The Earl Warren Cup is not your typical student competition.
While the event tasks 32 seniors from Bakersfield High School with answering difficult questions in quiz form regarding the U.S. Constitution and other government-related matters, the Earl Warren Cup has a sense of spectacle to it that most student competitions can’t match.
The competition is held every couple years in honor of BHS alumnus, former U.S. Chief Justice and former California governor Earl Warren. It includes an opening production piece. Celebrities and other public figures record videos of themselves asking questions for the competition.
Now, by popular demand, the competition is returning next week after a three-year break. The Earl Warren Cup is scheduled for Wednesday at BHS’ Harvey Auditorium.
“So many kids and parents have asked me to bring it back,” said Jeremy Adams, a history teacher at BHS who started the competition in 2006. “It’s usually a lot of flair and fun, lots of pageantry. I think so many people come to watch because of that. They want to see which famous people we get.”
Adams isn’t spilling the beans on what to expect with this year’s event. However, he did offer a couple hints on which celebrity guests will be involved.
“A tech giant will ask a question,” he said. “We also have somebody new to their office.”
Adams said the competition usually brings in hundreds of spectators. In 2016 during the last Earl Warren Cup, he said around 1,700 attended.
“This is the largest education event in Kern County,” he said.
Adams said it takes a lot of time and effort to organize the event, which is why it only happens every couple years. He said he wasn’t even sure he was going to do it again after the 2016 competition. However, he said he was motivated by current events to bring it back.
“One of the reasons I’m bringing it back is there’s so much negativity associated with government and civics right now. There’s so much cynicism, so much hostility, that I want to do something that’s positive when it comes to political action and civic activity.”
Adams said he always chooses the 32 seniors with the highest grade-point averages in his classes to participate in the event.
“These are kids who love their country, love their community, and are interested in current events,” he said.
Rather than many school competitions where students are in groups, the students are quizzed as individuals, Adams said. The students who answer the most questions correctly receive a trophy.
Adams said through the Earl Warren Cup, he wants his students to gain an interest in government and become civically engaged citizens. He also hopes he can have a similar impact on the students who often come to watch the competition.
“I want everyone to understand that learning about civics and the Constitution can be fun,” he said. “I really do want other students to see the power and the poignancy of a generation of students who feel passionately about the Constitution and their country and want to make it a better place.”
One former student that Adams had a major impact on is Darien Key, a new attorney with the Klein, DeNatale and Goldner law firm in Bakersfield. Key won the Earl Warren Cup during his senior year at BHS in 2010. Now, nearly a decade later, he is returning as a judge for this year’s event.
“It’s interesting coming back to be a judge,” he said. “It’s funny seeing something that inspired me to get into government and law and being a part of it in a different way. It’s a little surreal.”
Key said that when he was in high school, he wasn’t even sure he would have good enough grades to be selected to participate, so he worked extra hard his senior year so he could be part of it.
“Jeremy is really good at inspiring students. He sold it to us and made it a really compelling thing to be a part of,” he said. “We could see the enthusiasm he had for it, and I think that made students want to do well in it. The least we could do was try to make it a good event for him.”
Key said he was nervous to be on stage in front of a large audience at the time, and he was even more surprised when he found he was doing well with the questions and was a front runner in the 2010 competition.
“It was a whirlwind,” he said. “It was the highlight of my senior year, for sure. It’s nice to see something you put hard work into come out successfully.”
Key said he believes his experience with the competition helped spark an interest in government and law, and he hopes he can be part of that experience for the current BHS students in returning to this year’s competition.
“Looking back, I have no doubt in my mind (the Earl Warren Cup) contributed to where I am now, and I’m sure that goes for other students who have participated in it over the years,” he said.