Allison Rogers and Al Gore do some heavy lifting with a Solarjo Solar Power Purse that will charge a cell phone or iPod. Allison participated in the first Climate Project Training Session run by Former Vice President Gore this past September in Nashville.(Courtesy of TheClimateProject.org)
The Miss America pageant is an enduring icon of American culture. This year, Miss Rhode Island, Allison Rogers, hopes to heat things up at the competition by wearing a bikini, playing Chopin, and giving a platform statement on global warming. She talks with host Bruce Gellerman.
GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Bruce Gellerman. This year, Allison Rogers will be one of 52 women competing in the Miss America competition.
[MUSIC: “There she is Miss America…”]
[MUSIC: Jon Nakamatsu “Fantasy Impromptu for Piano in C Sharp Minor, Op. 66, CT 46” from ‘Chopin: Impromptus - Fantasies’ (Harmonia Mundi – 1998)]
GELLERMAN: Miss America will be crowned on January 29th in Las Vegas, Nevada.
And if she wins, Allison will be the first contestant from Rhode Island to wear the tiara. Allison Rogers is a graduate of Harvard University. Along with the evening gown and bathing suit competition, she’ll play Chopin’s “Fantasy Impromptu” in the talent segment. And when it comes to her platform statement, she has a unique message. Allison Rogers joins me in the studio, thank you very much for coming in.
ROGERS: Thank you Bruce. It’s wonderful to be here with you.
GELLERMAN: Can I call you Alison?
ROGERS: Oh yeah, please call me Ali. Most people call me Ali.
GELLERMAN: Ok, Ali. What would compel a Harvard Cum Laude graduate to compete in a beauty contest?
ROGERS: I wanted to compete because I wanted to find an alternative way to get the message out about global warming. And I thought that this would certainly be a new audience that I could reach out to through the competition.
GELLERMAN: At Harvard you were something of, well you were more than something of an environmentalist, you were really involved in environmental issues.
ROGERS: I was very involved. You would find me digging through trash, running a waste audit. You would find me running up and down the halls of my dorm encouraging my peers to recycle and to turn off their lights. I became very involved in what we call the resource efficiency program. And after that year of really becoming involved I blossomed in so many ways.
GELLERMAN: You won the Miss. Rhode Island competition last spring. Actually you won it on Earth Day.
GELLERMAN: So what kind of things do you have to do? Do you have to show up at like PTA meetings?
ROGERS: (laughs) There are the things that you would imagine like parades and at the parades that I’ve been going to I’ve been walking. Which is surprising obviously, most of the time state titleholders will ride in a convertible.
GELLERMAN: Right, with your back sitting out.
ROGERS: Exactly. Until I can find a biodiesel convertible I’ve decided to walk, just in support of my go green platform. And I also do a lot of school presentations; reaching out to students in our community, meetings with politicians, or with businesses. I’ve presented several times at Raytheon about how to green a large institution.
GELLERMAN: We have a bit of tape from one of your presentations, from I guess it’s from Park View Middle School in Cranston Rhode Island. Let’s listen to that.
(GROUPS OF CHILDREN TALKING)
ROGERS: (to the students) So let’s start of with global warming. And first, really quickly, I just want to list out a couple of thoughts about what we can do to help stop global warming. Who wants to share it with me? Do you want to come right up? Yup.
BOY: Um try um to like more car pool so we don’t waste as much pollution.
ROGERS: Yeah, great great. So car pool, or take the bus. Great.
GIRL: Um, more hydroelectric or solar power.
ROGERS: Yes! And what do we call that type of energy? Hydroelectric or solar power do you know what we call that?
GIRL: Renewable energy.
ROGERS: Renewable energy (laughs)!
GELLERMAN: Is it hard talking to kids. It seems, I think you have a real easy time with it.
ROGERS: I love it. And you know at different schools, different classrooms, I get different reactions when I ask them what do they know about global warming. What comes into their mind? But by the end of the presentation it’s obvious that they actually already know a lot before I even started this conversation.
GELLERMAN: Did any kid ever ask you a question you couldn’t answer?
ROGERS: (laughs) I’m going to have to think about that. I will tell you though a fourth grade boy came up to me at the end of one presentation and he said, “Miss. Rhode Island what’s your favorite car? Is it a Lamborghini? And hopefully by the end of our discussion he’s now as excited about hybrid cars as he is for Lamborghinis. (laughs)
GELLERMAN: But Ali, why use the Miss America competition as a venue, as a way of getting this message out?
GELLERMAN: But you know, you’ve got to wear a bikini right?
ROGERS: You do have to wear a bikini.
GELLERMAN: You have to wear a gown, bikinis? Global warming?
ROGERS: Well, I will tell you. This is something that I thought about. I went back to my feminist theory and readings and I debated, for a while. I mean, do I want to compete in this? Am I raising my right hand values of environmentalism? Am I lowering my feminist equality values? But I came to a place where I could balance them and thought this was the right thing for me to do.
GELLERMAN: So, if you’re in the top ten, top 15 you get to present your platform. How long do you get?
ROGERS: They normally ask an on stage question, 30 second response. And whether or not it’s a question that you can fit your platform into, we’ll see.
GELLERMAN: Well, you’ve given me the opportunity to play Bert Parks here. So, I’m going to ask you: in 30 seconds give me your platform on global warming.
ROGERS: In 30 seconds, alright. (laughs) I believe that global warming is the most important issue facing us as a country, as a planet, and as humankind. We need to find alternative renewable energies that we can use. We need to find alternative positive habits that we can take in our daily lifestyles. And as your next Miss America, I am ready and willing to take on this full year job of finding a way to change the country, change our planet, and help us have a positive future for our children, our children’s children and the many generations to come.
GELLERMAN: Ali, you have my vote.
ROGERS: (laughs) Thank you.
GELLERMAN: Well, Ali I really enjoyed it. Thank you very much.
ROGERS: Thank you Bruce, this has been wonderful.
GELLERMAN: Allison Rogers is going to compete in this year’s Miss America competition.
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