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Miss District of Columbia 2019 Shares Her #MeToo Message

DC Beauty Queen Advocates for Sexual Violence Victims
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DC Beauty Queen Advocates for Sexual Violence Victims

VOA Student Union's Sahar Majid interviewed 2019 Miss District of Columbia Katelynne Cox, who talked about issues including her pageant journey and advocacy organization.

Katelynne Cox was chosen as the 2019 Miss District of Columbia last month.

Cox, a native of Washington state, is the manager of fundraising and events at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C.

In the pageant, Cox was able to speak to her advocacy for the #MeToo movement.

Through the organization Silence Is Not Compliance, which Cox founded in 2016, she is providing rehabilitation resources to survivors of sexual assault and educating kids on how to prevent sexual violence.

Cox is a rape survivor, and works to inspire other women who have gone through similar trauma and have not been able to speak up.

“I am a survivor of sexual assault and was raped in college, and I wanted to turn my terrible experience into a way that could help others,” she said.

As she established Silence Is Not Compliance, Cox began lobbying for the victims for sexual assault before the U.S. Congress.

“I would argue right now, in our current policies, that victims are treated as tools for prosecution rather than victims deserving a rescue and that's what I want to change,” she said.

2018 Miss DC Allison Farris hands over the reign to Miss DC 2019 Katelynn Cox.
2018 Miss DC Allison Farris hands over the reign to Miss DC 2019 Katelynn Cox.

Before moving to Washington, D.C., Cox attended the University of Missouri where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She also has two graduate certificates in nonprofit and public management from the school.

Cox said she became involved with the Miss District of Columbia organization for several reasons. The Miss DC pageant, which is part of the Miss America program, offers over $25,000 in scholarships each year to contestants. The winner receives a $10,000 scholarship and there are a variety of other awards available for academics.

Cox said the scholarship was one of the reasons she got involved with the organization.

Every year, the Miss District of Columbia Scholarship Organization recognizes high-achieving women between the ages of 18 and 25 who have been living or working in Washington, D.C., for at least six months preceding the date of the pageant. The program’s website says that a contestant who is not a district resident can obtain a waiver by showing her education or employment status in the District of Columbia. There is no entry fee to compete. This year's event was held June 23.

The Miss DC organization has a partnership with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals – a Utah-based nonprofit organization that raises funds for children's health care.

“This organization is near and dear to my heart,” Cox said, adding it gave her another reason to become involved with the Miss DC organization. Cox has been working with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since she was a child.

Miss DC 2019 Katelynn Cox posing with visitors at the U.S. Botanic Garden.
Miss DC 2019 Katelynn Cox posing with visitors at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

In addition, the Miss DC organization provides contestants with an opportunity to pick a social impact initiative with which to become involved. “It was an amazing experience to promote my organization, Silence Is Not Compliance, as Miss DC,” Cox said.

This year, the Miss District of Columbia Pageant eliminated the swimsuit segment. It was a decision by the Miss America organization to replace it with onstage interviews of contestants.

Cox is grateful for the decision because it gave her an opportunity to talk about the #MeToo movement on stage and her experience as a survivor to connect with other survivors.

She highlighted her singing abilities for the talent portion.

“Well, my mom likes to say that I started singing before I could even talk,” she said, while telling the story of her musical journey.

Cox has worked with Red Hammer Records, a label based in Portland, Oregon, and released three albums during her teen years. She also had an opportunity to tour nationwide for her musical shows.

Cox believes scholarship programs, such as Miss America or Miss DC, provide young women with a platform to talk about social issues that need to be addressed.

“I think that inherently there is a problem with the thought that being involved in pageants is somehow sexually objectifying someone. I would argue that if you say that pageants are sexually objectifying me, then you are sexually objectifying me, not the pageant itself,” Cox said.

Cox is now gearing up for the 2020 Miss America contest, to be held on September 8 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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It’s Graduation Season – Who Might Speak at Yours?

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U.S. graduation ceremonies usually feature a public figure who offers advice to young people starting their careers. This spring, graduates have heard from President Joe Biden, actor Tom Hanks, Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa and even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who became the youngest prime minister in the world at age 34, told her audience that change cannot wait, even at their age. “To change things,” she said, “you have to take over.”

Read the story from Dan Friedell of VOA Learning English. (May 2023)

What Did Justin, a Golden Retriever Mix, Do to Earn a Diploma?

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Justin is a service dog and accompanied his owner (who graduated with honors) to every single class for four years. The student’s university honored the dog’s hard work with his very own diploma, which he accepted, tail wagging, in front a cheering stadium of other graduates.

See Justin’s walk across the stage in this story from Bill Chappell of NPR. (May 2023)

What Are US Diplomats Doing to Further International Education?

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Denver, Colorado, April 28, 2023.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken touted his department’s achievements in a recent address to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The State Department has relaxed student visa and study abroad requirements. In fact, it issued over a half-million student visas last year – the highest number in five years. Blinken, who spent part of his childhood in France, thanked educators for “helping us to see the world through another’s eyes.”

Watch his remarks in this press release from the State Department. (May 2023)

Soon-to-Be Graduates Put COVID Behind Them

Soon-to-Be Graduates Put COVID Behind Them
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, learning lagged for students around the world, including the U.S., where many had access to online learning. Now these soon-to-be graduates say they are behind in certain subjects because of time missed at school. VOA’s Laurel Bowman sat down with high school seniors on the cusp of graduation. Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Saqib Ul Islam.

Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican who represented Wyoming, delivers the commencement address at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 28, 2023.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen.

In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future.

Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

"After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership."

In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president.

Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting.

"Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote."

In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported.

Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke.

Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago.

Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president.

Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run.

A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month.

After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November.

Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college.

Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.

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