Melania Trump gave an impassioned, beautiful speech in front of the entirety of the Republican National Convention about hard work and trustworthiness July 18. It was uplifting. It was powerful.
It was also stolen.
Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Michelle Obama delivered a nearly identical speech in the context of her husband’s presidential bid.
Although Donald Trump and his campaign team initially denied any guilt (even trying at one point to blame Hillary Clinton), just two days later the campaign released a statement on the matter. It was from an in-house staff writer named Meredith McIver who claimed responsibility, saying she took notes on the Obama speech and allowed the notes to influence her writing.
That’s a fine explanation. It worked for McIver and the campaign. She offered her resignation to Trump and he denied it, so she remains employed as a staffer, but it remains an indictment of the Trump campaign that this plagiarized speech made it to the teleprompter at all.
But it’s not all their fault. It’s ours. Yes, all of ours. A culture that pervades higher education and warps young, educated adults to have a lax mindset on plagiarism, is to blame.
Think of any upper-level course you’ve taken at this university. We’re all under high pressure to do well, under the gun of a tough schedule and rigorous coursework. Our more difficult homework can take hours, and even the most devoted of us can find ourselves stretched thin for time as our work piles up throughout the week.
Given that context, it’s often easy for us to convince ourselves that finding even a little bit of outside help is reasonable and, honestly, to be expected. Be it using a solutions manual for tough math questions, borrowing answers off of friends or looking at online articles about your research paper topic, you tend to refer to external sources before you dive in to work on assignments yourself.
But this system isn’t a great time saver. It’s problematic — especially in the long term. It teaches students that problems have work arounds and that, when the going gets rough, what seem to be major problems can often be solved with a well-executed Google search or a quick text to a peer.
The thing is, professional work assignments often don’t have work arounds. You have to learn to work through the assignments your career throws at you on your own, especially if you work in a highly visible field, like our friend McIver.
The official statement released by the Trump campaign claims that Melania Trump’s speech was accidentally plagiarized — but the idea that a young professional would resort to “borrowing” from an outside source under immense pressure doesn’t seem very far-fetched at all.
The highly stressful environment of educational institutes perpetuate plagiarism as a given for students. The idea of saving time, and yes, energy, overshadows the fact that finding instant ramifications to our problems today may stunt our ability to handle more daunting future problems when we enter the workforce. Life stresses don’t always have quick fixes, and being able to work through immense pressure during formative college years is ultimately for the best, because it hones the ability of students to survive what life throws at them.
Even something as daunting as representing the Trumps.