WASHINGTON — First lady Melania Trump used a keynote address from the newly renovated White House Rose Garden to talk about what most speakers at the Republican National Convention have glossed over: the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests.
“I want to acknowledge the fact that since March, our lives have changed drastically. The invisible enemy COVID-19 swept across our beautiful country and impacted all of us,” she said. “My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering.”
While speakers have mostly struck an upbeat tone about the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, the first lady acknowledged the devastation that the virus has wrought on Americans.
“I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know. You are not alone,” she continued. “My husband’s administration will not stop fighting until there is an effective treatment or vaccine available to everyone.”
Read USA TODAY’s live coverage:Republicans sought to strike a hopeful tone on Day 2 of their convention
The first lady also did not shy away from addressing unrest over racial injustice that gripped the country in recent months, urging Americans to quell the violence and work together in a civil manner.
“Like all of you, I have reflected on the racial unrest in our country. It is a harsh reality that we are not proud of parts of our history,” she said. “I encourage people to focus on our future, while still learning from the past.”
Trump paid homage to women’s suffrage and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of the campaign’s wider effort to appeal to crucial female voting bloc. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll found that Joe Biden leads Trump 56% to 40% in support among women.
“I reflected on the impact of women’s voices in our nation’s story and how proud I will be to cast my vote again for Donald, this November,” she said. “We must make sure that women are heard and that American dream continues to thrive.”
She also opened up about her experience of coming to the U.S. from Slovenia, even as her husband has sought to curb legal and illegal immigration. Trump said becoming a citizen was “one of the proudest moments in my life, because with hard work and determination, I was able to achieve my own American dream.”
“As an immigrant, and a very independent woman. I understand what a privilege is that we have,” she said.
The first lady’s address is her biggest prime-time speech since the 2016 GOP convention, when she was accused of plagiarism after portions of her speech closely resembled parts of a 2008 speech by former first lady Michelle Obama. A Trump Organization employee later issued a statement taking responsibility for the similarities.
But her remarks were markedly hers, ranging from highlighting her own initiatives and her husband’s accomplishments to addressing the twin crises that have gripped the country.
Unconventional setting:Trump criticized for using White House as a backdrop for the convention
Trump has mostly stayed out of the political spotlight as her husband has campaigned in recent months, but used the address to highlight her favorite moments as first lady. It also gave her a chance to showcase the renovations she oversaw of the Rose Garden, though not without controversy. Delivering her speech from the Rose Garden, part of the official White House, raised ethical questions about whether it blurred the line between the government and the president’s re-election campaign.