Each pageant contestant chooses a platform — a cause she's passionate about — and uses her time and her talent to promote that cause. She also prepares a written presentation of her platform, which the judges consider in conjunction with her platform interview.
The following is Rachel Webb's platform submission.
The Multi-Colored Rainbow: Advancing Diversity
America truly is a melting pot of races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds from all over the world. This country stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when people come together and work towards the American Dream.
This diversity is the foundation of America's strength, and as Miss Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival, I plan to work within this community to further an atmosphere of total inclusion.
The City of Oxford, along with the university community, is a microcosm of the diversity of America as a whole. We have families here from many different religions and countries. At the University of Mississippi alone, there are students from 93 countries and 49 states. These students bring their own cultures and traditions to our city, and greatly enrich the fabric of our lives.
In my own life, I have learned to embrace the multi-hued experience that diversity brings. My father is from the Philippines, and my mother is Caucasian. I have lived on the small islands of Molokai and Kauai in Hawaii, I have lived in the Mississippi Delta, and I have lived in this wonderful city of Oxford.
But although I have loved this life with which I was blessed, I also have experienced difficulties when other people didn't accept diversity. In Hawaii, Filipinos and Samoans are the outcasts, and with my mixed race heritage, I didn't fit in either community. To many people, I was a Filipino from one of the small, poor islands or else I was viewed as a "haole" because of my Caucasian mother.
Later, when I moved to the Mississippi Delta, I was one of the few Asian people in town. Many of my classmates wanted me to teach them karate or how to solve college level math problems off the top of my head. So I often had to spend long hours talking with my classmates, correcting their stereotypes and the images of Bruce Lee they had been given by the media.
One of the most subtle, yet most destructive, aspects of racism and intolerance is that each person's inalienable right of self-determination is removed.
Remember the horrors of segregation in the South. African-Americans could not eat in the restaurants they wanted. They could not stay in the hotels they wanted. They could not live in the neighborhoods they wanted. These people suffered greatly because they did not have control over their own lives.
Being told what to do and when to do it is a horrible way to live that slowly erodes a person's self-esteem and confidence. This is no way for people in the 21st century to be treated.
I plan to use my position and platform to do everything in my power to make sure that people can do whatever they dream.
The Role of Education
Education and learning are the keys to creating an atmosphere of inclusion and welcome. Too many people have been taught racism, bigotry and hate. We all have the duty to end this cycle of ignorance and to open people's eyes to the breadth of experience they can have when they embrace other cultures and races.
To foster better understanding of other cultures and races, I have developed a Diversity Awareness presentation that I will give at Oxford schools and organizations. I also will endeavor to work with the university community to share their wealth of cultures with the Oxford citizens.
Those students from 93 countries have a wealth of knowledge to share with our native Oxonians. We can sponsor festivals that highlight different cultures so Oxford residents can taste poké from the southern Pacific and nan from India. We can learn so much from one another simply by sharing our food, our dances, and our music.
I have also designed a series of workshops to be run by minorities. These designs are intentionally vague and open-ended. My goal is for the diverse people, who are often refused control of their lives, to be able to be in charge. Quite simply, they will make the decisions and run their workshops. They will be able to experience the joy that comes with making your own decisions as well as teaching others.
The Role of Government
Legislation cannot govern people's attitudes and emotions, so we cannot simply pass a law and expect everyone to embrace diversity.
However, our government leaders can still set a very positive example in the way that they treat their constituents and staff their offices. Lawmakers should reach out to minorities the entire year round, not only when they are trying to build a solid voting block during an election year.
Here in Oxford, we are blessed with some very forward-thinking politicians. I will endeavor to work with our government leaders in the future to encourage them to remain open-minded and to make diversity a cornerstone of their tenure.
The Role of Business
Business owners are the unelected leaders of any community, and they — along with the politicians — should strive to provide a positive role model in advancing the cause of diversity. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also makes money and strengthens the business.
Business owners who populate their staff with employees from diverse backgrounds are virtually guaranteed to have a diverse clientele. A more diverse clientele means more customers which translates to more profits.
I look forward to an Oxford, and an America, where everyone is free to live and pursue their own version of the American dream without restrictions and limitations. It can be difficult, but I know from my own life that it is possible to overcome cultural and racial discrimination.
When we are all accepted as equals, then America can truly be a multi-colored rainbow, bringing hope and inspiration to the rest of the world.