Melania, Melania, how does your garden grow?
It was difficult to ascertain last night, as the First Lady of the United States Melania Trump addressed a small crowd at the 2020 Republican National Convention – for she did so in the dark.
She was up against it before she’d so much as opened her mouth. The White House’s Rose Garden, where Mrs Trump delivered her keynote speech, had recently been renovated. To the naked eye, the new garden looks perfectly well-tended and otherwise innocuous. Crabapple trees planted by former First Lady Jackie Kennedy were removed (and replanted elsewhere in the extensive gardens), the drainage system was improved, and a new walkway was built.
Much is being made of her speech, with some believing there were secret hidden messages delivered in order to undermine her husband’s administration. – Constance Watson
The unveiling of the Rose Garden prompted disdain in the global press and social media alike. “It’s just hideous. Unless you were going for an early mausoleum esthetic” tweeted one member of the public. “I wonder if Marie Antoinette redid the gardens at Versailles when the revolution was brewing”, wrote another.
Melania, ever self-composed, had issued an inoffensive statement to the press about the renovations, stating “preserving the history and beauty of the White House and its grounds is a testament to our nation’s commitment to the care of this landscape and our dedication to American ideals, safeguarding them for our children and their children for generations to come”.
There she stood – dressed in a military-inspired khaki coloured suit (naturally, this too has inspired criticism, subsequently described as both “cold” and “sombre”), under aggressively lurid lighting. Mrs Trump spoke for over 20 minutes. She discussed the “invisible enemy Covid-19 [that has] swept across our beautiful country”. She thanked her husband’s supporters who were, in 2016, “willing to take a chance on the businessman who had never worked in politics”. Much is being made of her speech, with some believing there were secret hidden messages delivered in order to undermine her husband’s administration, with others arguing that it was a display of unalloyed wifely support.
By and large, the speech was not in the least surprising, delivered in the manner that we have come to expect from the First Lady in the last five years. Staid and composed, Mrs Trump – the President’s third wife – stepped up to the plate, once again.
Melania never signed up for the job of First Lady. – Constance Watson
For those that doubted Melania’s acquiescence: “I can tell you that every word in the speech is from her. It’s very authentic and it’s going to come from the heart, so we’re really excited for people to hear from her”, her chief of staff Stephanie Grisham told US television channel MSNBC in advance of the First Lady’s speech.
If the speech did indeed come from the heart, one can only assume that Mrs Trump’s heart is not penetrated by the labyrinthine cruelties of passionate emotion. That said, at no point did Melania (in so far as we know) sign up to the job of wearing her heart on her sleeve, nor of revealing her innermost thoughts on an international stage. In fact, in so far as we know, Melania never signed up for the job of First Lady: the Donald Trump she married, as she acknowledged in her speech last night, was a businessman, and not a politician.
And in spite of the job that she didn’t sign up for, despite the onslaught of criticism from every corner of the globe, regardless of the slightly unnatural speeches and the digging up of Jackie Kennedy’s apple trees, Melania remains loyal to something she did sign up for – and that is to her marriage to Donald Trump. Melania may not have the charm of Michelle Obama, the ambition of Hillary Clinton or the style of Jackie Kennedy. But, like these First Ladies before her, she understands “for better, for worse” and “in sickness and in health”. And for that reason, if none other, she is deserving of some respect.
Constance Watson is assistant editor of the Catholic Herald.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.