edifying(ˈe-də-ˌfī-iŋ) adj. instructive or informative in a way that improves the mind or character
Witnessing the Scripps National Spelling Bee from behind the scenes was both inspirational and informative, a truly edifying experience.
Some places in the world are sacred for specific groups. For spellers in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, that place is Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, just outside of Washington, D.C.
My joint internship with Vehr Communications and The E.W. Scripps Company gave me an inside view of the 92nd Bee recently, an unforgettable and edifying experience. As I approached the Gaylord – a monolithic venue whose size matched the scale of the event – to kick off this weeklong adventure, I could tell that this would be an event like no other.
The Opening Ceremony, emceed by motivational speaker Jon Petz, set the tone for the week and asserted in plain English what was already apparent from the atmosphere in the room: The Scripps National Spelling Bee isn’t merely a competition but a celebration.
This celebratory mood was the recognition of the hard work completed and yet to come, and it was clearly felt by Bee Week staffers as well as the spellers.
Once the initial jubilation wore off, spellers and staff rolled up their sleeves and got to work, relying on each other for support and collaboration.
Every correct spelling brought about a moment of catharsis not only for the speller but everyone in the room. When a participant misspelled, he or she was immediately embraced and commended by peers. It’s this communal spirit that makes the Scripps National Spelling Bee such a unique event.
On the night of Thursday, May 30, the spellers achieved something extraordinary.
The evening started with 16 finalists – excited for each other, excited for themselves but well aware of the challenge in front of them.
Each speller approached the mic and was greeted by Bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly, whose friendly voice cut through the silence. For 10 rounds, only congratulations for a correct speller or bittersweet applause for an incorrect one broke the nervous energy in the room.
As the day marched on, it became clear that the Bee was in uncharted territory as speller after speller remained in contention. With few words remaining that would challenge the eight spellers left onstage, Bailly announced that all spellers who made it through the next three rounds would be declared champions.
The once-orderly crowd became untethered and raucous. As spellers approached for their final words, audience members shouted their names and cheered them on. Silence would only return as the spellers began their words, then the excitement would flare up again as they passed the pressure on to the next speller.
The outcome of the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee would’ve seemed impossible before that night, but by the end, all eight finalists were crowned champions.
More than just unprecedented, the Bee was edifying, illuminating what it takes for individuals and teams – most of all the spellers but also the Bee staff members – to achieve at the highest level.
Bee week revealed that when we face personal or professional obstacles, two key steps must be taken. First, we must celebrate obstacles, because each one brings a lesson and its own sense of agency. Second, when possible we must immerse ourselves in a supportive environment that diminishes the fear of failure, because without it, we may not expend our strongest effort.
The Bee gave every participant – speller and professional alike – this lesson and packaged it in an unforgettable experience.
This year there were eight winners at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but there were certainly no losers.