First lady congratulates National Spelling Bee finalists

Jul 8, 2021, 4:50 AM | Updated: 5:01 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee got a visit from one of the nation’s most prominent educators: first lady Jill Biden.

The first lady met with spellers and their families before the bee Thursday evening and made brief remarks onstage. She planned to stay and watch the competition.

“I wanted to be here personally to tell you that the president and I are so proud of all that you’ve accomplished,” Biden said.

This year’s bee was delayed because of the pandemic and all preliminary rounds were held virtually. Only the 11 finalists are competing in person, at an ESPN campus near Walt Disney World in Florida. The finals will be televised on ESPN2.

Biden previously attended the bee in 2009 in Washington. She is an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, where she also worked during the eight years that President Joe Biden was vice president, and she has her own history in competitive spelling.

“In sixth grade I was my school’s spelling bee champion. I had a chance to go to the next level, but on the day of the regional competition, I told my mother that I was sick,” she told the spellers. “The truth was that I was too nervous to go, so I have incredible admiration for each and every one of you.”

The first lady has kept a busy schedule, traveling around the country to promote her husband’s policies and her own issues and causes.

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First lady congratulates National Spelling Bee finalists