Good morning Miss America, and God bless you

One of the strongest memories of my time at St. Paul the Apostle Elementary School in Irvington N.J., was the sing-songy greeting we were taught to intone when a visitor entered our classroom. If the principal or the pastor came by, the class would rise en masse and greet him or her with a hearty “Good morning Sister/monsignor, and God Bless you!” What a beautiful way to address someone. Imagine if we employed that greeting in our everyday lives. I suspect we would lessen the incidents of profanity, rudeness and vulgarity in great measure. 

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a routine about atheists who sneeze. Instead of “God bless you,” he suggested that “You are so good looking” would be an acceptable substitute.  

Imagine the children of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Gardena, Calif. When they greet their principal, they could greet her correctly with “Good morning Miss America” and not get demerits for being wisenheimers!

Angela Perez Baraquio (Miss Hawaii 2000/Miss America 2001) is a first-year principal whose background is unique and inspiring. She will be here in Fall River this November 10 as the featured speaker for the 21st annual Fall Scholarship Dinner in support of the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education formerly known as the St. Mary’s Education Fund. 

In addition to devoting her incredible energy to leading a Catholic elementary school, Angie is a nationally-recognized speaker and author whose message of deep faith and resilience has become a welcome addition to the literature of Spirituality and faith-based improvement. Her story is unusual and inspirational. The eighth of 10 children, Angie was born of Filipino immigrants who traveled to America in search of a better life for their family. Thirty years after arriving in America, their daughter won the prestigious titles of Miss Hawaii and Miss America and was able to travel all over the country to inspire others with her personal story of adversity, triumph, tragedy, and hope. Angie made history as the first Asian-American woman, and the only teacher to win the title of Miss America since the pageant’s inception in 1921. 

The Miss America Organization is the largest scholarship provider for women in the world, and while progressing through the system, Angela earned the opportunity to graduate debt-free, earning more than $100,000 in scholarship assistance during her three-year involvement competing in the Miss America system. Angela earned her B.Ed. in elementary education with an emphasis in speech and an M.Ed in educational administration, both from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

She is the founder of the Angela Perez Baraquio Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and is a credentialed teacher in Hawaii and California. Angela taught as an elementary classroom teacher in Catholic schools for five years. In 2003, Angela was invited by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush as a special guest to a state dinner at the White House honoring Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. From 2006-2008 she served as a presidential appointee to President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation with 25 other high-profile leaders: including former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, Michael W. Smith, Hillary Duff, and actress Patricia Heaton.

As Miss America, Angela visited more than 40 states and traveled 20,000 miles a month on a national speaking tour called, “Character in the Classroom: Teaching Values, Valuing Teachers.” 

She is a wife, mother of four, classroom teacher, TV host, author, and business owner. However, in the midst of life’s many blessings, she has faced tragedy as well. In 2006 her world was rocked by the death of her younger brother by suicide.

Angela continues to speak to national audiences about character education and her passion for life. She enjoys being able to inspire others to achieve their own goals and dreams. 

Today, she is a leader in Culture of Life issues and continues to be a strong advocate for strong families and character education in schools and communities. At her core, Angela is a teacher; whether she is in her role as Miss America, a mother, or a business professional, she remains a teacher first. We are delighted to welcome this paragon for values based education to speak at the annual dinner. Our goal is to introduce her message of positive, faith-based dedication to our community as we face the challenges to Catholic education with her trademark optimism, courage and humor. If you are interested in hearing Angie speak or in learning more about FACE and our plans to assist all the schools of the diocese, please contact me at my email address. jccamfam@dioc-fr.org. We look forward to welcoming Angie and many supporters of our schools to the dinner. We promise to greet you with a resounding “God bless you!”

Anchor columnist James Campbell is director of the diocesan Development Office/Catholic Charities Appeal/Foundation to Advance Catholic Education.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts