to inform students, parents, faculty, employees, and the California Student Aid Commission. 

At the same time, religious schools no longer face an increased risk of litigation because of those exemptions. 


Monday morning, Shields was scheduled to take the traditional romp in the surf on the beach in Atlantic City across from Boardwalk Hall, where she won the crown. It is a ritual in which the newly crowned Miss America skips along the beach as shallow waves roll in, jumps in the air, and poses for the first of the countless thousands of photos in which she will star over the next year.

She topped a field of 52 contestants to win the crown and the title of Miss America 2017, succeeding the outgoing Miss America Betty Cantrell.

She was asked one of several political questions by the panel of celebrity judges.

"If you're trying to be leader of the free world, everything you say and do matters and all of your actions are held to a higher standard," Shields said. "Both of the contestants have done a good job, but they also need to watch what they're doing."

Shields performed a jazz dance to a song from the TV show "Smash," for which she won a preliminary competition earlier in the week. She said she still has the soundtrack from the canceled TV show in her car, where she plays it often.

Shields is an art major at the University of Arkansas who wants to help people make better food choices. Her secret dream is to be a backup dancer for Beyoncé.

The runners-up were as follows: Fourth runner-up, Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis; third runner-up, Miss Washington Alicia Cooper; second runner-up Miss New York Camille Sims; first runner-up Miss South Carolina Rachel Wyatt.

The first openly gay contestant in the Miss America pageant, Miss Missouri Erin O'Flaherty, was eliminated Sunday night when the top 15 finalists were chosen.

She was the first openly gay contestant to win a state title. Djuan Trent competed in the Miss America pageant as Miss Kentucky in 2011, when she finished in the top 10. She came out as a lesbian in 2014.

The top 15 finalists were: Kentucky; Washington; Massachusetts; Arkansas; South Carolina; Idaho; Iowa; Texas; California; Oklahoma; Maryland; New York; Tennessee; Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Sunday's finale was held on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Many of the contestants noted the solemn anniversary, professed strong support for America's armed forces and struck patriotic themes. Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer sang "God Bless America" for her talent program.

The pageant from Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall included contestants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The pageant began in Atlantic City in 1921 as a way to extend the summer tourist season beyond Labor Day weekend.

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