Dear State Directors, Local Directors and Loyal Volunteers,
First and foremost, thank you for all that you do to make the Miss America Program a reality. You are the heart and soul of our organization.
We humbly ask for your undivided attention as you read this letter. You are our last hope.
We are so grateful for the efforts that many of you have undertaken to have your voices be heard by the leadership of the Miss America Organization. We are inspired by your love for the pageant, your persistence and your courage.
We have joined you in raising our voices and have tried with all of our might and strength to preserve the traditions of Miss America, but we cannot accomplish our mission without your clear, unequivocal and immediate response. The hour is late and the time for unified action is upon us now. We cannot delay, we cannot wish this current crisis away, and we cannot push it off to deal with at some later date.
Miss America is engaged in a great struggle about its identity and its future direction. We did not choose this struggle. It began because our past leaders demeaned women, breached their trust, harmed our brand, and needed to be removed. It was their actions alone that required a change in leadership. We made that change with the hope of creating unity and stability for our beloved organization.
In good faith, we joined together with a unified voice and decided that it would be best if our new leaders came from among our own ranks so that our voices and opinions would be heard and acknowledged at the national level. But in choosing our new leaders, we now recognize that we chose individuals that have sought to use MAO for their own self-centered purposes, not to regain trust and unite us. Instead these new leaders have decided to use this opportunity to force changes that we have not sought and that we did not demand.
Worse still, they have used their position and our goodwill to demean those in our ranks, to publicly question our ethics and motives, and they have made significant changes to our organization under false pretenses. It is hard to believe that this is the approach and tactics that our new leaders have adopted, but this is the place in which we now find ourselves, and we must again demand and require immediate change.
Upon further consideration of the facts, we now agree with the petition signed by the very brave 22 states’ executives. We understand that to begin again we must call for the resignations of our Chairwoman, our CEO and the entire Board of Trustees. Ultimately, we want to support the will of the states, and from what we gather, the 22 states are not the “noisy minority,” but in actuality, they include a quiet majority-who are just not ready to speak out-but why prolong the inevitable? As with the previous board, we asked formers to step down not because of personal reasons, but simply because they were part of the old regime that didn’t work. We are grateful to those former Miss Americas for graciously stepping down, even though their hearts were in the right place. They put aside any personal agendas and submitted to the will of the majority, in order to show respect and love for our organization. We honor those sisters for making the right decision, and we ask out leadership to do the same now.
The national leadership should seek the consent of the governed – we elected them and they need to answer to those they profess to serve. We had hoped that the reconstituted Board would work with truth and integrity. Regrettably, they have used their positions to mislead us, to systematically change many things that we hold dear, and they have removed (and threatened to remove) anyone who disagrees with their views. Have you stopped to consider what happens if the 22 states who signed the petition in July lose their licenses?
As you know, the telecast for this year is not in jeopardy, but the fate of the entire Miss America system is in great jeopardy if we do not act now. We are losing local competitions every day – they are just walking away. We are losing sponsors at the state and local levels. We are losing contestants who can’t afford the time or money needed to have an attorney review a 25-page contract. These and other onerous changes are pulling our organization apart on every level and in every state!
By signing your name to the Vote of No Confidence petition TODAY, you provide us with the ability to start the rebuilding process NOW. We can begin to put in place some safety nets in the event that the TV network, Casino Reinvestment Development Association (CRDA) and the production company decide not to continue supporting MAO and its mission. There is a group of experienced people ready to step in and play a transitional role with the production company and network.
A number of leaders within the states are prepared to drive solutions that flatten out the organizational structure. Right now, MAO is a top-down structure that keeps at a distance the state organizations that do 90% of the work. Decisions made by people who do not have their personal finances, reputations, business networks, communities etc involved in the heavy lift that’s involved in running a volunteer state or local organization cannot possibly know what is needed to keep the national organization nimble, responsive, ahead of the trends, and of course financially sound.
At its heart, Miss America is a grassroots volunteer organization and your state and local organizations are the lifeblood of this amazing nationwide system. The current leadership team has not served us well over the past 8 months, so it is necessary once again to elect a new leadership team that can unify our ranks. Miss America is bigger than any one or two individuals. The Miss America program has survived for 100 years because of you, and it must survive for another 100 years. But we must not allow the current leadership team to continue making changes to our program, some of which could be irreparable.
You and your volunteers are the heart and soul of this organization. You are our last hope. We need you to respond today, please, because we are running out of time.
Miss America 1956 Sharon Kay Ritchie Mullin
Miss America 1962 Maria Fletcher
Miss America 1966 Debbie Bryant Berge
Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles
Miss America 1988 Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Wilson
Miss America 1991 Marjorie Vincent-Tripp
Miss America 1992 Carolyn Sapp Daniels
Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum
Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle
Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson
Miss America 2001 Angela Baraquio Grey
Miss America 2002 Katie Harman Ebner
Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap
Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson Faram
Miss America 2010 Caressa Cameron-Jackson
Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss
Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell Maxwell