My suggestion to the media: Lay off the criticism of two sentences in Melania Trump’s speech. Your bias is showing.
The wife of presidential contender Donald J. Trump spoke last night at the Republican National Convention. Melania Trump, who may be America’s next First Lady, delivered an impassioned speech in which she praised her husband, extolled family virtues, revealed a bit of Trump family history, and spoke of her happiness at becoming an American citizen in 2006.
So what was the lead story in every newscast, on every major website? What was the main headline on CNN this morning?
That because apparently, a speechwriter in the Trump campaign office got too close to lines delivered by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2008, when Melania said:
“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.
“…Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
Was that like Michelle Obama’s speech from August 25, 2008? Yes, yes it was. Michelle said:
“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, that 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.
“…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.”
There are some other phrases that showed up in both speeches, as well: things like “my word is my bond” and “you work hard for what you want.” Funny thing, though, is that those phrases showed up in our house, too, when we were raising our children. I’ll bet you’ve said them yourself!
Traditionally, the candidate’s wife doesn’t talk about public policy, about international affairs, about laws and dictums and party platforms. She’s more the Encourager-In-Chief, urging her husband behind the scenes (and all of us in the public eye) to be all that we can be, to help others, to study in school and work hard on the job, to live by the golden rule. Melania Trump spoke pablum, essentially–easy-to-digest platitudes about doing the right thing. She showed herself to be poised, effective, cheerful. She showed genuine love for her husband, and he returned that love in a deeply personal thanks; he seemed to have a hard time letting go of her hand. In short, it was a lovely speech which showcased the power couple who have been happily married for, I think, 18 years.
But today social media exploded with charges of “Cheat! Plagiarism!”
To the shrewd Democratic strategists and the others who permitted themselves to be dragged into the fray, I say: Shame on you.
No one has had the nerve to suggest that Melania herself plagiarized the First Lady’s speech (although I don’t doubt that her husband’s political opponents would go for the jugular, if they thought for even a minute that the public might buy it). But what has happened is that Melania’s message has been all but totally obscured, other Republican talking points regarding Americans’ safety have been totally ignored, and we’ve allowed ourselves to be drawn into endless speculation on this meaningless issue. Meanwhile, Americans’ very real concerns about national security, military strength, jobs, racism and brotherhood have been overlooked. Some decent speeches were tossed in the media’s virtual trash bin.
If a Trump staffer, pressed for time, borrowed the words without sufficiently vetting the source and creating new copy, that was an error. He should have known that Democratic henchmen would look for such a faux pas, and whether he should be fired (as some are insisting) or simply reprimanded and allowed to move forward, humbler and wiser, is a matter of personnel policy. I don’t really care.
But if you’re going to continue to focus on this five seconds of fluff in a night of weighty discussions, then you need to also hold Michelle Obama responsible for plagiarism in her 2008 address. Tiffany Gabbay, writing on the website Truth Revolt, cited two quotes which are certainly reminiscent of earlier works. She writes:
In performing a bit of research, I uncovered a quote from Will Steger’s 1989 book, Crossing Antarctica, which reads strikingly similar to Michelle Obama’s:
“As I learned anew in crossing Antarctica, the only limit to achievement is the limit you place on your own dreams.“
Let’s read that Steger quote again: “As I learned anew in crossing Antarctica, the only limit to achievement is the limit you place on your own dreams.”
As stand-alone phrases — “work hard”; “treat people with respect”; “keep your promises” — these are really very generic. But in researching them as a combined sentiment, I came across the following excerpt from a 2001 obituary published in the Pennsylvania-based Tribune Review, in which a man wrote about his late father and the lessons he taught him:
“He [my father] taught me …. how to work hard, how to be respectful of others, how to play a guitar, how your word is your bond…”
There are other examples. Gabbay explains well why using these universal old saws is not a malicious act but is, rather, pretty darned common:
It goes without saying that the values touted by both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are the same values espoused in speeches made by everyone from motivational speakers, to athletic coaches, to iconic “superheroes,” to CEO’s of large companies, to just about every politician running for office.
Read the rest here.
Melania Trump’s message of “Be nice, work hard” would be no news at all, were she not married to the hated contender. If you can’t see through the liberal horsefeathers, you’re in for a very long and frustrating campaign season.
Image: By Marc Nozell from Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA (20160208-DSC08088) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons