Miss America speaks at Ole Miss

Published 11:10 am Monday, January 23, 2017

The weekend-long PULSE Leadership Conference for undergraduate students kicked off at Ole Miss on Friday evening with two special guests in town.

The current Miss America, Savvy Shields, and the pageant’s executive producer (and Ole Miss alumna) Sam Haskell spoke to the crowd of 155 students with positive, inspirational speeches.

Shields, 23, talked about her pageant history, her experience with Miss America and causes she supports.

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“Every girl in Miss America has a platform,” Shields explained. “Whether that’s a charity or a political issue, it’s something that they’re passionate about. Mine is: eat better, live better. We’re trying to get people to take charge of their health.”

She elaborated on her past and how she would convince herself that she was not ready to compete in pageants.

“I would think to myself, I’ll compete when I’m smart enough,” she said. “I’ll compete when I’m pretty enough. I’ll compete when I’m this weight. I found my value and I found my worth. I found my sense of confidence. I found my desire to dream and other people validated those dreams.”

Shields talked about the value of self-worth.

“Every single one of us has an obligation to let our light shine,” she said. “To find what sets our soul on fire and run with it. I’m a firm believer that we all have individual gifts so we can find what we’re passionate about and we can make a difference with it.”

Haskell followed Shields on stage and talked about the qualities of a leader. As someone who used to be a top tier agent for the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, (where he eventually became the Worldwide Head of Television), Haskell had a lot of knowledge to dispense on the students.

“To be a leader is to stand for someone, to stand for something,” he said. “Being a leader is about trying to help other people focus on what their strengths are. So that you can guide them to be outstanding. Being a leader is not about being a boss, it’s about standing up and setting an example.”

He reflected on how he was able to save the “floundering” Miss America organization in 2005 and help it evolve into one of the top 10 television programs in the country over the course of 12 years. One of the keys in saving it, he says, was the relationships he built and maintained during his time in the industry.

“I started going to my friends in relationships that I had built through having leadership abilities,” he said. “When someone asks you what the most important thing you can have in your life is- relationships.”

Haskell concluded by saying true leaders should not get frustrated from criticism, but grow from it.

“If people criticize you, you must be doing something right,” he said. “Because if they aren’t, you aren’t doing anything at all.”