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The new Miss America is an active duty Air Force officer

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Air Force Second Lieutenant Madison Marsh has made history. She is the first active-duty service member to be crowned Miss America.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MISS AMERICA 2024")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Miss Colorado, Madison Marsh.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The pilot, who is 22 years old, graduated from the Air Force Academy last year with a degree in physics. Marsh is also the president of the Whitney Marsh Foundation, named in honor of her mother who died of pancreatic cancer.

INSKEEP: Madison and her family created the nonprofit to raise awareness of the disease and also raise money for research. During the Miss America competition, she talked about the experience of losing her mom.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MISS AMERICA 2024")

MADISON MARSH: I've understood, and I've had to know when my last conversation with my mom would be. And for many of you, you will never get that chance. So teaching others to say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, we are the change that we've been waiting for.

MARTIN: As a graduate intern at Harvard Medical School, Marsh is currently working on using artificial intelligence to detect pancreatic cancer, and she is pursuing a degree in public policy.

INSKEEP: Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARSH: I joined Miss America because I get to wear as many hats as I want. And by that I mean I get to be Miss Colorado, but I'm also an Air Force officer, a Harvard Medical School researcher and a pilot. Because in the Miss America opportunity, you really can be anything.

INSKEEP: Think of all the different hats. And now, of course, she's also got a crown.

MARTIN: Steve, not feeling inadequate at all over here today. No, sir.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I can - but I guess at 22, you were also an overachiever?

INSKEEP: Oh, yes. Definitely. Not in the Miss America pageant, but I was broke in New York City, freelancing journalism pieces and trying desperately to pay the rent.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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