I just recently caught up with all the hoopla about Manny Pangilinan’s controversial speech delivered as a commencement address at the Ateneo, primarily because I caught Jimmy Fallon using it as a punchline in his show a few nights ago. I haven’t been too good with reading up on my local news from Manila, and clicking on the alerts from the New York Times which I get when something or other mentions “Manila” or “the Philippines”.
So my two cents worth on this is coming in rather late, but I felt it was something I had to give my piece on since I used to write speeches for the CEOs of my former companies in Manila. One thing I’ve always noted is that no matter what one’s writing style is, you must adapt it to the style of the person who will be delivering it.
As someone who’s part-Atenean, I find it disappointing that this had taken place in such a noble institution but I have to admit I give MPV points for having owned up to the plagiarism that had taken place even if it was committed without his knowledge. And I suppose that was something he owed everyone, given that there was more than one instance of plagiarism, and from several notable people at that. We must never underestimate the power of the internet which makes texts of speeches immediately available to the public the moment the applause fades. Even President Barack Obama’s State of the Nation addresses are immediately available and are dissected and reacted to by all sides right after the first commercial break.
So what were his speechwriters thinking? I don’t think borrowing the thoughts and words of Oprah and Barack Obama and even JK Rowling was wrong (although I can’t understand why Conan O’Brien was put in the same breath as those distinguished individuals) — everyone quotes everyone else. What made it wrong was the absence of giving proper credit to the original author of the words used. And haven’t they ever heard of paraphrasing? — and by this I mean not just changing the words slightly, but actually restating the sentence differently to give it some sense of individuality and originality even if borrowed.
I’d hate to even ask what happened to those speechwriters. Lesson learned – the hard way.