President Barack Obama on Thursday met with 2009 spelling champ Kavya Shivashankar (left). Joining Kavya in the Oval Office were her sister, Vanya, and parents, Sandy and Mirle Shivashankar.
There is next year, I am sure.
"Olathe spelling family spends 15 minutes with Obama"
June 3rd, 2010
The Kansas City Star
June 3rd, 2010
The Kansas City Star
It took a year, but Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe finally got to meet the president.
The 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, along with her parents and 8-year-old sister, Vanya — a bee contestant herself for the first time — spent 15 minutes with President Barack Obama inside the Oval Office on Thursday.
“It was just so electrifying,” Kavya said afterward. “When I won the bee last year, I asked when I was going to get to meet the president. I thought it might not happen. But just two days ago, we got the call.”
The family and the president chatted about the spelling bee, which was going on at that very moment at a hotel just a few blocks away; the importance he places on education, and then Vanya said she had a question.
“Are you going to ask me to spell something?” Obama asked.
But Vanya just wanted to ask about Bo, the president’s dog.
A brief cab ride through the rain took them back to the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel, the site of the bee, where they learned that Vanya — the youngest speller in this year’s competition — had not made the cut to the Friday semifinals.
But no one in the family seemed downcast, least of all her. “It was just a great experience being on the stage and spelling the words, even if you get it wrong,” she said.
None of the Kansas City metro area spellers in the bee made it past Thursday’s third round.
They were: Jordan Gabriella Hoffman, 12, a sixth-grader at Highland Park Elementary School in Lee’s Summit; Chloe X. Granger, 14, an eighth-grader at Lakeview Middle School in Kansas City, and Seth Acup, 14, an eighth-grader at Heartland Christian School in Belton.
Under the rules, no speller is eliminated during the first three rounds. Everyone in the field of 273 contestants remained a contender, although an errant vowel or missing consonant in the round one written exam or the round two and three oral competitions reduced their chances of advancing.
Based on a scoring system, 48 contestants will compete in the semifinals this morning, to be aired live on ESPN. The finals will be 7 p.m. tonight on ABC.
The competition is literally a heady atmosphere; a ballroom full of brainpower, with no speller older than 14. More than a third speak languages other than English, from Hindi to Hebrew, with some Tagalog (the Philippines) and Telegu (India) thrown in.
Their top career choice is physician. Author and engineer tied for second. They also like pizza, “Avatar” and the Harry Potter series.
After the semifinalists were announced, there were embraces, both happy and sad.
“You worked really hard to get this far,” one father said softly to his son, who hadn’t made the cut. “You should be really proud.”
Nearby, a mother gently rubbed her daughter’s arm.
For her part, Vanya has every intention of coming back. After all, it took her older sister several years to make it as far as she did. Meanwhile, all still wore the glow of having been invited to the White House to meet Obama.
“It’s not like the president doesn’t have that much going on,” said Mirle Shivashankar, their father. “To take the 15 minutes that he took, it was just overwhelming. When he walked out of the Oval Office through that door and here comes this tall figure — my God, I was pinching myself.”
All in the family?...the Shivashankar sisters