Monday was the first night of the Republican National Convention. The night had tons of speeches focused on a message of the need to make America stronger than the Obama and Clinton administrations have and would. Even with many compelling speeches, easily the best speech was from Melania Trump, Donald Trump’s third wife. Melania hasn’t played a significant public role in his campaign, though she is frequently seen by his side.
In Monday’s speech, she explained how and why she became a citizen of the United States, and spoke of her love for her husband as a kind, generous, and loyal man. She recast his incendiary rhetoric as simply the passionate feelings of a man who cares about his country, its security, and its strength.
“If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he is the guy. He will never give up, and most importantly, he will never let you down,” she said.
She said that her husband “is tough and he has to be, but he is also kind and caring.”
“Donald is intensely loyal to friends, family, employees and country,” she said. He has the utmost respect for his family, she added. And she said his children were a testament to who he is as a man and a father. She said love is the bond and strength of the family.
“Kindness, love, and compassion” are “the values Donald and I would bring to the White House,” she said.
He wants prosperity for all Americans, she said, saying new programs for the poor and young are needed, a plan for growth that only her husband could provide. She said his life was about inclusion, prosperity, and cooperation. He would represent all of the people, she said, specifically citing Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, the poor, and the middle class.
It was the pivoting the campaign had long promised. Her delivery — English is not the first language for the Slovenian immigrant — was genuine and touching. It was very well received.
But Jarrett Hill noticed something interesting. The speech included a portion very similar to an earlier speech from First Lady Michelle Obama. Here’s what Michelle Obama said in 2008:
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.
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 the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
You can watch the relevant portion just over two minutes in:
Whoever’s writing Trump family speeches this week might want to pick different material for inspiration.
Also interesting to note how differently the media received the two speeches. For instance, Marc Ambinder couldn’t have gushed more about Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, being chosen by the Obama campaign to share advance excerpts. And when she gave “basically the same speech as last time” in 2012 he praised it saying it recreated “that ethereal, hopey-changey, excitement that initially captured the hearts and minds of so many in the party.”
He was far more restrained last night:
Melanie's speech was sweet, like a light and healthy dessert. No aftertaste. No lasting moments.
Marc Ambinder (@marcambinder) July 19, 2016
Peter Beinart said:
do we really have to congratulate melania on this utterly vacuous speech?
Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) July 19, 2016
As for the passage in question, the thing is that these sentiments are somewhat universal, the type of thing most people could say. In this sense, perhaps the media attacks on the speech as vapid and vacuous will help Melania Trump’s speechwriter avoid the charge of having lifted too liberally from another speech.
For his part, Trump liked Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech as well!
Very good speech by @MichelleObama–and under great pressure–Dems should be proud!
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2012
For his part, President Barack Obama got in trouble for giving a speech in 2008 that was “entirely similar” to one made by Deval Patrick.
The media largely accepted his claim that he had permission to do so.