Beyond the Sound Barrier

Deaf Americans are proud that one of their own is Miss America. But can her example apply to them?

The green-eyed brunette had scored high in the swimsuit competition. She had received repeated ovations during her talent program, a ballet set to the religious pop anthem Via Dolorosa. But it was during the beauty contest's final, brief Q&A that Miss Alabama, 21, performed her most moving feat. She answered a question. Her voice was a bit fluty and her consonants soft, but the college junior clearly understood Regis Philbin's query about self- realization; and her reply, a paean to belief in oneself, was obviously deeply felt. Minutes later, when Heather Whitestone, who is deaf in one ear and has only...

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