The University of South Carolina's president issued an apology after part of his commencement address was pulled almost word-for-word from a retired U.S. Navy admiral's widely-lauded speech to 2014 graduates at the University of Texas at Austin.
President Bob Caslen was already receiving criticism for his Friday remarks after getting his school mixed up with one in a different state when he congratulated “the newest alumni from the University of California.”
And as local news outlets paid more attention to the address, they realized a portion of it resembled remarks Adm. William McRaven made in his speech seven years ago.
McRaven, who oversaw the SEAL raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, was so celebrated for his speech that he turned it into a bestselling book titled "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life ... And Maybe the World."
FitsNews, an independent news site in South Carolina, first reported that Caslen, a retired Army lieutenant general, lifted a portion of the speech without attribution.
“Know that life is not fair, and if you’re like me, you’ll fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the cowardly bullies and lift up the downtrodden, and never, never give up — if you do those things the next generation and the generations to follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here, today, will indeed change the world for the better," Caslen told the graduates on Friday.
The speech is available on the university's Facebook page. The lifted portion begins around the 2:38:29 mark.
According to a transcript of McRaven's 2014 speech, he concluded his remarks by saying: “Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better."
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the University of South Carolina forwarded an email Caslen sent to students, faculty and staff on Monday.
"I am truly sorry," the president wrote in the email. "During my remarks in our weekend commencement ceremonies, I shared a well-known quote from Admiral William McRaven and failed to cite him as its original author and speaker. I was searching for words about resilience in adversity and when they were transcribed into the speech, I failed to ensure its attribution."
"I take full responsibility for this oversight. I sincerely apologize to Admiral McRaven, someone I know and respect, our graduates, their families and the entire university community for not leading by example."
McRaven, in a statement to NBC News Tuesday, said an apology was not necessary.
“Bob Caslen is one of the finest and most honorable officers with whom I ever served. I was flattered that he thought my words were worth repeating and he certainly doesn’t owe me an apology," McRaven said. "I wish only the very best for President Caslen and the University of South Carolina.”