LeVar Burton To Host Scripps National Spelling Bee

“I want to normalize the pursuit of knowledge,” he says.

You know how the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens” — and for LeVar Burton it appears that none shall be shut on America’s most beloved actor and children’s television host.

According to ABC7, Scripps has ended its longtime partnership with ESPN, which televised the National Spelling Bee from 1994 through this year, and has landed on Burton to take over hosting duties of the telecast. Burton, 64, also became the host of the revamped version of Trivial Pursuit, and in adding such a prestigious role to his IMDb, continues his long-standing tradition of putting education first.

“[The bee] represents the inspirational, aspirational ideal of education,” Burton said in a released statement. “I want to normalize the pursuit of knowledge in this culture. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it?” Burton said. “Not just making stuff up and calling it a fact. Achievement through knowledge, scholarship, putting in the work to gain the reward.”

Related: Zaila Avant-garde Wins Scripps Spelling Bee 2021

Burton, who comes from a family of educators, played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation and is also a longtime literacy advocate as the host of Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton Reads podcast. He described the opportunity as one of many that have come his way since his unsuccessful public campaign to become the permanent host of Jeopardy!

Self-described as an “above-average but hardly distinguished” speller, Burton cheered for this year’s champion, Zaila Avant-garde — the first Black American winner in the bee’s history — and said the recent dominance of South Asian spellers should also be celebrated. Until this year, the bee had an Indian-American champion or co-champion every year since 2008.

“Zaila was a surprise, and a bit of an anomaly,” Burton told the Associated Press. “I’m big for rooting for the underdog. As an underdog myself, I really identify.”

Burton’s hire comes as Scripps has undergone several major changes since director J. Michael Durnil took over earlier this year. As mentioned above, Scripps dissolved its 27-year partnership with ESPN, which brought the bee to millions of viewers and now is promoted like a major sporting event in its own right.

The 2022 installment will air on the Scripps-owned networks ION and Bounce and will stream online. According to Scripps, those networks are each available in nearly 120 million U.S. households.

How do you spell glorious: L-e-V-a-r! Congratulations!

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