Just recently, I published a set of graduation speech tips. I’m glad to have received some positive feed backs as well as email of gratitude for that piece. This morning, it was a shock when one of the country’s prominent figure took the headline: Pangilinan quits Ateneo over ‘borrowed’ speech.
Manuel V. Pangilinan on Saturday quit as chairman of the board of the Ateneo de Manila University after it was revealed that sections of the speech he made during the school’s graduation rites last week were from speeches made by TV personality Oprah Winfrey and author J.K. Rowling in past years.
I’d like to share my thoughts on this because we’re not just talking about Manny Pangilinan, the 39th richest Filipino in 2008 with a net worth of $39M. We’re talking about being Filipino.
When I heard the news, I thought that we got the attention of the world again. This time, it’s not really a good image that captured their attention. Someone from the Philippines copied significant parts of someone else’ speech–uhmm there were two of them. Don’t we have our unique way of putting our stories to our very own words? Do we lack that genius to write our own piece based on how we feel? Don’t we have the time to sit down and pay attention to our message?
The thing is, it’s Pangilinan’s speech writer. Yes, whoever the person is. While Pangilinan admitted he had to seek some help to draft the speech out, it’s obvious that MVP didn’t really pay attention to what was written. Perhaps, it’s because of his very tight schedule that he didn’t have enough time to verify the words in his speech. Should he had some more time, MVP should have Googled it, and there he should have discovered that parts of his speech were taken from someone else.
And so I assumed that Manny Pangilinan’s speech writer was fired, if the person doesn’t hold an important function in his company. But firing the person isn’t really the solution. I think it’s important that we take this issue seriously and objectively.
First, I believe Manny Pangilinan has a unique story to tell. He has several pieces of wisdom to share. He has countless experiences in business and in life that can inspire and motivate any audience that he may have in the future. And so all the speech writer has to do is to get those message across in a more personal way. Pangilinan’s speech writer violated a very important rule in public speaking: When a speaker is up on stage, the speaker becomes the message.
Second, I believe that Filipinos have the ability to communicate better than anybody else. We have a unique, creative ability to put those stories into uttered words with such a wonderful tone. We can compose thoughts, ideas, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, and more in a language that most hearts will understand. We have the gift to tell the world about our experiences and stories as a people or as an individual. We don’t have to consistently borrow ideas from the West although it’s good to be guided by some.
Third, every speech writer should be warned–that it only takes less than a minute to check if your speech was taken from somewhere especially if it was delivered by known personalities: Google. Let me also warn some of my fellow Filipino authors and speakers to be careful in putting those “duplicate” contents in your blogs or website. I’ve been following a great and promising inspiration speaker who is in his final quarter and he just keep on republishing materials from the Internet and then put some words of his own at the latter part of his article. Let’s try hard to be original and if we can’t just try to make it a bit unique in terms of delivery and style.
Today, I’m reminded of some basic things that I should remember as a speech writer. I’m a speech writer myself and having written speeches for business owners, CEOs, politicians, and academicians among others, I feel that every speech writer should go back to the basic of public speaking: Once the speaker steps on the platform, the speaker becomes the message.
If the message is a duplicate, then the speaker suffers the consequences, regardless if those parts are nothing short of 5% of the entire speech.