Fact Check

Michelle Obama Plagiarized Her 2008 DNC Speech from Stephen R. Covey

After Melania Trump was accused of plagiarizing Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech, a claim circulated via social media that Obama's speech was plagiarized from author Stephen R. Covey.

Published Jul 19, 2016

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Michelle Obama plagiarized parts of her 2008 Democratic National Convention speech from 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' author Stephen R. Covey.

During the brouhaha that erupted after Donald Trump's wife Melania delivered a speech at the July 2016 Republican National Convention in which it was pointed out that several phrases appeared to have been lifted almost verbatim from First Lady Michelle Obama's Democratic National Convention speech of 2008, one of the defenses social media users floated on behalf of Melania Trump was the claim that Obama herself had borrowed similar wordings from author Stephen R. Covey

Stephen R. Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People listed the exact same principles in the exact same order as Mrs. Obama did as keys to success. He said "There is only one sure means of success. Number one, work hard for what you want in life. Number two, treat your word as your bond and always do what you say you're going to do. And number three, respect everyone and treat them with dignity even if you don't know them or agree with them. And always, always, take the opportunity to pass the values on to the next generation." So, if Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech then Michelle Obama plagiarized Stephen R. Covey.

Covey, who died in 2012, was indeed the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleThe 8th Habit, The Third Alternative and other books of offering nuggets of inspirational wisdom for people to use in their business and personal lives.

However, nowhere in 7 Habits, The 8th Habit or any of his other books were we able to find the passage quoted above, or even any of the central phrases comprising it. In fact, no part of the passage was publicly attributed to Stephen R. Covey before it began turning up on Facebook the day after Melania Trump's speech, 19 July 2016, which appears to be the date on which it was first published anywhere.


Covey, Stephen R.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.   New York: Rosetta Books, 1989.  ISBN 0-671-70863-5. 

David Emery is a Portland-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.

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