Thursday, June 3, 2010

YOU CAN TELL A LOT ABOUT A FELLOW'S CHARACTER BY HIS WAY OF EATING JELLYBEANS: As many of you who have been following this blog for the past few years know, I was lucky enough to participate in the Scripps (then Scripps-Howard) National Spelling Bee in 1983. It's hard to believe that it was 27 years ago.

I was Googling today to see if I could find any photos from the event, and though I was unsuccessful, I did find a link to this in the online archives of President Ronald Reagan:

Remarks on Greeting the Finalists of the National Spelling Bee
June 6, 1983

Hello there. Well, first let me welcome all of you spellers to the White House and let me compliment you -- and that's compliment with an ``i'' not complement with an ``e''. I want to compliment you with an ``i'' on your accomplishments. You're the 137 finalists out of 8 to 9 million students who participated in this National Spelling Bee. That's quite an honor, and you should be very proud.

You know, because of this event, I learned that the study of spelling is called orthography. Orthography -- that's o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a- . . . uh . . . p . . . ummm . . . [laughter] . . . ummm . . . h-y. [Laughter] No, I'm sure you already knew that, and you were just proving it, but I thought I'd give you that just in case they asked for it on Wednesday.

But all of us are proud not only of your spelling ability but of your determination to increase your knowledge. I wish all American students were as interested in their studies as you evidently are and have been. And I wish all teachers and parents took an interest in their children's educational development as your parents and teachers have taken in yours.

Now, on Wednesday, you're going to be feeling the pressure of the competition. But I want you to know that you're already -- all of you -- winners in my book and in the hearts of your hometowns. So, enjoy the competition and enjoy your trip to Washington. I hope you've been having some fun and seeing some of the sights here.

I'm told you're on your way to a barbecue. That sounds like fun, so I don't want to hold you up. But, again, let me wish you all the best of luck on Wednesday. And remember, ``i'' before ``e'' except after ``c.'' [Laughter] That ought to help a little.

You know, I have to tell you one story. People can get so sure of themselves. I know you must have heard, or read in your studies, about the author of many years ago, Mark Twain. Mark Twain was on a ship going across to Europe. And in the dining salon that night at dinner, someone wanting to impress him at the table asked him to pass the sugar and then said, ``Mr. Twain, don't you think it's unusual that sugar is the only word in our language in which `s-u' has the `shu' sound?'' And Mark Twain said: ``Are you sure?'' [Laughter]

Well, good luck to all of you, and as I say, you're all winners, and you all have every reason to be proud. So win, lose, or tie, we're proud of all of you. And I maybe have time to just come down and say hello to a few of you here, and I'm going to do that.

Note: The President spoke at 3:36 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Obviously, other than the competition itself, meeting the President, shaking his hand and getting his autograph were the things I remember most from that week.

I also remember that our parents were unhappy that they had to wait on the bus while we were in the Rose Garden. My mom ended up hanging out with Blake Giddens' mom; he went on to win the Bee and became a Bee judge later on.

I wonder if the kids routinely get to visit the White House and get a private tour and meet the President as we did. We also went to the National Zoo, many of the monuments and memorials, and Baltimore Harbor.

Against my better judgment, you can see some of my personal photos from that week here. We may have been spelling dorks, but man, we had fun during that week.


  1. Heather, those pictures were brilliant! Thanks for posting them.

  2. Thanks, Heather, for sharing the speech and the fab photos.  I didn't know about the online archives for Ronald Reagan's speeches.  I just looked and found the remarks he made for a ceremony I attended in 1987.  I was lucky that my parents were able to attend as well, but apparently Reagan had stopped shaking students' hands and giving autographs because someone had passed him a politically charged message at a previous year's event.  Bummer.

  3. Jennifer J.12:41 AM

    Heather, thank you so much for taking the time to post the archived speech and the photos. As always thanks for being here to share in our love for Word Nerd Glory! :)

  4. calliekl5:48 AM

    Heather, thanks for the photos! They were great! And the speech is wonderful. I will be passing that along today!

  5. sconstant7:53 AM


  6. Charles8:30 AM

    We went to the Rose Garden to see President Reagan at the 1986 Bee. I still have the napkin--with the presidential seal--that came with the lemonade they gave us. I found that speech online one time--I'll have to compare it with this one to see if they recycled it!

    I don't think the spellers get to meet the president now. They didn't get to in the early 1990s, when I worked on the Bee staff, though four of the 1991 finalists got to meet the first President Bush in the Oval Office. As I recall, he gave them little boxes of candy with the presidential seal.

  7. Nice collar, Reilly.

    I think the practice in recent years is that whoever's making it to primetime visits the WH in the afternoon and gets to visit with whoever's around.  I expect Jim Messina to offer Tim Ruiter a job.

  8. Mary Ann G10:26 AM

    Heather, thanks so much for posting these photos!  They're GREAT!!!  I"m so glad you've kept the news clippings and photos.  I've got a big "memory box" for Cat, but never got them in an official scrapbook....yet.  It's great to keep these.  It's a wonderful tradition, and we're proud of you! 

  9. Heather, thanks for sharing this - especially the pictures!

  10. Marsha11:35 AM

    LOVE the photos, Heather. You're awesome. (But you already knew that.)