It’s now clear that Melania Trump’s speech at the RNC last night was partially plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s speech to the DNC. At first I was inclined to doubt: it’s really hard to say two pieces of mushy platitudes are different, let alone alike, but when put side by side it’s clear that there was literal copying and pasting going on.
NPR carried the original text of Obama’s speech. The relevant section is here, and areas of common phrasing have been bolded:
And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
Below is the section of Trump’s speech, as transcribed by Quartz:
From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that their only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
But here’s the thing…I actually have a lot of sympathy for Melania. She’s a non-native English speaker, and she has never trained to be a speechifier — I teach biology students who are told from day one of their arrival at this university that the culminating experience before graduating will be giving a 45 minute talk to the faculty and their peers. They know for four years that this is coming. We coach them along with classroom exercises. I practically hold their hands in the weeks before they have to give it. And still, this one event is the source of tremendous anxiety for many of them.
Now imagine that your career is as a model, and you’re told that you’re going to have to make a speech that will be broadcast around the world, and that will be scrutinized intensely in order to find fault with your husband. The pressure must have been intense, and thus my sympathy for her.
That does not excuse plagiarism, however. But if we’re going to blame anyone, that has to be fastened directly on the Trump campaign team. She had speechwriters composing her talk — my students don’t get that. Her speech should have had multiple levels of inspection. Obama’s speech was very well received, so I can understand using it as a starting framework — but everyone on the speechwriting team should have known that was one of the sources, and been particularly alert to making sure that this kind of sloppy plagiarizing didn’t happen. They were apparently working on this important speech to be given by an amateur for six weeks, and somebody should have been going through it line by line to make sure it was in line with the goals of the campaign, that there were no outrageous errors, and that it just plain sounded good. There must be many people who have heard her practice it dozens of times. A speech like that had to have been vetted out the wazoo, unless it wasn’t, which would also be a problem.
Her delivery was fine, but the content was stolen, and for that we have to blame the Trump staff who gave it to her and coached her on it. And that tells me that there is a gang of lazy incompetents working behind the scenes of the chief lazy incompetent, Donald Trump.