Erika Harold, the reigning Miss America, is a conservative who dreams of serving in political office, perhaps even the presidency.
On February 1, Harold attended the 30th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Arlington, Va., where she addressed a luncheon for college women sponsored by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and received the institute’s Woman of the Year award. The previous evening, she sat at the head table during CPAC’s Ronald Reagan Banquet.
A native of Urbana, Ill., Harold ran for Miss Illinois on a pro-abstinence platform. The rules of the Miss Illinois contest, however, required her to run for Miss America on a youth violence platform. When, after being crowned Miss America, Harold indicated she would continue to accept invitations to speak about abstinence as well as youth violence, some in the Miss America organization objected. (See HUMAN EVENTS, Oct. 7.) They soon backed down, however, in the face of negative publicity.
Harold has been accepted at Harvard Law School, which she plans to attend when she has completed her year-long reign.
HUMAN EVENTS Associate Editor Joseph A. D’Agostino interviewed Harold after she addressed the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute lunch.
HUMAN EVENTS: HUMAN EVENTS is a conservative weekly and we have conservative readers. I know that they would have appreciated your speech. You were discussing earlier how young women now proposition young men. We’ve reached that point. Are we going to continue to become more degenerate?
Erika Harold: I really see the pendulum swinging back in terms of young people’s sexuality. It’s becoming more fashionable for young people to say they are virgins. The media glamorize pre-marital sex, but young people do not do that as much as they used to. They are talking about abstinence more. Abstinence is in. They want to hear more about abstinence.
HE: Isn’t there an establishment dedicated to promoting promiscuity, to making sure that young people are not chaste? Do you think some very influential people have an ideological commitment to making young people promiscuous?
Harold: I would hope there is not such an establishment. I don’t know what they want, but I know that a lot of young people are open to the abstinence message.
HE: You still hear the message put out that people do not have much to worry about if they use condoms consistently and correctly. What do you think of that?
Harold: Condoms are not the answer. They do not prevent the spread of disease. They are not entirely effective in preventing pregnancy, and they do not provide the positive effects that only abstinence can provide. It’s certainly not true that condoms work well. Even a condom used effectively or correctly, doesn’t always work.
HE: Do you really travel 20,000 miles a month?
Harold: Yes. That includes East Coast to West Coast travel.
HE: How many appearances a month do you make? 100? 50?
Harold: It is about 18 to 20 appearances a month. There is travel time in between, and sometimes one appearance involves more than one event.
HE: Like at CPAC. What made you decide to come to CPAC?
Harold: The invitation by Clare Boothe Luce [Institute] to receive the Woman of the Year award and address college-age women. Then I decided that I would like to attend the [Friday night] banquet. I didn’t know they were going to put me up front. I certainly wanted to support everything that CPAC stands for.
HE: Is the way you presented your message today [to the college women] the usual way?
Harold: Yes, I try to articulate a positive message. As I said, I don’t like to use scare tactics about disease or pregnancy. I like to talk about how abstinence helps you, how it helps you achieve your goals. It’s a positive message.
HE: You said that you would like to run for political office one day. What is your goal? State office? Would you like to run for Congress?
Harold: My ultimate aspiration is to run for the presidency.
HE: You talked about how people want to classify you as black or white. It could be to your advantage to call yourself a black conservative, but you don’t.
Harold: I come from a very multi-ethnic background. I prefer to recognize all of it.
HE: Who is your favorite political philosopher?
Harold: Lincoln is probably the person I admire most. He had to keep the country together. He sacrificed so much to serve his country, personally, in terms of his family. He was the one person who believed there could be one solution. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, of course. He rectified something that the Founding Fathers did not. I wish they would have dealt with the issue of slavery sooner.
HE: Overall, do you think our culture and society are headed in a good direction or continuing to go in a bad direction?
Harold: Society and culture are going in both good and bad directions. In ways, they are getting better. One example of a good direction is racial relations, but morally and ethically we are starting to suffer as a country. So many people pursue immediate gratification instead of working for the future. Doing the things that are easiest at the moment is not necessarily the best in the long term. Many influences in society encourage people to do what feels good now instead of what will benefit them later.
HE: Can our society survive without a return to strong religious faith?
Harold: I don’t think it’s possible for everyone to agree on religious faith. I would say that we need strong moral behavior.
HE: I appreciated what you said in your speech about being persecuted for your beliefs. You know that people are persecuted when they stand up for Christianity and Christian values. When you get to Harvard Law School, do you expect it to be worse?
Harold: I don’t know. I plan to keep on standing up for what I believe. I will work hard at my class work and will have to demonstrate to people that I deserve respect, and I hope that people will see that.
HE: Do you plan to go back to Illinois after Harvard?
Harold: I could see myself back in Illinois. I haven’t made a decision. I traveled the entire state as youth coordinator. I know it well.