Viewpoint: Pageant contestant answered the question

This country has come so far but the recent Miss USA pageant has brought to the forefront how tough it is to find a balance that's fair to all! We would not have developed as a nation if people were not allowed to speak their own mind on a variety of issues.

As parents, we often encourage our children to be courageous, stand up for what they believe and not back down. Not backing down does not mean "not" listening to other points of view or being open to new ideas, it simply means standing up for what you truly believe and being true to yourself.

In the various pageants that take place across the country, it's my understanding that the contestants are often coached to speak from their hearts and not just say what they believe the judges want to hear, so what's up with the recent Miss USA Pageant judges?

Are they truly saying that it's okay for you to speak what you believe, as long as it doesn't go against what those judges think and believe? What a discouraging message to future contestants that you might not win if the judges don't necessarily agree with your answer, no matter how poised, confident, and heartfelt your response is.

It seems the first runner-up to Miss USA, Miss California, paid a dear price for being honest about how she was brought up. In her answer to the same-sex marriage debate, she responded: "The way I was brought up, marriage is between a man and a woman."

She didn't say it offensively but just stated "her" belief. Maybe her answer wasn't the most politically correct answer in 2009 but it was "her" belief.

We encourage those responsible for selecting pageant judges in the future to stress how important it is for those judges to be open to other's opinions and beliefs, even if it doesn't agree with their lifestyles or experiences.