Authoritarianism — a noun meaning enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom. But, to Drew David, eighth-grader at Dubose Middle School, that word means far more.
Authoritarianism is the word that David spelled to win the regional spelling bee and earn a place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Because of his grade level, this is his last year of eligibility.
“I am nervous and a little bit excited,” David said. “I have been doing this since fifth grade, and this is my last chance.”
David has won the district spelling been for the last three years, however this is his first time winning the regional bee and making it to the finals.
David wants everyone to know that spelling bees are not as simple as they appear on television.
“It takes a lot of practice,” he said.
David practices for at least one to 2 hours a day in preparation for competitions. However, his routine is not just merely reading a dictionary and memorizing how words are spelled. It includes studying definitions, word origins, and also any alternate pronunciations. In addition, David reads quite a bit
“If you read more complex books you see some of the words they use,” he said.
Those words include ones from the 600-word list, provided by the bee’s organizers, that can be used in the competition.
David’s road to the spelling bee began very simply. He explained he found the idea of the spelling bee fun and interesting.
“I started in fifth grade. I thought it was interesting and made it all the way to the district, and after that I thought that it was really fun,” he said.
But it hasn’t been a lone journey; David also credits his parents and his school for his success.
“My mom helps me a lot and the school and staff too,” he said. “My parents are always making me strive to do greater.”
David pointed out that the biggest threat to good spellers are the nerves that surface when competing on stage. He said that the pressure of being in front of a crowd and on television is often too much for even the most skilled competitors.
“It seems pretty simple but the nerves add another element,” he said. “A lot of good spellers fall to nerves and will miss a letter or make other mistakes.”
David also explained that crowd distractions such as coughing, cell phones, or a noisy child can make a big difference as well. But to combat nerves, his remedy is simple. He said he takes a deep breath and uses his finger to write out the word on his hand. Another strategy he uses is asking for each word’s origin, which he said often helps better break down the word’s spelling.
“Asking the origin always helps, for example in German words the W sounds like a V which can help when trying to spell the word on stage,” David said.
David said though the easiest words for him to spell are Greek and Latin words due to the fact that they have a lot of stems that can be broken down. Adding that authoritarianism, the word he won the region with, is a Latin word.
Since it is the last year for David to compete he said that he is relieved because the competitions are often strenuous, but also has enjoyed competing.
“It is bittersweet because, even though it is nerve-racking, it is pretty fun,” he said.
If David is able to outlast the 564 other spellers vying for the first place prize he will win a trophy and a $50,000 cash prize. He already has a plan on how he would like to spend the money.
“Half of it will go toward my college savings, and I would keep some for myself; and the rest I would give to a family or friend, I guess,” David said.
DuBose Middle School will be having a “send-off” celebration for David on Friday. He will receive the well-wishes of his classmates, teachers and district office members.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee will air on ESPN, starting with round two, at 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday.