Miss USA talks science and Trump: I’m not trying to please everyone – USA TODAY
It’s not every day that you hear a pageant contestant launch into a minutes-long explanation of isotope reactors.
But listening to Kára McCullough excitedly describe the job-creating powers of new energy technology, it’s clear that the new Miss USA is full of surprises. McCullough’s backstory wowed viewers during the pageant Sunday night, as the 25-year-old Miss District of Columbia described her impressive day job as a scientist with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Another surprise came during the pageant’s question portions, where she deviated from the other contestants’ more predictable answers, telling the audience that she believes healthcare is a privilege, not a right, and sees herself more as an “equalist” than a feminist.
McCullough has spent much of her first week as Miss USA clarifying those comments, telling USA TODAY that she doesn’t regret what she said onstage. “The beauty of America is that we all have an opinion, and we all have the right to say how we feel, and it’s amazing so many people spoke out on the situation and contributed their two cents,” she said. “I just hope and pray that people still have an open mindset, rather than staying so close-minded.”
McCullough shut down the idea that the politically diverse media tour she embarked on this week, speaking to outlets ranging from Cosmopolitan to conservative radio shows, was an attempt at political posturing.
“I believe it’s coming from a place of authenticity,” she said. “I’m not saying I’m out here trying to please everyone, because actually, that’s something that can’t be done. My whole purpose is so people can get clarification on what I said, and so people can understand that I do have a voice.”
Before her opinions made national headlines, McCullough was familiar with how politics can shape Americans’ lives America’s pro-science values are currently a hot-button topic, and when asked about whether current debates over the future of science have shaken her and her colleagues, McCullough stayed positive.
“At the end of the day, I am in the midst of this,” she said. “I don’t feel as if anyone has lost faith. I believe it’s a wake-up call for everyone worldwide, to show you always need to be producing in your field. Essentially, there are things we have to be aware of at the agency, because of the way the administration is moving. But I hope and pray we’re moving forward. And things are changing that are going to benefit the next generation of students that are coming in looking for jobs. That’s just how I’m looking at everything at this point.”
When it comes to changes McCullough would like to see in how the government treats science, “definitely, more funding opportunities,” are at the top of her list. “I’m hoping to really do something like that with my program, Science Exploration for Kids. The students that are going into these fields, I would like to see them rewarded with internships and great education. Those opportunities are already out there, but could there be more? Absolutely.”
And to other young people thrust into the public eye as she was, McCullough offered advice for navigating similarly tricky situations.
“Just breathe,” she said. “There are going to be some naysayers, but at your core you have to be confident in your beliefs, and I’ve learned that over the past two or three days.”