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Routed in Rehearsal by Alex Trebek


Exciting times at headquarters, as state champions from across the nation have descended on Washington for the National Geographic Bee finals. All of these kids are winners who know an astonishing amount about our world. To make it this far, students in grades four through eight had to answer increasingly tough questions and outlast a field of more than five million competitors to advance through school and state rounds.


Further competition this week winnowed the field to ten finalists, who vie today for the National Geographic Bee championship. (You can meet each of the finalists on David Braun’s NatGeo News Watch blog.)


In what’s become an annual reminder of just how much these kids know, and how much I have to learn, I sat in for one of the finalists—Michigan’s Kenji Golimlim—during the dress rehearsal yesterday with Jeopardy! (and National Geographic Bee Finals) host Alex Trebek in our Grosvenor Auditorium.


With a wry grin, Alex admonished me and the other staff stand-ins to “keep it down” as he arrived.


After several minutes of preparation, including clipping microphones to us all and testing the green lights before us—two, one for each incorrect answer permitted before risking dismissal—the contest began. Alex introduced us by the names of our student counterparts. “You all look so bright,” he observed as he walked the stage. Then he paused, looked us over once more, and quipped, “Well, most of you do.”


I was delighted to survive the first round of questions unscathed. I went down hard, however, in the second and third, and was quickly out of the running. Small comfort that three others got sent packing with me.


The next question took out a few more, and soon enough our hardy ten had been reduced to two. In the end, National Geographic Maps’ David Miller emerged the victor of our pseudo-match. (My complaint that career cartographers should compete with a handicap, as outstanding golfers do in casual matches, fell on deaf ears.)


You can watch the genuine finalists compete on the National Geographic Channel later today, and on PBS affiliates (check your local schedule for times).

Photographs by Ford Cochran