What Alex Trebek has meant to me
I feel like I lost a part of the family today. Alex Trebek, long-time host of the game show Jeopardy, has died today at the age of 80. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, my family and I have played Jeopardy and even gone back into the vaults of old episodes available on YouTube to play more. It has been a wonderful way to spend time with my husband and two adult children, and it was a pleasant surprise when the game show successfully instituted pandemic safeguards that allowed filming to resume after a brief hiatus. Jeopardy and Trebek were a ‘safe place’ we could visit each evening, far removed from the hate-filled rhetoric that has consumed our country of late.
We all knew that Trebek had pancreatic cancer, but he looked so good. We were sure he had beaten the disease, and when his cause of death was not immediately disclosed, we thought he may have succeeded. Regardless, our entire family is saddened by the loss and extend our sincere condolences to the entire Trebek and Jeopardy families.
Jeopardy made me a better person. I have spent my entire life as a scientist and science writer, and it opened me up to so many other important fields of study, including art, music, history, religion, government, and many more. I learned, for example, that Swaziland is now known as Eswatini and that the play Inherit the Wind was about the Scopes Monkey Trial. While these things may seem like mere trivia to some people, they are more important than that because they inspired me to learn more. I have taken time, for example, to learn about the Bolshevik Revolution and the Boxer Rebellion; to read the great works of Hemingway, Thoreau, and many others; and to understand not only Greek and Roman mythology, but also to understand what it meant to the ancient Greeks and Romans. I have expanded my horizons beyond quarks and black holes to begin reading about the struggles of the Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s and to think about the parallels in America today. My grandmother came here from Northern Ireland in 1922, and my mother came here from Canada in 1964. The U.S. has been, and will continue to be, the great melting pot, and we need to protect that tradition.
Learning more about our world, and the people in it, goes far beyond Jeopardy. However, the important point here is that Jeopardy and Trebek were the impetus for my journey to not only explore topics I may not have bothered with otherwise but also to have empathy for people who may not share my world views. Reading, learning, and understanding is important to our survival as a species. It is what connects all of humanity. I will likely mourn the loss of Alex Trebek for some time, but I am thankful that he has been a part of our lives, and through reruns he will continue to be a part of our lives.
At this very critical juncture in U.S. history, having just elected a new president (Joe Biden) amidst a global pandemic and a deeply divided America, I implore others to take the time to learn more and to empathize with others who may not share your world views. If you haven’t already, please take the time to learn what it means to be an immigrant, to escape the tyranny of an oppressive government or to just seek a life with more opportunities to grow and prosper; please take the time to study history, particularly the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, who (like Trump) were also very popular when they rose to power; please take the time to understand why who we love is of no concern to anyone but ourselves; and please, please stop hating people for being different.
I started this article with a focus on Alex Trebek, and I will conclude on that note. Mr. Trebek was himself an immigrant. He came here from Canada and became a naturalized citizen in 1998. His father emigrated from Ukraine to Canada as a child. He was a philanthropist and humanitarian who helped people around the globe. He published his autobiography, The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life, a couple months ago and pledged to donate all proceeds to charity. Alex Trebek was truly a wonderful man.
As I type this, my 21-year-old son just stepped into my room with wet eyes to tell me that Alex Trebek had passed. I share his grief. It is amazing that a man that none of us knew personally could have such an impact on us. Thank you for years of enjoyment, Mr. Trebek.