PARKERSBURG, West Virginia – Graduation speeches are supposed to leave students full of hope and awe for the future. But this speech left one student questioning if it was plagiarized from Ashton Kutcher.
Abby Smith, a graduating student at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia, edited together a video of the speech given by the school’s principal, Ken DeMoss, last week, with the speech Kutcher gave at the 2013 Kid’s Choice Awards.
The similarities are uncanny.
DeMoss opens by telling the students he is going to touch on three points: seizing opportunity, being an intriguing person, and living life. Kutcher’s points are all the same, except his second point deviates slightly: seizing opportunity, being sexy, and living life.
“So first, the opportunity,” principal DeMoss said in the graduation ceremony video. “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was a kid growing up, I didn’t get paid to do chores. I had to do ’em.”
“So first opportunity,” Kutcher says in his speech.”I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof.”
Both of them go on to talk about jobs they had growing up. Kutcher says “opportunities look a lot like work;” DeMoss says “opportunities look a lot like hard work.”
Both of them make reference to Steve Jobs and they both conclude with “I love you guys.”
Public speaking can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re delivering the most important speech during a school’s graduation. DeMoss didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment, but he did release a statement to CNN affiliate WTAP:
“Hello this is Kenny DeMoss, Principal of Parkersburg High School, with an important message for all staff, students, and outgoing 2019 graduated seniors. When I began my closing remarks at graduation, I didn’t think that my speech would be the center of attention. The graduates should be. It was an awesome graduation! It is really sad to think that the focus has fallen more on about my closing remarks and I am deeply sorry for that. I am the kind of person who never wants to be the center of attention and for me this is very difficult right now because we deal with way more pressing and important matters on a daily basis from mental health, to students being kicked out of their homes, to abuse, to students having to worry about their next meal. As a proud father and a man of faith, I want to sincerely apologize to those I have obviously offended. It was never my intent to take credit for what I said or give specific credit because of how I prefaced my speech. When I began my speech, by saying “Many of you don’t know much about me other than being a principal, a teacher, or a coach. In these three professions, I have had the chance to hear and share many great ideas and thoughts that have helped me be who I am today, and I want to share that with you.” When I made that statement, that was my preface that these ideas and thoughts that I am about to share, I have heard before, from others, and along with my personal beliefs, have shaped me into who I am as a man, a father, and leader. In hindsight, I wish I would have cited more. Yes, I’ve seen the online speech by Ashton Kutcher. However, in my experiences, as I have stated, I have heard and seen many similar speeches at coaching and leadership clinics and at professional development that many of you have not. The format of Ashton’s speech I liked the most, because it had the most impact on me. The order of the main points I should have done differently. Being intriguing was completely my word. Trying to be intriguing has helped me pursue and obtain three master’s degrees. I believe being really smart is the most interesting thing about a person. I’ve learned that as a principal and as a coach. Ann Landers once said “that opportunities are disguised as hard work so most people don’t recognize them”. Ashton said basically the same thing, so did I, and so did Ann Landers; neither which I specifically cited. I did not get all my ideas from Ashton. Format yes, thoughts and ideas were from my heart. Steve Jobs said “don’t just live a life; build one”; and I even gave him credit for that. It’s totally my fault for not being specific, but I would have to give credit for the format to Ashton, and many of the other things I’ve heard to various people, and at the closing of a graduation it’s my job to get them out of there and celebrate, and unfortunately when I don’t cite everyone, I’m personally taking a hit. Lesson learned for me. Saying something in which I receive no money for, or academic credit, or a transcribed grade is what led me to not be as specific as I should have been, instead of prefacing with a blanketed statement. In the future, anything that is spoken by me or any other administrator to the public, if it has been said by anyone else, it will be cited. Moving forward, I wish the class of 2019 the best of luck. I hope you have a blessed life and all your dreams come true. Thank you and have a wonderful evening.”
“It was never my intent to take credit for what I said or give a specific credit because of how I prefaced my speech,” his statement said. “I did not get all my ideas from Ashton. Format yes, thoughts and ideas were from my heart.”
DeMoss didn’t say how he came across the actor’s 2013 speech, but a Google search of “best motivational speech for teens” shows a video of Kutcher’s speech second in the list.
“In the future, anything that is spoken by me or any other administrator to the public, if it has been said by anyone else, it will be cited,” his statement continued.