Omid Memarian

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Senator Clinton’s campaign’s accusation on Monday that Barack Obama has lifted language from other politicians, calling it plagiarism, shows how rhetoric is playing a vital role in this presidential election.

Obama in San Francisco, November 2007- Photo by: Omid MemarianIt also shows that Clinton’s campaign has targeted Obama’ dominant factor: the way he uses simple words to inspire millions of people. But is that a big deal? Is that really “plagiarism”? When I heard Obama’s speech, particularly when he said: “Don't tell me words don't matter. 'I have a dream' -- just words?” I never thought that I hadn't heard those words somewhere or from someone before. Why? Simply because, there is not even one single unsaid thing in the world that we could comfortably say people haven’t said before. (Haven’t you heard this before?)

Politicians do not, and also cannot, invent words. They simply use them at the right time, at the right place and for the right people. Millions of people say, “I have a dream” on a daily basis. But there is just one “I Have A Dream” which marks an opening to a history of hope, struggle and change. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to credit Martin Luther King every time we use this phrase? It is more important to observe how what politicians say fits what they are and what people expect of them.

Accusing Obama of plagiarism, however, shows how frustrated Clinton's campaign feels about his simple use of words, which have made a huge impact on millions of people.

Millions of people say, “Yes, we can”. But these days, this simple sentence, has become one of the most inspiring phrases we hear. Is that also plagiarism? I’m not sure this is a good tactic to stop Obama’s momentum, but at least it shows how Clinton’s campaign feels vulnerable about the power of words used by Obama, something that Clinton lacks badly.
(Posted on California News Service)


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