CLEVELAND (AFP) - United States presidential hopeful Donald Trump took the stage on Monday (July 18) at the Republican National Convention to introduce his wife and keynote speaker Melania Trump, vowing “we’re going to win” against rival Hillary Clinton.
Mr Trump, who broke with tradition by appearing at the convention before his nomination, beamed as his wife, a Slovenian-born former model, took the podium to a roar of applause, serving as the billionaire real estate tycoon’s chief advocate after a chaotic opening day at the Cleveland confab.
“He does not give up,” Melania Trump said of her husband during an eloquent 14-minute speech in which she portrayed him as a loving father and successful businessman who would be a strong and compassionate public servant. “If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he’s the guy,” she said. “My husband offers a new direction,” the glamorous 46-year-old told the crowd, her speech a high point after a chaotic opening day at the Cleveland confab.
Mrs Trump also said she was "proud" to become a citizen of the US, according to The Guardian news portal. "I was born in Slovenia, a small beautiful and then Communist country in eastern Europe," she said, but her mother introduced her to beauty and her father gave her a love for travelling.
Mr Trump's former model wife has top billing for the first prime-time session, and aimed to make the case for her husband's policies and personality.
Her background and allure make her a potentially potent surrogate for her husband, particularly on sensitive issues like immigration and gender. She touched on both in her speech, introducing Republican delegates – and millions of Americans watching on television – to her European heritage and the values of hard work instilled by her parents.
“I cannot, or will not, take the freedoms this country offers for granted,” she said. She used her prime-time address – perhaps the biggest political moment of her life to date – as an effort to humanise her husband after an intense primary season often dominated by over-heated rhetoric and accusations that Trump discriminates against Muslims, Mexicans and others.
"If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he's the guy. He will never ever give up, and most importantly, he will never let you down," Mrs Trump said.
"He's tough when he has to be but he's also kind and fair and caring."
"This kindness is not always noted... that is one reason I fell in love with him to begin with."
Mrs Trump said, described her husband as “intensely loyal” to family, friends, employees and the country. He “intends to represent all the people, not just some of the people”, she added. “That includes Christians and Jews and Muslims. It includes Hispanics and African-Americans and Asians and the poor and the middle class.”
Mrs Trump also revealed her plans if she becomes first lady: “If I’m honored to serve as first lady, I will use that wonderful privilege to try to help people in the country who need it most.”
She said she would come to the aid of women and children, ensuring “every child (can) live in comfort and security, with the best possible education”.
Before introducing his wife, Mr Trump made a dramatic, made-for-TV entrance. He stood ramrod still on the stage in dark shadow, silhouetted against a light green backdrop as the Queen’s “We Are the Champions” boomed through the arena.
After his wife, the candidate's team will send his son and daughters to the convention stage in the coming days in an attempt to humanise The Donald.