Congratulations to Sukanya Roy for emerging as the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee 1st place champion!
However, Sukanya isn’t the only champion (even though she made an inspiring accomplishment!). This year’s bee definitely had a great display of tenacity, talent, and poise from all 275 competitors. To all spellers who competed these past few days: take pride in your amazing feat. Each and every one of you had to attain victory in order to make it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, something that many kids dream of. Just think, thousands of other students and even adults watched you spell, in awe of your knowledge and poise. I recently talked to a friend who was watching the Bee –he said “These kids in the spelling bee make me feel dumb, but it’s helping me prepare for the SAT Vocab!”
Upon reflecting on your performance in the bee, some of you may feel happy and some of you might feel disappointed. I remember in my final year at the bee in 2008, I couldn’t help but feel very disappointed in my performance because I thought I could have done better. I asked myself why I had gotten the ‘bad luck’ instead of progressing to the next round. But after misspelling gastaldo, something happened that actually changed my perspective. Both Kavya and Sidharth stood to give me a standing ovation, which made me realize that being able to maintain my dignity in such a situation actually gained me respect and approval from others. I know that it’s a lot harder to lose and pick yourself up than it is to win, but there’s a lot of value that can be found in such an experience. For me, I had to learn that it really didn’t matter whether or not I could spell gastaldo or not. What mattered from my four years of experience at the Bee was that I learned something about poise, perseverance, and sportsmanship. And even though to many it seemed like ‘just a spelling bee’, I ultimately learned a lot about myself in possibly one of the most important experiences in my life so far.
You see, the interesting thing about defeats is that if you choose to embrace them, they will always take you somewhere. After returning home from D.C and getting ready for my freshman year, I wondered what I would do to ‘replace’ the spelling bee in my life. Interestingly enough, I found speech and debate. By coincidence, an older team member had seen an article in the paper about me in the spelling bee. He convinced me to write a speech about my experience in the bee, but I would have to come up with a theme or life lesson that could be conveyed in my speech. I ended up writing an oratory entitled “Ding!”, which recounted my experience of ‘losing’ at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Its binding theme was how failure can be embraced to bring about success. As if my own speech was teaching me a lesson, I was successful enough with my speech to compete at the 2010 NFL (National Forensics League) National Tournament. Since then, I have have not stopped writing and delivering speeches with the confidence, dignity, and courage that I learned from being up on stage at the Bee! That was simply my story; I’m sure if you talk to other spellers from the past they can recount similar stories! Countless spellers have gone on to do great things and lead very successful, inspirational lives. Here’s a just a few:
Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve. Competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1964
Rajiv Tarigopula, four year competitor (highest finish: 4th place), current student at Harvard and writer for the Harvard Political Review
Paige Kimble, 1980 competitor (2nd place) and 1981 champion, director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee
Evan O’Dorney, four year competitor and 2007 champion. Intel STS Champion and 2nd place at International Math Olympiad.
So even though the bee may be coming to a close, keep in mind there will be abundance of great opportunities once you get home (many which might benefit from things you learned from the bee!).You will be successful, as long as you persevere and believe in your abilities.
I suppose I shall sum it up with some…cheesy lyrics..Don’t Stop Believin’.