Miss America Emma Broyles Honored as Sullivan’s “Alaskan of the Week”

WASHINGTON—On the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) recognized Emma Broyles, of Anchorage, who was crowned the 100th Miss America in December of 2021—the first Alaskan and the first Korean-American ever to achieve the title. As Miss Alaska and a contestant in the Miss America pageant, Broyles has championed the cause of Special Olympics, as well as young Americans who suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and related skin disorders. Broyles is currently a junior at Arizona State University studying biomedical sciences and voice performance, and hopes to become a dermatologist. Broyles was recognized as part of Sen. Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

Tribute to Emma Broyles 

Madam President, it has been a busy week. Let's face it--it has been a contentious week here in the U.S. Senate. We had a big vote last night. I spoke about the issues we were debating last night and a few times on the Senate floor. Just a minute ago, I introduced a bill of mine on a very serious topic regarding a possible war with China and Taiwan. So it has been busy.

To be honest, my team and I were focused on a lot of these issues, and we were thinking about skipping my favorite part of the week--coming down on the Senate floor and talking about the Alaskan of the week--but then we came across a Twitter meme. You almost have to see it to completely understand it, but the gist of it was this: We in the Senate can't achieve civility without an ``Alaskan of the Week'' speech at the end of the week to lift spirits here in the Senate.

I kind of appreciated that meme, so we wanted to make sure that we, after a rough, contentious couple of weeks, ended it on a note that was uplifting and to highlight another very special Alaskan, as I try to do pretty much every week, whose role right now in our country is, in fact, going to be about bringing civility and respect and emphasizing the importance of service to all people of the United States and across the globe. So I thought, what a great time for an ``Alaskan of the Week'' speech. I know the pages love it.

So let me introduce to you our Alaskan of the week this week: 20-year-old Emma Broyles from Anchorage, who broke through barriers to become the first Alaskan and the first Korean American ever to be crowned Miss America. This just happened a couple weeks ago. Emma is very well-deserving, as you will see, and when it was announced that she had won Miss America, when that happened, when her name was announced, she cried tears of joy, of course, and Alaskans across the State cheered. 

Now, every Miss America contestant picks a cause to champion. Special Olympics, which I love--I am probably Alaska's Special Olympics biggest fan--was Emma's cause.

The night of the event, they held a watch party at the Jim Balamici Special Olympics training center in Anchorage, which is a great facility. Our Special Olympian athletes were the loudest of any group in the State cheering for Emma and her great win. Then, of course, there is the huge, extended Korean-American family who was also cheering, laughing, and crying when it was announced that she had won.

After it was done, Emma told reporters: ``I didn't even expect to make the top 10. I was there for the good time and the cheesecake.'' That is Emma for you--funny, self-deprecating, humble, and real, just like her home State. She is the perfect Miss America to represent the great State of Alaska. 

So let me tell you about our Miss America, America's Miss America, Alaska's Miss America, and her goals going forward.

About 50 years ago, Emma's grandparents emigrated from Korea to Anchorage. They wanted to raise a family, to live the American dream. Alaska, of course, is a great place to do that.

By the way, we have the greatest, strongest, most incredible Korean-American community in Alaska, who are just incredible Americans. 

Emma's grandparents' daughter--Emma's mom--Julie was born in Anchorage, and so was her father Ron. Emma grew up a typical Alaskan kid--like my three daughters--fishing, winter sports, hard work at school, community-oriented. Her mom was a special education teacher, and her older brother has Down syndrome. 

Emma likes to say that she went to her first Special Olympics meet when she was in the womb, so she has been a fan literally from the beginning of her life, and that is one of the reasons she is so passionate about that issue. She knows firsthand, like many of us do, the power of Special Olympic athletes to inspire and to be such great representatives for inclusion and respect and healthy competition.

Emma graduated from Service High School and made her way to Arizona State University, where she is now a junior studying biomedical sciences and voice performance. She wants to be a doctor. In fact, she wants to be a dermatologist.

Emma shared something with the world during the Miss America pageant that was very brave, like so many young women are doing now, particularly our athletes who have to perform and have a platform and use that platform for good, to talk about some difficult issues. Emma told the world that she had been diagnosed with ADHD--attention deficit hyperactivity disorder--which led to chronic scratching and skin-pinching issues.

Now, we don't hear a lot about that, but roughly 2 percent of the population has this challenge, mostly young women. That is why Emma wants to be a dermatologist--to help young women like her who suffer from this disorder or other medical challenges.

``It was kind of a hard thing for me to share at first,'' Emma said, with the world during the pageant. ``I wasn't sure if I was ready to be that vulnerable, you know, on a national stage with hundreds [of] thousands of people watching.'' 

That is what she said, but she did it. She did it. That was very courageous, and we are better for it. 

With Emma's beautiful singing voice, her poise, her bravery in highlighting an issue that has caused her a lot of pain, her role of championing the Special Olympics, her heritage, her home State, the crown looked very natural and beautiful atop Emma's head, like it was meant to be there. 

Here is what she told a reporter after she won: 

There were a lot of people who felt like they saw themselves in me. 

She talked about all of the positive messages she had received from people all across America, Alaska, and the entire world after she won.

They told her how wonderful it was to see someone like them, someone who had similar issues or someone who has a family member who has a disability, and she talked about it courageously. They told her how wonderful it was ``seeing themselves in me and seeing this kind of relatable figure and someone they can look to.'' That is Emma.

I think you are starting to see what a great young woman she is. Like so many of us, she had a tough time during COVID last year, but she overcame it. She said, ``I hope that other people know that they can do the same thing,'' overcoming these challenges, ``whatever it is they're struggling with.''

So thank you, Emma, for being such an inspiration--incredible job, incredible courage, incredible poise.

I also--because I am talking about Emma--want to recognize so many other incredible Alaska women who have recently stepped up, done amazing things. 

We have a State of very strong women. I am lucky to be surrounded by them everywhere--my wife, my daughters, cousins, sisters-in-law.

There is a famous saying in our State, and when you come to Alaska, you see it everywhere--T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers. It is a simple saying: Alaska girls kick ass. 

Now, look, I am not sure I am supposed to be able to say that on the Senate floor, but I just did. I hope I am not going to get fined or anything. But take a look. It is everywhere in our State. I love the bumper stickers. 

And that, in the past year, has really proven to be true--truer than ever. We have our first Alaskan to win Miss America, our Alaskan of the Week today, Emma Broyles. We had our first Alaskan, Lydia Jacoby, to win a gold medal in swimming, where we don't even have an Olympic-size swimming pool. She won the breaststroke in an amazing race. She did such a great job that she is the first person in U.S. Senate history to be Alaskan of the Week twice--not sure that is ever going to happen again. 

We have the first Alaskan woman, Deniz Burnham, chosen to be a NASA astronaut. Another woman, Nichole Ayers, who was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, was also picked to be an astronaut. 

I don't know. It is something about breathing the air. 

And, as usual, we have winter olympians going to the Winter Olympics again this year, like we almost always do--strong, very strong, in that area: Rosie Brennan, Vicky Persinger.

And there is Quannah Chasinghorse, an Alaskan Native--a young Alaskan Native woman who was featured recently on the cover of Vogue. 

So it has been a great year for strong Alaskan women. And to Emma, I just want to say: You make us all proud. Congratulations on your incredible win: Miss America, first Alaskan ever. You have been an inspiration to us. Thank you for your courage, your willingness to speak out on tough issues and take up great causes like our Special Olympic athletes. And, of course, congratulations on being our Alaskan of the Week.

# # #