Miss America in the 21st Century

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As a parent in this day and age, do you ever find yourself struggling to find role models your kids can truly look up to? I know I do! But rest assured, I found 53 young women this past weekend I’d be extremely proud for both of my children to emulate.

I had the honor of returning once again to an event that has become a mainstay in my life; The Miss America Competition.

In 1989, I was honored with the Miss America title.

As a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University, who’d spent my childhood practicing countless hours to become a serious classical violinist, competing in the Miss America competition made sense for me. Fifty percent of my points went to talent, 35 percent to the interview, and the remaining small percentages to the evening gown and swimsuit portion of the competition.

I spent a fantastic year traveling our great nation; performing my violin, meetings thousands of people, and speaking about the importance of a great education and striving to achieve any and all goals.

So in 2012, I ask this question. What’s wrong with that? Nothing I say.

Some people like to focus on the cop-out critical question about Miss America. Why is it still relevant? I say its more relevant than ever when you consider what else is out there. Compare the silliness of some reality TV stars to what this program stands for.

Simply said, Miss America is the largest scholarship program in the world for women. More than $45 million dollars have gone to help hundreds of thousands of women get ahead in this world.

Who wouldn’t want to look up to a young woman who does extremely well in school, has spent countless hours crafting a talent, many more hours serving her community, feels good enough about herself to keep her body fit, and oh yes … may also just happen to be pretty.

I say let’s celebrate a program that exemplifies the values and goal setting objectives many people feel are missing in society today.

During the coming year, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler will do just that; setting a great example for our young people. As a 23-year-old opera singer and college graduate, she plans to use the more than $50,000 she won to eventually go to law school.

And like so many other Americans, she’ll also showcase the tough times she’s been through in her life. She'll talk openly about her father -- who spent a year and a half in prison after being convicted of a white collar crime.

She’ll talk about the organization she created as a result, Circles of Support, to mentor kids dealing with incarcerated parents.

I bet she’ll strike a chord with thousands of people this year; and not just when she sings.

I had the honor of taking part in the broadcast of the Miss America competition on Saturday night. Here's some of what I said: In “Young women who have taken part in this program have and will continue to benefit by furthering their educations; becoming anything they want to be; from doctors to lawyers to politicians to even TV anchors. -- And it’s my hope, one day, one of us will even become president of the United States.” To which, Miss Nevada quipped, “Sign me up!”

Good luck Laura and have a fantastic year. We’re supporting you. And when you get those silly questions about the relevance of the program … grin and bear it. They’re coming from people who are just “Miss Informed” about the true nature of this iconic American tradition: the “Miss America” competition.

Gretchen Carlson is co-host of "Fox & Friends" on Fox News Channel and a former Miss America.