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Commencement season brings plagiarism scandals

Relax, rhetoricians.

We have our annual plagiarism scandal.

It seems the dean at University of Alberta’s medical school filched parts of another physician’s speech for a convocation address. A “lapse in judgment,” said Dr. Philip Baker, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail. “When I was researching for the speech, I came across text which inspired me and resonated with my experiences ….”

This is so familiar, it’s possible the apology itself is plagiarized.

Why does this sort of thing happen so often, and why are commencement speeches so often the mother of plagiarism?

Here's why: Flattered by the invitation to deliver a commencement speech, the speaker accepts. But that was November, this is now. The speech is in two weeks and the speaker hasn't had one thought pop into his or her head that seemed worth sharing.

There's the grinding feeling that everything that could be said at a graduation ceremony has been said.

Followed immediately by the tempting thought: Maybe I could just say some of that stuff.

And the rhetorical question: Who would know?

To borrow, adapt (and attribute) a line from freelance speechwriter Matthew Cossolotto, "Doctor, spiel thyself!"