NTU valedictorian apologises for F-word slip

Communication Studies valedictorian Trinetta Chong delivers her speech at the graduating batch's convocation ceremony. (Screengrab: YouTube)
Communication Studies valedictorian Trinetta Chong delivers her speech at the graduating batch's convocation ceremony. (Screengrab: YouTube)

A Nanyang Technological University (NTU) valedictorian has apologised for using the F-word in her graduation speech last Friday, saying it was said in the "spur of the moment".

23-year-old communication studies graduate Trinetta Chong was addressing about 170 of her classmates and slightly less than 300 post-graduate students at the Nanyang Auditorium, located in the university campus, and concluded her rousing six-minute speech with "We f**king did it!"

A video of the speech, which was uploaded onto YouTube on Friday night, has garnered over 1,200 views over two days, sparking debate over her use of the swear word

See the video here:

But while Ms Chong has apologised for dropping the F-bomb, she said it had to be taken in the context of her entire speech.

"The F-word was said in the spirit of the moment," she told Yahoo! Singapore. "At that point, I was feeling really emotional, after 16 years of education and all we had been through... it slipped out. It wasn't scripted at all," she added.

Ms Chong said the script for her speech had been vetted and approved by senior faculty and the Chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, and confirmed that it did not include the line.

"(The line) really reflected how I felt at that time, and I think it resounded with other students from our graduating class too," she said.

"The media or other Singaporeans hearing the speech may simply think that the word was said to sensationalise the speech, but this was definitely not my intention at all."

That said, she sincerely regrets saying what she did.

"I said it at that time because I was feeling all those emotions, but I deeply apologise if I offended anyone," she said.

"I also realise on hindsight that it was inconsiderate because convocation should be a family-friendly event, and that word wasn't family-friendly. I should have been mindful of keeping the speech family-friendly," she added.

Media blitz; netizens give mixed responses

Local media reported Ms Chong's use of the swear word over the weekend. Tabloid Lianhe Wanbao wrote that the ending line of her speech "stunned" members of the audience, while news of her speech turned up on micro-blogging site Weibo, and Omy, which reposted Lianhe Wanbao's story.

Yahoo! Singapore understands that some of the comments made on the YouTube video that were quoted by the newspaper were taken out of context, however.

In particular, one user, with the nickname markcenite, whom Yahoo! Singapore understands made a comment in mock-horror on the video in jest, was paraphrased and taken literally by the newspaper, among others taken off the thread on the same clip.

Netizens have since given mixed responses to Ms Chong's speech, which has started making its rounds on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook user Phyllis Seet wrote in Mandarin, "Is there no other way for (Ms Chong) to express her years of hardship and emotions? Must such vulgar language be used; is there no other creative way of expressing it? No wonder we are so far away from a graceful society."

Another user, Li Liang, took a more positive view, however, saying, "I approve! Our media enterprise of the future will certainly perform more outstandingly and courageously, and honestly speaking, I do look forward to it."

University, friends and family show support

The University has also thrown its weight behind Ms Chong.

NTU released a statement on Sunday night, saying the mood was "highly-charged" at the point of her speech, and believes that she was likely to have gotten carried away.

"The graduands at Ceremony 14 were in extremely high spirits on Friday evening. There was a lot of clapping and cheering throughout the ceremony so by the time the valedictorian Trinetta delivered her speech, the audience were in a highly charged mood," the spokesperson said, adding that Ms Chong had since written to the chair of the Wee Kim Wee School, Dr Benjamin Detenber, to apologise.

"Thankfully, he (Dr Detenber) told me not to worry too much about it," Ms Chong added with relief.

The valedictorian said that her parents were initially shocked at her words as well.

"They definitely don't condone the use of swear words, and were shocked initially, but took it in their stride, accepted it and moved on... they were very understanding in that aspect," she said.

NTU lecturer Lau Joon-Nie, 41, who was part of the school faculty present at the ceremony, said that Ms Chong's speech was very warm, likening the Wee Kim Wee School to Hogwarts, the magical school in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

"It was a very personal and heartfelt speech that the audience could identify with," she said. "She (Ms Chong) meant no ill-intent and did not intend to be rude. It was quite likely in a fit of exuberance that she expressed what she did," Ms Lau added.

Several of Ms Chong's classmates who gave her a rousing standing ovation at the end of her speech also defended her, whilst other graduands took to social media platforms to express their admiration and pride of her courage.

"(Ms Chong) encapsulated our lives in the past four years, the highs and lows, and the support we had from our lecturers, in six very engaging minutes," said classmate Kuek Jinhua, 25.

"To zoom in on the F-word as an exclamation of representative euphoria in the last five seconds of it is a gross misrepresentation of the speech," he said.

"Yes, that's the kind of language we go by these days," said 22-year-old Rasyida Samsudin, another Wee Kim Wee graduate. "It's not demeaning or anything; it's just our way of expressing extreme emotions -- in this case, extreme excitement."

Parents present at the ceremony were understanding of her use of the word as well.

48-year-old Rasida bte Abdul Rashid said she thought it was acceptable for Ms Chong to say what she did. "Standards of this generation are different from mine," she added.

What do you think -- is using the F-word permissible depending on the context or should Ms Chong have known better?

With additional reporting by Liyana Low