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MVP ‘borrowed’ from other grad speeches, says sorry


Manuel V. Pangilinan, one of the country’s most prominent businessmen, has admitted to "borrowing" from other graduation speeches for his commencement address to Ateneo de Manila University graduates last month. In a letter to Ateneo University President Ben Nebres that was published on the Ateneo Website on Saturday night, Pangilinan said, “I wish to express my sincerest apology to you, the University and to the 2010 graduating class." Pangilinan is chairman of the Ateneo Board of Trustees. He also heads telecommunication giants PLDT and Smart Communications, and is considered one of the richest men in the Philippines and a philanthropist active in education, sports and health. He has been rumored to have political ambitions. He did not state in his apology whom he "borrowed" from, but GMANews.TV has discovered that a speech by US President Barack Obama was one of his sources, in addition to speeches by author J.K. Rowling, television host Oprah Winfrey, and comedian Conan O'Brien. Reports of plagiarism in Pangilinan’s commencement address to the “Ateneo’s Sesquicentennial Batch" last March 27 had been circulating on Facebook, comparing passages from his speech with commencement addresses by Rowling, the author of the enormously popular Harry Potter novels, and to a lesser extent, Oprah. GMANews.TV has confirmed that he also delivered lines that were similar to passages in a graduation speech given by US President Barack Obama at Arizona State University in 2009. One example: President Obama: "For many of you, these challenges are also felt in more personal terms. Perhaps you're still looking for a job — or struggling to figure out what career path makes sense in this disrupted economy. Maybe you've got student loans — no, you definitely have student loans — (applause) — or credit card debts, and you're wondering how you'll ever pay them off. Maybe you've got a family to raise, and you're wondering how you'll ensure that your children have the same opportunities you've had to get an education and pursue their dreams." Pangilinan: "For all of you, these challenges are felt now in more immediate and personal terms. You will soon be looking for a job – struggling to figure out which career makes sense in this economy of ours. Maybe you have loans, and are worried how you‘ll pay them down. Maybe you‘ve got a family to help. Maybe you‘re asking how your siblings can have an Ateneo education like you had." GMANews.TV also verified that some lines in Pangilinan’s address were nearly identical to passages in Rowling’s commencement address at Harvard University in 2008. "I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality," Rowling said in her speech. In Pangilinan’s address, this line appears: "I had no idea how far the tunnel of failure extended. And any light at the end of it seemed more hope than reality." Rowling: "The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive." Pangilinan: "The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you can be secure in your ability to survive." GMANews.TV also verified passages lifted nearly verbatim from Oprah Winfrey’s commencement address at Stanford University in 2008. Winfrey: "Let me tell you, money’s pretty nice. I'm not going to stand up here and tell you that it’s not about money, 'cause money is very nice. I like money. It’s good for buying things. But having a lot of money does not automatically make you a successful person. What you want is money and meaning. You want your work to be meaningful. Because meaning is what brings the real richness to your life. What you really want is to be surround by people you trust and treasure and by people who cherish you. That’s when you're really rich." Pangilinan: "Let me tell you, money’s pretty cool. I‘m not going to stand here and tell you that’s it’s not about money, because money is sweet. I like money. It’s good for buying companies and things – and for putting up a few buildings here and there for Ateneo. But having a lot of money does not totally make you a successful person. What you want is both money and meaning. You want your life and your career to be meaningful. Because meaning is what brings real richness to your life, to be surrounded by people you can truly work with – because you trust and treasure them, and they cherish you in return. That’s when you‘re really rich..." Pangilinan, or his speechwriter, also found inspiration in a commencement address by Conan O'Brien at Harvard in 2000, the oldest source established so far. Conan O'Brien: Fifteen years ago I sat where you sit now and I thought exactly what you are now thinking: What's going to happen to me? Will I find my place in the world? Am I really graduating a virgin? Pangilinan: 44 years ago I sat where you now sit, I also thought what you now think – What is going to happen to me? Where can I find a job? Am I really graduating a virgin? In his emailed statement to Fr. Nebres, Pangilinan acknowledged that "I have had some help in the drafting of my remarks, but I take full and sole responsibility for them."
“I am told further that comments posted on Facebook have started to spill beyond graduation," Pangilinan wrote Nebres, “and are now alluding to my misconduct with respect to Meralco, with former President Erap, and so forth. Under the circumstances, it is best for the Ateneo and myself to shorten the life of this controversy and prevent it from spinning out of control." He said that “this has been a source of deep personal embarrassment for me," and informed Nebres that he was retiring from his official duties at the Ateneo, his alma mater. Pangilinan is also a major donor to the Ateneo, with a building named after him and a championship basketball team benefiting from his largesse. For a complete breakdown of Pangilinan’s speech and the sources of his "borrowing", click here. In a response on the Ateneo web site, Nebres said, "We know that this happened without your full awareness, though you take full and sole responsibility. Thus this does not diminish our admiration and respect for your person and for your care and accomplishments for our country and for the Ateneo. In fact, your acceptance of responsibility and apology command our utmost respect." Nebres added that he did not agree that Pangilinan needed to resign from his duties as Ateneo trustee. "I believe with many others that what is appropriate is the apology you have given," Nebres said. As expected the incident is being hotly debated online, with some praising Pangilinan for owning up to the mistake and offering to resign from his positions in the Ateneo. But others point out the dilemma Pangilinan has created for one of the most prestigious brand names in Philippine higher education. "I've known batchmates in Ateneo who were expelled or forbidden from graduating for plagiarism," noted Facebook user Michael Aquino. "Ateneo needs to show that it regards plagiarism by patrons/commencement speakers to be just as serious as plagiarism by students. But how can Ateneo do that without giving up donations?" — Howie Severino and Pia Faustino, GMANews.TV