By Alicia Barney
Ken Jennings is quick to defend the source of his $2.5 million.
All-time ?Jeopardy!? champion Ken Jennings ?spoke in defense of trivia? Wednesday night at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, kicking-off his national campus speaking tour.
?I think there is some value in what our society considers trivia,? Jennings said. ?Even the kookiest, most seemingly random fact can bring us joy. Even if it?s that there are 13 nipples on an opossum, you don?t have to feel like you?re wasting your brain.?
Jennings said it isn?t important whether trivia is ever used.
?The cool thing about trivia is that it carries with it no responsibility,? Jennings said. ?It?s stripped of all those messy real world implications.?
To Jennings, facts play an important role in introducing people to new things.
?Facts sometimes have more value than is immediately apparent,? he said. ?Sometimes facts can have legacies. I wonder if there is a marine biologist out there that entered the field because of one great fact they heard as a kid.?
Jennings encouraged the audience to seek learning constantly.
?As great as classrooms are, if you don?t do any learning after the bell rings, I think you are missing the boat,? Jennings said. ?Shouldn?t we be living every day in the form of a question??
The audience began arriving at 4:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. speech and packed both the main concert hall and two overflow rooms.
After his speech and an audience question and answer period, Jennings faced two of Westminster?s own in a mock ?Jeopardy!? competition. Westminster senior Pepper Hayes and geology professor, David Goldsmith, competed against Jennings in the contest.
Jennings was lighthearted about the competition and the large crowd.
??Jeopardy!? has forever cured my stage fright,? Jennings said. ?If I really suck tonight, they?re not going to, like, take away any money. This is much lower pressure.?
Those attending the speech were pleased with Jennings? personality as well with his knowledge.
?I had heard different reports, some that he was snotty in person and some that he was nice,? said Diane Morrison, a resident of Salt Lake City. ?I thought he was charming and fun.?
Nicki Blair, a Westminster student from Layton, said listening to Jennings was entertaining.
?He was really funny. I enjoyed his wit,? Blair said. ?It was worth taking the time out from homework [to hear Jennings speak].?
Jennings? 74-show winning streak earned him over $2.5 million dollars in prize money. He has the chance to win an additional $2 million in the upcoming ?Super Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions,? a contest host Alex Trebek has called ?the quest for Ken.?
Nearly 150 past ?Jeopardy!? champions will compete for two spots to face Jennings in the final round of the tournament. The tournament will begin in February or March, with finals airing in May, according to the ?Jeopardy!? Web site.
Jennings broke records for consecutive and total appearances on ?Jeopardy!,? highest one-day winnings and most money ever won on any game show.