School superintendent resigns after she’s busted plagiarizing commencement speech

July 17, 2014

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – A school superintendent found out the hard way it’s a bad idea to rip off a wildly popular speech given by a Navy admiral that’s available on YouTube.

Brenda HodgesMansfield, Massachusetts school superintendent Brenda Hodges resigned after it was discovered she had plagiarized her commencement speech.

The Boston Globe reports:

The announcement followed weeks of controversy in Mansfield sparked by an anonymous student who sent Hodges an e-mail soon after her June 8 speech, alerting her to rumors that she had plagiarized the remarks by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven. An online petition started, calling for Hodges to step down.

In his speech in May, available on YouTube, Admiral McRaven told a University of Texas Austin audience that “if every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people, just 10, then in five generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.”

In her speech, Hodges said that if “every one of you changed the lives of just five people, just five, then in five generations, 125 years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 400 million people.’’

As the outcry grew for the superintendent to step down, she said, “I don’t think it rose to the level of plagiarism.”

“I have given considerable thought as to my role within the school district in light of the recent commencement speech controversy. I believe that the school system can continue to make more progress if I am not a distraction,” Hodges wrote in a letter to the school board announcing her resignation, WickedLocal.com reports.

Despite the fairly obvious copying without citation, Hodges rationalized her actions.

“I have since learned that the points raised are fairly commonly addressed in a number of speeches across the country and surmise that a common speech template is available, since a Google search shows that certain key phrases appear in many commencement addresses in different parts of the country,” she wrote to parents, according to the news site.

And she claimed she didn’t lift McRaven’s words but rather an Oklahoma pastor’s.

“The school committee chair and vice chair have had an opportunity to speak with the author of that speech to discuss the message that he delivered. In addition, they have received an email from him stating that he gave his permission to me to use any thoughts or portions of his message,” her July 16 letter states, according to WickedLocal.com.

After her resignation, she intends to take a medical leave to treat a “longstanding injury.”

Here is McRaven’s address from May:

The speech has 2.1 million views – one of which is likely Hodges.

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