Remarks on Greeting the Finalists of the National Spelling Bee

June 6, 1983

Hello there. Well, first let me welcome all of you spellers to the White House and let me compliment you -- and that's compliment with an ``i'' not complement with an ``e''. I want to compliment you with an ``i'' on your accomplishments. You're the 137 finalists out of 8 to 9 million students who participated in this National Spelling Bee. That's quite an honor, and you should be very proud.

You know, because of this event, I learned that the study of spelling is called orthography. Orthography -- that's o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a- . . . uh . . . p . . . ummm . . . [laughter] . . . ummm . . . h-y. [Laughter] No, I'm sure you already knew that, and you were just proving it, but I thought I'd give you that just in case they asked for it on Wednesday.

But all of us are proud not only of your spelling ability but of your determination to increase your knowledge. I wish all American students were as interested in their studies as you evidently are and have been. And I wish all teachers and parents took an interest in their children's educational development as your parents and teachers have taken in yours.

Now, on Wednesday, you're going to be feeling the pressure of the competition. But I want you to know that you're already -- all of you -- winners in my book and in the hearts of your hometowns. So, enjoy the competition and enjoy your trip to Washington. I hope you've been having some fun and seeing some of the sights here.

I'm told you're on your way to a barbecue. That sounds like fun, so I don't want to hold you up. But, again, let me wish you all the best of luck on Wednesday. And remember, ``i'' before ``e'' except after ``c.'' [Laughter] That ought to help a little.

You know, I have to tell you one story. People can get so sure of themselves. I know you must have heard, or read in your studies, about the author of many years ago, Mark Twain. Mark Twain was on a ship going across to Europe. And in the dining salon that night at dinner, someone wanting to impress him at the table asked him to pass the sugar and then said, ``Mr. Twain, don't you think it's unusual that sugar is the only word in our language in which `s-u' has the `shu' sound?'' And Mark Twain said: ``Are you sure?'' [Laughter]

Well, good luck to all of you, and as I say, you're all winners, and you all have every reason to be proud. So win, lose, or tie, we're proud of all of you. And I maybe have time to just come down and say hello to a few of you here, and I'm going to do that.

Note: The President spoke at 3:36 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.