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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 10 October 2021  

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  “The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life”
  By Robin Widmar

   Late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek seemed to think that the popular quiz show he hosted for more than three decades would go on just fine without him. In his memoir “The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life,” published just months before his passing, he humbly said, “You could replace me as the host of the show with anybody and it would likely be just as popular.” Then in typical self-deprecating fashion, he added, “Hell, after 36 years with me, it might even be more popular.”
   Trebek lost his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in early November 2020. For fans across the world, it was just one more sucker punch in a year full of roundhouses and uppercuts. His calm presence was a constant in many lives, as he showed up five days a week to guide eager contestants through 61 answers that needed questions. His passing left a void in the hearts of many, but it also left a huge empty space on the Jeopardy! stage. The ongoing search for a permanent successor has been contentious at best, with fans being starkly divided over who should fill the role.
   Why is it so difficult to find someone to take Trebek’s place at the iconic lectern? Part of the answer can be found in his book, in which he relates highlights from his life through short anecdotes covering topics ranging from family and parenthood to success, mistakes and his favorite animal (the musk ox). Some are amusing, like being inadvertently humbled by Queen Elizabeth II. Others are poignant, such as his experiences working in impoverished and war-torn countries with the humanitarian organization World Vision. All are told in the same easy manner as a beloved uncle or grandfather regaling his family with tales around the dinner table. Taken as a whole, they paint a full picture of just who Alex Trebek was as an entertainer, a family man and a human being.
   The son of a Ukranian immigrant father and a French Canadian mother, Trebek was not always an ideal student in his younger years. Recognizing his passion for radio and television early on, he pursued a career in broadcasting. He eventually landed in Los Angeles where he hosted various game shows before being offered the Jeopardy! hosting gig. Trebek was quick to credit those who helped him along the way, and acknowledged that sheer luck and knowing the right people had as much of a role in his success as his talent, persistence and hard work.
   A significant portion of the book discusses Jeopardy!, and rightfully so since hosting that show occupied more than a third of Trebek’s life. He provides insights into how the show was developed and continues to evolve, glimpses behind the scenes and his opinion on game-playing strategies. While he discusses the most famous record-setters of the game, he also lets the sun shine on three players (not named Ken, James or Brad) whom he found memorable for their grit, determination, resilience and humor through trying circumstances. Trebek humbly insisted that he was not the star of the show, instead conferring that status on the contestants.
   Trebek also dedicated space to his support of and work with organizations such as World Vision. “When you see … man’s inhumanity to man and how much suffering is out there, it affects you … . You want to do something. You want to help.” He felt that it was important to always give back to others, whether through charitable causes or by simply encouraging contestants to do their best.
   Thanks to Trebek’s personal philosophies, work ethic and leadership, as well as a strong and dedicated production crew that became as close as family, neither Trebek nor Jeopardy! suffered catastrophic controversy during his tenure. The climb to the top was long, but the Jeopardy! team demonstrated that it was possible to achieve success with wholesome, educational, family friendly entertainment.
   Although “The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life” likely will appeal more to Jeopardy! fans, it is a quick and insightful read that anyone can enjoy. It also illustrates why Alex Trebek is pretty much irreplaceable. The book’s format is inspired by the quiz show, with each chapter title in the form of a question or an answer. Trebek’s philosophies printed on the back of the dustcover provide a fitting closing to his story, and a much-needed lift during these challenging times:
   “I believe in the will to live. I believe in the power of positivity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope.”
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