Last week at this time, the one word on every liberal commentator’s mind was plagiarism. Melania Trump, wife of presidential hopeful Donald Trump, was accused of lifting phrases and whole sentences from a convention speech delivered eight years earlier by the wife of another presidential hopeful — Michelle Obama. The scandal was short-lived, primarily because the words Mrs. Trump had supposedly “stolen” for her RNC speech were widely disseminated sentiments about dignity, respect, and perseverance.
Last night, Michelle Obama was ripped off again. This time, the thief was someone near and dear to her. The name of the culprit? Michelle Obama.
Approximately 1,300 words into her DNC speech, she said:
That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done. So that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters — two beautiful intelligent black young women — play with the dog on the White House lawn.
Compare that with the following paragraph from a speech she delivered in June, to graduates of New York’s City College:
It’s the story that I witness every single day, when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters. Two beautiful black young women head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the president of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya who came here to America for the same reasons as many of you: to get an education and improve his prospects in life.
The purpose of her slave reference in the earlier speech was to demonstrate the progress America has made as a nation, though many mistook it for the usual racial grievance-mongering. In fairness to them, the Obamas have made race a nonstop topic over the past eight years. In light of which, a different, less accusatory-sounding metaphor might have made a better choice for that speech.
The same holds true for her reprise of that language last night.