On July 18, 2016 at the Republican National Convention, Melania Trump’s speech gave a lasting impression on America for all the wrong reasons. Not long after she had given the speech, many viewers, particularly Jarret Hill, a journalist, noticed that parts of her speech sounded a very similar to First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech during her speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Trump’s allegedly copied speech quickly became the center of discussion in America. The Trump campaign released many different statements to explain the similarities between the two speeches, but none truly addressed the fact that Trump’s speech was indeed plagiarized. Politicians such as Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, jumped to Melania Trump’s defense as well, stating that “93% of the speech [was] completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech.” Others claimed that Trump simply spoke about the same general themes as Obama did, making it “a mountain out of a molehill” to call it plagiarism.
However, Melania Trump’s defenders are clearly unaware of the definition of plagiarism. Like many current students, those jumping to Trump’s defense seem to mislabel plagiarism purely as copying and pasting words from another person’s work. Although this definition is not wrong, it is not complete either. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of plagiarism is “to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas.” The key word here should be “ideas.” Plagiarism is not just taking another person’s work word for word; it is the theft of the writer’s ideas. Trump took Obama’s ideas of learning specific values and passing them down to the next generations, even using the same wording for parts of the theft. It is also important to note that the crime of plagiarizing is not lessened if the percentage of the work plagiarized is low. Chris Christie wrongly defended Melania by stating that only 7% of the speech was plagiarized. Plagiarization is plagiarization.
Events such as these set caustic standards for younger students by misdefining plagiarism and supporting the false notion that it’s okay to plagiarize in small amounts. Luckily, many news and educational sources have stepped in to make sure that current students are properly informed on what plagiarism truly is. In particular, Turnitin, a company known for its plagiarism detecting software, used the event to educate folks about why the sections in Trump’s speech were considered “questionable,” as well as the “[types] of plagiarism” within the speech and Melania’s “intent.”