WASHINGTON, D.C. — First lady Melania Trump portrayed her husband as an authentic, uncompromising leader in a Rose Garden address as President Donald Trump turned to family, farmers and the trappings of the presidency to boost his reelection chances on the second night of the Republican National Convention.
It was a polished portrait and part of a broader effort to show a more forgiving side of a combative president who will soon face the voters. Beyond the first lady’s remarks, Trump pardoned a reformed felon and oversaw a naturalization ceremony for several immigrants in the midst of the program.
“In my husband, you have a president who will not stop fighting for you and your families,” said Mrs. Trump, an immigrant herself. “He will not give up.”
Mrs. Trump and two of the president’s five children led a diverse collection of supporters, including a convicted bank robber, calling for Trump’s reelection.
In a particularly emotional moment, Trump showed a video of himself signing a pardon for Jon Ponder, a man from Nevada who has founded an organization that helps prisoners reintegrate into society.
“We live in a nation of second chances,” Ponder said, standing alongside Trump.
“Jon’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption,” Trump said before he signed the pardon.
The lineup also had a Maine lobsterman, a Wisconsin farmer and a Native American leader. Social conservatives were represented by an anti-abortion activist and Billy Graham’s granddaughter. The convention also featured a Kentucky high school student whose interaction last year with Native Americans became a flashpoint in the nation’s culture wars.
Mrs. Trump noted that the lives of Americans changed “drastically” in March with the onset of the coronavirus. But other speakers made little mention of the pandemic even as it remains a dominant issue for voters.
There were also barrier breakers featured like Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first African American to hold statewide office in Kentucky, and Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, first Latina to hold that office in her state.
And the convention featured a Democrat for the second night: Robert Vlaisavljevich, the mayor of Eveleth, Minnesota, who praised Trump’s support for his state’s mining industry in particular.
“President Trump is fighting for all of us. He delivered the best economy in our history and he will do it again,” Vlaisavljevich said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the convention and the nation during an official overseas trip in Israel.
“President Trump has put his America First vision into action,” Pompeo said. “It may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it’s worked.”
Pompeo’s video was filmed in Jerusalem, where he was on an official foreign trip.
Still Mrs. Trump was the intended star of the night.
Out of the public view for much of the year, she stepped into the spotlight while avoiding the missteps that marred her introduction to the nation four years ago.
At her 2016 convention speech, she included passages similar to what former first lady Michelle Obama had said in her first convention speech. A speechwriter for the Trump Organization later took the blame.
Only the second foreign-born first lady in U.S. history, Mrs. Trump, 50, is a native of Slovenia, a former communist country in eastern Europe. She became Trump’s third wife in 2005 and gave birth to their now 14-year-old son, Barron, in 2006 — the year she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
The first lady spoke from the renovated Rose Garden. She addressed an in-person group of around 50 people, including her husband.
“Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking. And that is because he’s an authentic person who loves this country and its people and wants to continue to make it better,” Mrs. Trump said. “He wants nothing more than for this country to prosper and he doesn’t waste time playing politics.”