No thanks to the F word

Minutes_of_fameA 23-year-old graduate from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication stirred up great debate in the Internet sphere when she uttered the “F” expletive during her speech as valedictorian. The video uploaded on YouTube has since garnered over 220,000 views, with most of comments complaining about the unnecessary fuss over what appears to be her use of the expletive in an inappropriate setting.

Ms Trinetta Chong, valedictorian of the graduating batch of 2011, expressed her euphoric moment in a speech that was well received by the attendees of the graduation ceremony, which included fellow graduates, their parents, lecturers and professors, but caused a big hoo-ha when the speech which included the utterance of the F word was uploaded up on Youtube.

A NTU spokesperson later said that Ms Chong’s now infamous stint is regrettable, and Ms Chong herself explained that her emotional state of mind had gotten the better of her.

Personally, I felt that it was an act performed at the wrong place, at the wrong time, which was worsened by the fact that it was made by a university graduate with a degree in media and communication.

Did she know how inappropriate it is? Did she think it is all right to blurt an expletive on graduation day? These were the thoughts that went through my mind when I read about her speech in the news.

Ms Chong’s rationale of being too emotional does not sit well with me but instead adds questions to the credibility of her character: Does she really know what she was doing, and is she even the right candidate to be a valedictorian?

What added more disapprovals from me was the fact that her lecturers commented that this incident was “not a big deal”. With educators who condone such reactions and handling of emotions in graduates, what message are they sending? Was it really all right to use expletives in emotionally charged situations? Or does it show a lack of control that should be demonstrated in any self-respecting adult?

I would like to think that my polytechnic graduation ceremony was equally emotionally charged, by the amount of excitement felt in the whole auditorium, as everyone demonstrated eagerness to go on stage to collect the piece of certification that bore the official recognition for the work we have achieved in 3 years.

Added by the fact that the valedictorian was a fellow classmate, our entire course, and especially close friends, listened intently to everyone word he had to say. His speech expressed gratitude towards our teachers and a wonderful learning environment, whose feelings resonated with graduates from other courses as well. Still, the speech was kept entertaining with clear diction – and without the use of expletives.

So, having experienced an equally memorable valedictorian speech in my opinion, the use of an expletive in Ms Chong’s situation was uncalled for. 

But that said, we cannot go back in time, nor could the university to take any disciplinary action against her since she has already graduated. The word has been said, and she has apologized for doing so.

No doubt Ms Chong had written an apology letter to the school, but this incident is bound to question the pertinence of the content in future valedictorian speeches. Ms Chong did not include the expletive in the draft of her speech, but explained that it was a ‘spur-of-the-moment-thing.’ How then, will tertiary institutions ensure that their students do not pull off a similar stunt, when this incident can easily spark up audacious ‘spur-of-the-moment’ decisions in future speakers?

I suppose we could only hope that this incident will serve as a learning memory for future valedictorians, for them to not pull a bleep-worthy stunt during their speeches, putting an unwanted spotlight on themselves.

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