Why Alex Trebek Means So Much to Immigrant Kids

Days before he passed, an emotional clip of me telling Alex Trebek I learned to speak English by watching "Jeopardy!" went viral. This is for him.

Burt Thakur

November 18, 2020

Why Alex Trebek Means So Much to Immigrant Kids
(Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Last week, a video of Alex Trebek and me went viral. A few days later, he passed away. 

In the video, I am telling him how I learned to speak English by watching Jeopardy! sitting on my grandfather’s lap as a child. Suddenly, for a ferocious few seconds, it was the late 1980s, and I was a child in our apartment in Mineola, NY, feeling the rasp of my grandfather’s crinkled-paper hands holding mine, wrapping my head around the fuzzy contours of a new language that I was just beginning to understand. I hadn’t planned on telling Alex the story, but I realized I might never have the chance to again. Alex’s reaction was one of shocked gratitude. I cried; in the studio, there wasn’t a dry eye left either. I thought the show was over and the cameras were off; that anecdote was for Alex Trebek, not something I thought anyone, let alone over 5 million viewers on the internet, would see. I suppose that little clip resonated because it was a human moment. Someone had posted the video just after Election Day, but before the election was called — perhaps, amid these exceptionally fractious times, people were reminded that we were all children once.