Even as Donald Trump assails political correctness, insults opponents in harsh late-night tweets and draws bipartisan rebukes for racially tinged insults, his wife vowed Thursday that she would devote her energy as first lady to reducing online bullying and promoting more civil discourse in American society.
“Our culture has become too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” Melania Trump said at a small rally in Berwyn, Pa. “We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other.”
Trump’s speech, just five days before election day, was her first solo address of the general election campaign. Her speech at the Republican National Convention, initially well-received, came under criticism after it was discovered that portions of it were lifted from a speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008.
Her message, that children should be protected from bullying on social media and that women should be given greater opportunity, provided a counterpoint to Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Trump, which has focused heavily on his crude language, particularly toward women and minorities.
Melania Trump, a former fashion model, has become more well known during the campaign, and the Trump campaign is hoping in the final days of an increasingly tight race that she can soften some of her husband’s rough edges. Her tone Thursday was soft-spoken and deliberate, another departure from the frantic energy of her husband’s rallies.
To win, Trump needs to make up ground with female voters, particularly in suburban counties like the one where his wife spoke, outside Philadelphia.
But Melania Trump has little in common with the working- and middle-class voters Trump is trying to lure. She acknowledged as much as she spoke about her life of glamour and privilege.
But she assured the audience that she had to work hard in the modeling industry, facing highs and lows, and talked about the shared American values — kindness, honesty, respect, compassion — she tries to pass on to her son, Barron, regardless of his advantages.
America, she said, “was the word for freedom and opportunity” in her family. “If you could dream it, you could become it.”
Her tale of immigrant success in a land of opportunity provided another contrast to Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric, which espouse restrictions on legal immigration, a border wall against illegal immigration and warnings that many who enter the country will bring an added risk of crime and terrorism.
Melania Trump showed a different face of immigration as she recounted her journey, and her move to become a U.S. citizen a decade ago.
“It is the greatest privilege in the world,” she said. “I’m an immigrant and let me tell you, no one values the freedom and opportunity of America more than me.”