Name: Patricia Campbell

CLAIM TO FAME: As Miss Teen Pennsylvania, she criticized welfare reforms.

Broadcast between the Republican and the Democratic conventions, the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant should have been an amusing diversion from election-year politics. Yet, in what might be the ultimate condemnation of the state of democratic dialogue, 18-year-old Patricia Campbell, Miss Teen Pennsylvania, sashayed onstage in a white evening gown and critiqued President Clinton’s approval of welfare reforms with more uncensored spunk than anyone at either convention.

Most of Campbell’s peers at the pageant stuck with benign topics, such as animal rights and anything having to do with children. “There are really bright girls, but the majority are somewhat vapid and don’t have any concerns about what’s going on outside their little lives,” says a pageant organizer.

But as one of three finalists asked the question, “If you could talk with the president about the problems facing teenagers, what would you want to discuss?” Campbell eschewed tried-and-true responses, such as “teenage AIDS and the need for abstinence” (advocated by eventual winner Christie Lee Woods, Miss Teen Texas). Instead, she answered, “I’d want to discuss the welfare [reform] that President Clinton has created. I think he really should have looked into it more before he signed it. He’s signing off on women who [now have to] leave their children without a national daycare program.”

Sound tame? Campbell actually said more about the welfare bill than the woman charged with dealing with its human fallout: Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who spoke at the Democratic convention.

“I/m not the type of person to stand by if I disapprove of something,” says Campbell, who is taking a semester off before she enters Clark Atlanta University in Georgia to study broadcast journalism. “I think I represented the real issues of my community and my state very well by answering as I did.” Even if all that truth-telling might have cost her the tiara and more than $150,000 in cash and prizes? “If I believe something, I’m going to say it, regardless of what I’m going to gain or lose in return.”

Know of any people who are raising a bit of hell? E-mail hellraiser@motherjones.com

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.