Donald is focused: “He has a deep and unbounding determination and a never-give-up attitude,” and, “He will never, ever, give up,” and “Donald gets things done.”
And perhaps, most urgently, Donald is not as divisive as some people have made him out to be: “Donald has successfully worked with people of many faiths and with many nations,” and, “Donald intends to represent all the people, not just some of the people—that includes Christians and Jews and Muslims, it includes Hispanics and African Americans and Asians.” Ahem.
There was strikingly little that was intimate or impassioned—or even particularly specific. Melania did make repeated mention of Trump’s extraordinarily close relationship with his children, (“His children have been cared for and mentored to the extent that even his adversaries admit they are an amazing testament to who he is as a man and a father,” she said) but most everyone knew that already. Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have played powerful roles in their father’s campaign, on everything from personnel choices to strategy. This is the first convention in American history where many, if not most, of the keynotes are being made by the children of the presumed nominee. “There is a great deal of love in the Trump family. That is our bond and our strength,” Melania announced, but if you were looking for specific reason as to why this was true, or how she understood it to be unique, it was not to be had on Monday night.
Instead, if the country got any substantive information on the first night of the Republican Convention, it was the most public acknowledgement yet of the would-be first lady’s unusual and historic background: Melania Trump is an immigrant. While it is not a secret that she was born in Sevnica, Solvenia, last night much of America learned that she only gained U.S. citizenship in 2006, a mere decade before she possibly steps into the role of the country’s first lady. “On July 28th, 2006, I was very proud to become a citizen of the United States—the greatest privilege on planet Earth,” she declared.
How quickly her life has changed, and what an historic, momentous thing a White House win would represent for Melania Trump (and indeed immigrants in general). America’s last foreign-born first lady was Louisa Adams, born in London in the year 1775. But given the current rhetoric around immigration and immigrants—especially from her husband—celebrating outsider status is an awkward thing this year.
Melania Trump did not spend much time, therefore, dwelling on her adjustment to life in the U.S., or expanding on the very nearly unprecedented perspective she might bring to the White House as one of its only foreign born residents. Her internationalism, she made sure to note, was forged as much through “the incredible arena of fashion” and the runways of “Milan and Paris” as it was through the values of her birthplace in a “small, beautiful and then-Communist country in Central Europe.” Trump preferred to keep her story glamorous, smooth and unspecific. For this convention, doing so appeared to be the most expeditious path possible. But for this country, bitterly divided in a raging debate about immigrants and their place in the American democracy, it was, perhaps, a moment lost.