Melania Trump pushed for racial unity during her keynote on the second night of the Republican National Convention, offering a far more conciliatory address than other speakers who used their lecterns to bombastically promote the president.
“We must remember that today we are all one community comprised of many races, religions and ethnicities,” Melania Trump said. “Our diverse and storied history is what makes our country strong, and yet we still have so much to learn from one another.”
It was a measured and steady performance, delivered in the muted and recently renovated Rose Garden. Her speech contrasted with the raucousness of other convention programming, and her personalized address distanced her from the plagiarism fiasco of the 2016 RNC.
Closing out the evening, the first lady reflected on a number of her own experiences in the White House, thanked front-line workers combating the coronavirus, and called for great unity amid the racial reckoning that has rocked the country for the past few months. She made a call for civility and peace both at home and abroad, evoking her childhood dreams of America in communist Yugoslav Slovenia.
“I always heard about an amazing place called America. A land that stood for freedom and opportunity,” she said. “I urge people to come together in a civil manner, so we can work and live up to our standard American ideals.
It wasn’t until deep into her speech that Melania Trump spoke about her husband. She briefly touched on Donald Trump’s investment in historically Black colleges and universities and his administration’s prioritization of religious freedom. But the majority of her address was both an appeal to the country’s morality and her own experience as first lady. She spoke aspirationally about her own next four years as first lady if her husband is reelected, independent of the president’s agenda.
It was a stark contrast from the doting addresses by other members of the Trump family who spoke at the convention — and a divergence from the supporting roles that speakers and Biden family members played at the Democratic National Convention.
Whereas Jill Biden and Michelle Obama spoke of their experiences with Joe Biden as a decent family man and an effective executive, Melania Trump mostly focused on her own journey as a first lady, learning from the people she’s encountered.
“The past three and a half years have been unforgettable,” she said. “There are no words to describe how honored, humbled and fortunate I am to serve our nation as your first lady. After many of the experiences I’ve had, I don’t know if I can fully explain how many people I take home with me in my heart each day.”
Melania Trump issued some of the only remarks expressing condolences to those who died due to the coronavirus during the entire first two nights of the convention, and focused on the human tragedy of the pandemic rather than placing blame on China or using it as a springboard to praise the president.
“I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless,” she said. “I want you to know you are not alone.”
Her consoling comments, however, appeared out of sync with her surroundings, as she delivered them to a packed Rose Garden with little room for social distancing.
Her remarks on race also came in contrast to her husband’s resistance to the removal of Confederate iconography from public spaces. Though she did not explicitly name the Confederacy, Melania Trump said, “it’s a harsh reality that we are not proud of parts of our history. I encourage people to focus on the future while still learning from our past.”
And rather than focus on the “law and order” message of her husband, who has called for sending in the National Guard to quell protesters, Melania Trump encouraged peaceful reconciliation. But aware of her husband’s base, she stopped short of calling out police brutality or the anti-Black violence that sparked the protests to begin with.
“I also ask people to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice. And never make assumptions based on the color of a person’s skin,” she said. “Instead of tearing things down, let’s reflect on our mistakes, be proud of our evolution and look to our way forward.”
Still, she offered supportive words for her husband, particularly toward the end. She said Donald Trump has been a supportive husband who works hard in the face of adversity.
“In my husband, you have a president who will not stop fighting for you and your family,” Melania Trump said. “I see how hard he works each day and night and despite the unprecedented attacks from the media, he will not give up.”
She also touched on her husband’s penchant for blasting out his thoughts on Twitter or at his news briefings. Though those messages frequently include falsehoods or exaggerations, Melania Trump cast his unfiltered nature as unvarnished honesty.
“We know Donald Trump makes no secret about how he feels about things,” she said. “Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president.”