Miss D.C. and fellow state title winners at the Tidal Basin Tuesday. (Len DePas)

“Hi! How you doing?” said Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan. “Great to meet you!”

The blond bundle of enthusiasm before us Tuesday night at the Capitol Hill Club is just 18, but has the poise, ambition and firm handshake of a seasoned politician — which is what she wants to be.

“I would like to start out as an attorney, actually,” she told us. “I want to be in criminal prosecution as a trial attorney and hopefully become a federal judge.” Then politics: “I really think that it’s important for my generation to step up into those roles... I constantly hear: ‘Stay out of politics. You don’t want to get in there, you’re too good for that!’ It really shows me all the more why we need to get involved.”

Just the perfect sound bite when you’re in the nation’s capital, isn’t it? Scanlan and a handful of state title holders who competed in January’s scholarship pageant blitzed through Washington this week, bringing their rhinestone crowns and wholesome glamour to the gray, cold city, including visits to the Capitol, the Croatian Embassy and a lunch on Wednesday at Cafe Milano.

Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan with Croatian Ambassador Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovi. (Valerie Clemens)

Scanlan, of course, was the star attraction: Just 17 when she won the crown, she’s the youngest Miss A since the organization established age minimums in the 1930s. She’s also the first-ever winner from Nebraska.

After her reign, she’s headed to Patrick Henry College in Virginia, a Christian college popular with home-schoolers. But first, a year of inspirational speeches and pictures with giddy fans. “I love every aspect of this job,” Scanlan declared. “I’m passionate about it. I’m just honored I get the privilege to do it.”

While Scanlan posed in a red gown and tiara, the state winners moved through Tuesday’s Hill-centric fundraiser for the D.C. pageant like peacocks through a flock of pigeons: crowns, sashes, bejeweled sandals. Each packed a pink cocktail dress for what turned out to be a goose-bump-cold photo-op under the cherry blossoms of the Tidal Basin.

“In pageants, you can never be too overdressed,” said Miss D.C. 2010, GW medical student Stephanie Williams. “When you’re wearing a rhinestone tiara on your head, anything goes. Sequins, rhinestones, we love it all.”

“This is the prettiest event I’ve ever done,” sighed D.C. pageant board member Lisa Spies.

The Phyllis George look-alike at the reception turned out to be not a former Miss A, but Croatia’s former foreign minister and now ambassador to the United States, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who threw a party for the beauty queens Monday because Scanlan’s grandparents are Croatian. The women also met with their congressmen and reps from their chosen platform. Miss New York, Claire Buffie, made national headlines as the first Miss America contestant to have a gay-rights platform.

“I knew with my platform I was going to have a big year,” she told us. “It’s gone far beyond what I imagined.” Her next step? She said she’s weighing options that might never have come her way without the tiara.

Scanlan was one of the last to leave the party, never taking a break from chatting up strangers. She’s eligible to run for Congress in just seven years. Place your bets now, people.