Our future in good hands

To those who want to bemoan the future of America, you should have been at Gloversville Middle School on Monday night.

The 25th annual Fulton County Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Leader-Herald, was a beautiful reminder that we’re not doomed yet. In fact, our future is very secure in the hands of the 33 bright young people who competed in Monday night’s spelling bee for a right to advance to the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md.

These 33 amazing youngsters, all fourth- to eighth-graders, displayed their intelligence, poise and maturity way beyond their years.

The Bee was a reminder that you can’t paint all kids — or whole generations — with the same brush. Do kids do crazy things sometimes? Find an adult among us who didn’t cross the “crazy” line before settling into adulthood. And as we all know, that journey to Adulthood doesn’t always come with a passport to Maturity. Read the police blotter on a daily basis, if you don’t believe that. Or look no further than the White House. Some of our less-mature adults even become President of the United States.

We know Donald Trump owns a “hacienda” or two, but can he spell the word? Collin Shea can.

It’s a little early to say whether Collin will someday become President of the United States, but we like his chances.

With confidence to spare under his mop of brilliant red hair, this little wisp of a fifth-grader at Mayfield Elementary School owned the night, ripping through words such as “junta” and “umlaut” and “mahatma”, whatever those mean.

In Tuesday’s edition of The Leader-Herald, our front-page headline proclaimed him the “Unflappable 5th grader,” because he was. We suspect there isn’t a word in the dictionary this kid can’t spell. But it’s not that he was able to correctly spell every word thrown at him for 13 rounds, it’s how he spelled them — without hesitation. Without a hint of a wobble.

In the end, it came down to him and his worthy opponent, Broadalbin-Perth eighth-grader Colleen Long, three grades older and a foot taller (adolesence is cruel that way).

With Long missing her last word, Collin — who tied for third place in last year’s competition as a fourth-grader — had to spell only one more word to win a trip to the national Bee.

Bill Ackerbauer, a former Leader-Herald editor and the highly accomplished pronouncer for this competition, gave Collin his word, then offered a definition, which he’s allowed to do.

Collin listened politely, but his eyes and his body language said, simply, “I’ve got this.”

And he confidently recited “hacienda … h-a-c-i-e-n-d-a … hacienda.”

Just like that, he had earned a trip to the national Bee, paid for by The Leader-Herald.

So the next time you hear about gangs and drugs, bullies and high school dropouts, think about Collin Shea and the 32 others who were on stage with him Monday night.

They are our hope for the future, and from where we sit, we think that future is looking pretty darn good.

By Patricia Older

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