ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — An Ivy League graduate headed to law school, with eyes on becoming her state's first female governor, Miss North Dakota Cara Mund knew the importance of answering a question head-on.
So when judges at the Miss America competition asked her whether President Donald Trump was wrong to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords that seek to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, she did not hesitate.
"It's a bad decision," she said during Sunday night's nationally televised finale. "There is evidence that climate change is existing, and we need to be at that table."
That answer helped her win the crown as Miss America 2018 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
Meeting with reporters afterward, Mund said she wanted first and foremost to give a real answer to the question.
"I wasn't really afraid if my opinion wasn't the opinion of my judges," she said. "Miss America needs to have an opinion and she needs to know what's happening in the current climate."
On Monday, after taking the winner's traditional morning-after dip in the Atlantic City surf, Mund reiterated that the U.S. should be part of the talks on greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.
"My onstage question answer was just my personal opinion," she told The Associated Press. "I think everyone has a right to think what they want. But it's important to have a spot at the negotiating table. This isn't necessarily: 'Does climate change exist or not?' but rather the fact that we're going to keep our Earth clean for future generations, and I just think it's really important that we have a seat there. To pull out, I think, is just really unfortunate."
Trump, who once owned the now-shuttered Atlantic City casino next door to where Mund spoke on Monday, has said the Paris accord was a bad deal economically for the United States. He has also called global warming a hoax.
Mund wants to one day be the first woman elected governor of North Dakota. She would not say if she is registered with any political party.
"I have my personal opinions, and I'd rather say I'm not a Republican and I'm not a Democrat. I'm an American," she said.
Mund did an internship last year with U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who praised her selection as Miss America.
"She did a fabulous job and we could not have been more excited when she won," Hoeven said. "Cara is well-deserving of the crown and does a wonderful job representing North Dakota. We have no doubt she will continue to make our state proud during her reign as Miss America."
Mund went to high school with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, graduating a year after he did.
She is the first contestant from North Dakota to win the Miss America crown. She graduated from Brown University and will enter law school when her time as Miss America is over.
Trump also figured in another question asked of a finalist onstage. Miss Missouri Jennifer Davis, who was first runner-up, was asked if Trump's presidential campaign colluded with Russia last year.
She said she does not think enough information has been revealed to support such a charge at this point.
"We should investigate it to its fullest extent, and if we do find evidence, the justice system should do their due diligence," she said.
The second runner up was Miss New Jersey Kaitlyn Schoeffel; third runner up was Miss District of Columbia Briana Kinsey, and fourth runner up was Miss Texas Margana Wood.