Barack Obama

After watching the video of Patrick and Obama delivering their respective speeches about “words” and how important words can be, Deval Patrick was clearly the better orator.

The reason?

The words belonged to him. It was his speech. They were his ideas. They had the ring of authenticity and integrity because he was saying what he meant, not what someone else meant.

Obama was trying to “wing it.” Not only was his delivery flat and false, he got caught trying to look brilliant using another person’s ideas. He and Deval might be friends, but when so much of Obama’s persona is constructed around his lofty rhetoric, borrowing someone else’s verbal wings is like flying into a hail storm. The only way out is down.

Obama has tried to excuse this lapse, but his excuse only makes things worse. If words matter, then words matter. Either they do or they don’t. He can’t have it both ways and proclaim in one breath that words can lift a nation, but then complain that a tussle about words is petty and insignificant. And let’s remember that we are not talking about a simple turn of phrase. Obama lifted a whole sequence of words and ideas from Deval. He didn’t just nibble at someone’s cookie. He stole the whole damn jar.

Sorry, Barack. You sound like one of my students. Whenever they get caught stealing someone’s cookie jar, I read them the University statement on plagiarism. And that’s what they call it, too: plagiarism, not borrowing, or lifting, or paraphrasing.

Here’s a simple, clear definition:

Plagiarism: a) The use, whether by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another without full and clear acknowledgement through proper citation format.

By that standard, Obama plagiarized a part of Patrick’s speech.

Is this a petty incident as Obama wants us to think? How could it be? With so few accomplishments to guide us, how else can we judge Obama than by the promises he makes, the words he uses? If he asserts that we can judge him by his words because they matter, then we can condemn him for the same reason.

Live by the words, die by the words.