First lady Melania Trump delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention from the Rose Garden on Tuesday night, offering a softer touch than her polarizing husband as he seeks a second term and acknowledging the impact the coronavirus has had on the country.

“My husband’s administration will not stop fighting until there is an effective treatment or vaccine,” she vowed. “Donald will not rest until he has done everything he can to help everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic.”

Trump expressed gratitude to medical professionals working at personal risk to themselves to help the afflicted. She also thanked military personnel, first responders, and their families, calling them “heroes” in their own right. Trump celebrated 100 years of women’s suffrage.

“I know I speak for my husband and the entire family when I say we have not forgotten the incredible people who were willing to take a chance on a businessman who had never worked in politics,” she said.

Trump also reflected on the racial tension in America, calling on an end to looting but also more tolerance and unity. “Like all of you, I have reflected on the racial unrest in our country,” the first lady said. “It’s a harsh reality. We are not proud of parts of our history.

“Let us remember that we are one nation under God, and we need to cherish one another,” she said.

“Tonight is the first lady’s night,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh in a call with reporters earlier in the day.

Trump, 50, has been a quiet presence since her husband’s upset victory in 2016. She seldom speaks out on political issues and has, at times, seemed reluctant in the spotlight. Monday night’s speech comes as President Trump looks to narrow a gender gap with Democratic challenger Joe Biden and his running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris, with suburban women in particular swinging against the Republican ticket.

“Since taking office,” the first lady said at an event celebrating women’s suffrage, “my husband and this administration have taken historic measures to empower and support women in the United States — and around the world.” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter from a previous marriage and a senior adviser in the White House, has similarly presented him as an unheralded champion of women.

A former model, Trump immigrated to the U.S. from Slovenia. She is the second first lady born outside the U.S., after Louisa Adams, and the only one whose first language is not English. She was naturalized in 2006, after she wed the future president — and “10 years of paperwork and patience,” she said on Tuesday night.

In her capacity as the first lady, Trump has focused on children’s issues. She has been particularly interested in combating online bullying, spearheading the Be Best campaign, which political opponents often contrast with the president’s pugnacious Twitter persona.

Trump has occasionally been involved in controversy, however. There was a plagiarism scandal when some lines from her 2016 GOP convention speech appeared to be lifted from an address by Michelle Obama. Critics have panned her Rose Garden renovation. “I’m passionate about this beautiful house,” she said Tuesday without directly mentioning her detractors.

An upcoming book claims she has been recorded criticizing Ivanka. In a rare public policy disagreement with the administration, she appeared to distance herself from family separation at the border. When she visited the border herself during that public relations crisis, she wore a jacket saying, “I really don’t care, do u?”

“I wore it for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me,” she said in a TV interview. “And I want to show them that I don’t care.” A recent Morning Consult poll showed her with a 45% favorability rating among voters overall. Other polling has shown her to be more popular than her husband.

The audience watching Trump at the White House on Tuesday did not sit 6 feet apart, and most were not wearing masks. The Trump campaign said earlier in the day that coronavirus experts were consulted in the preparation of all convention events involving live audiences.

Trump urged those struggling with addiction to seek professional help.

“We need my husband to be our president and commander in chief for four more years,” she said, calling him an “authentic person” in a reference to his directness and unfiltered commentary. She closed with a call for the president’s reelection: “I believe that we need my husband’s leadership now more than ever.”





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