A newly elected US mayor cited a lyric by hip hop artist Jay Z to explain why he plagiarized President Barack Obama’s 2008 acceptance speech.
Last Friday, Mayor of Milpitas, California, Richard Tran admitted to the Milpitas Post that he liberally sprinkled his December 13 acceptance speech with words Obama used in his first inauguration address.
Tran said he didn’t view that as plagiarism or intend to mislead anyone; rather, he considered it a way to “honour” the man who inspired him and thought it was “blatantly obvious” the words were Obama’s.
“It is an honour because you know Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk, so Obama could run, and so for young leaders and politicians it’s for us to fly,” Tran told the Post.
Those words closely resemble the ones in the Jay Z remix of Young Jeezy’s 2008 song, “My President,” where Jay Z raps “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk, Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run, Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly.”
Asked by the Post if he was aware of using Jay Z’s lyric and if so why he didn’t mention it, Tran admitted he was aware and explained why he didn’t think it necessary to attribute.
“For me it was just speaking the truth,” Tran said.
“Those are factual statements regardless of who says it, and so I think that’s why I didn’t attribute it and my mentality is not that I’m writing a research paper or essay, which I’ve written with many citations. I’m just speaking freely and providing valuable insight into my thinking.
“So me talking about something that Jay Z inspired me, I don’t know who I’m offending or harming, I like to cite songs, I thought it was special words to share.”
Tran said he is often inspired by popular culture, music and the arts.
“This common saying really struck a chord with the career I’ve chosen, which is to advocate for the public, serve the undeserved, and represent the underrepresented,” he added. “Milpitas residents will understand I will take the best practices from around the world and will implement them in every way possible to ensure our community’s quality of life is at its best.”
However, Tran noted, from now on he’ll be sure to cite references to words and ideas that aren’t originally his.
“I did a lot of school and I didn’t think in the real world I would have to be so on top of it, like this is not something I would do for turnitin.com, so I thought in the real world I could ease up a bit, but I guess not, and I’ll make sure to be better and do what’s appropriate going forward,” Tran said.