As the highlight speech on a night organized around the theme of the United States as "the land of opportunity," Melania Trump's immigrant story was meant to contrast legal immigration with the illegal immigration the president has argued is a scourge and a danger.
Her address also opened with an emotional tribute to Americans lost to the coronavirus pandemic, part of an apparent effort by her husband's campaign to shore up support amid widespread public unhappiness over his handling of the crisis.
"Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this pandemic," she said.
The first lady’s speech was part of a patchwork of themes that also included messages opposing abortion, attacking Democratic nominee Joe Biden as a dangerous radical, highlighting President Trump’s ties to evangelical Christians and praising administration efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
One of the persistent themes was a mingling of government with the Trump campaign, including addresses from two of his children taped at a government building and an unusual political endorsement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered from an official overseas trip.
The format bucked traditional norms of diplomacy and launched a House investigation into whether Pompeo violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that separates government functions from political ones — and a line that Trump and many of his aides have appeared to delight in blurring.
Pompeo's address, delivered with the night skyline of Jerusalem behind him, celebrated Trump's relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to "this very city of God, Jerusalem."
The first lady's live address in a newly renovated and redesigned Rose Garden cast Melania Trump as a bridge to female voters disenchanted with the president and as an admirable example of legal immigration to the United States.
A live audience that included the president and Vice President Pence heard her address. Guests were seated with some distance between chairs but far less than the six feet recommended as a precaution against the spread of the novel coronavirus. Most speakers who have addressed the convention have done so without an audience.
With President Trump's campaign strategists privately saying that suburban women are a weak spot for him, they hope she will help attract voters from that crucial bloc.
In addition to other well-known speakers such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Tuesday night's program was aimed in part at highlighting everyday Americans who support Trump's presidency, the campaign said.
Those included an eighth-generation resident of Swan's Island, Maine, who talked about the Trump administration's assistance to the lobster industry; a Minnesota dairy farmer who praised Trump's trade actions; and a former Planned Parenthood employee from Texas who now opposes abortion.
In addition, Trump's son Eric and younger daughter Tiffany were part of a dynastic showcase that will present each of the president's adult children this week. His teenage son, Barron, is not expected to speak.
Tiffany Trump asserted that certain viewpoints are filtered or muted by technology platforms and media companies, an allegation her father has also made. Her remarks echo conspiracy theories that claim conservative views are suppressed by the media, government or other forces.
“Ask yourself, why are we prevented from seeing certain information? Why is one viewpoint promoted, while others are hidden?” she said. “The answer is control, because division and controversy create profit.”
Eric Trump sought to appeal to the "silent majority" that he said understands the stakes of a return to a Democratic president.
His father lost the popular vote in 2016 but captured key states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan to win more electoral college votes.
Democrats "want to destroy the monuments of our forefathers" and disrespect American traditions including the Pledge of Allegiance, he said. "Every day, my father fights for the American people, the forgotten man and woman of this country.'
Like many of the night's speakers, Eric and Tiffany Trump delivered political endorsement speeches from inside federal buildings, which Democrats say violates federal law.
One scheduled convention speaker, Mary Ann Mendoza, a mother whose son was killed in 2014 by a drunk driver living in the United States illegally, was pulled from the lineup at the last minute after she urged her Twitter followers on Tuesday morning to read through a convoluted anti-Semitic conspiracy-theory thread about a Jewish plot to control the world.
After the Daily Beast and others publicized the tweet, Mendoza deleted the message and posted that she had "retweeted a very long thread earlier without reading every post within the thread."
"My apologies for not paying attention to the intent of the whole message. That does not reflect my feelings or personal thoughts whatsoever," she wrote.
Mendoza was meant to appear as a representative of "angel moms," a term Trump has popularized among his base for women whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants.
The president made an unadvertised appearance less than 15 minutes into Tuesday night's broadcast, where he signed a pardon for Jon Ponder, a convicted criminal who turned his life around with help from a former FBI agent. The two men, both scheduled as speakers Tuesday, appeared alongside Trump at the White House.
The segment highlighted Trump’s record of issuing pardons to people with whom he has forged a direct connection. Trump has largely bypassed the traditional pardon system, in which convicted people appeal to the Justice Department.
Paul, who built his national following in part on his opposition to foreign conflicts, sought in his address to bestow his antiwar coalition on Trump, saying that Biden was more likely to lead the United States into new conflicts.
"Joe Biden will continue to spill our blood and treasure," Paul said. "President Trump will bring our heroes home. If you hate war like I hate war, if you want us to quit sending $50 billion to Afghanistan for luxury hotels... you need to support President Trump for another term."
Although Biden voted in 2002 to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, he opposed the Iraq War three years later and said that his vote had been a mistake.
Far less visible than other recent first ladies, Melania Trump was making her biggest speech since the 2016 Republican National Convention, when she was accused of lifting themes and language from then-first lady Michelle Obama.
Her husband's policies as president have targeted legal and illegal immigration in ways that would have limited, if not prevented, his wife's immigrant experience. A model born in Slovenia, Melania Trump came to the country more than two decades ago under a specialty work visa of a sort now much harder to get under President Trump. She later became a citizen and assisted in the immigration and naturalization of her parents and sister, an example of "chain migration" that her husband has said should be forbidden.
Trump made a second unadvertised appearance Tuesday, to preside over a naturalization ceremony for five immigrants, which also featured acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf. Speaking at the White House, Trump praised the three women and two men from all corners of the globe for their perseverance.
"You followed the rules, and you obeyed the laws. You learned your history, embraced our values and proved yourselves to be men and women of the highest integrity," Trump said.
Trump has always put gauze over the specifics of his wife’s immigration story, even as he made immigration his defining policy issue for an upset victory four years ago. The topic remains an animating force for Trump’s most loyal supporters but has taken a back seat this year as the president seeks to win reelection amid a pandemic that has killed some 175,000 Americans and put millions out of work or in danger of losing their jobs.
His border wall remains almost entirely unfinished and was never paid for by Mexico, as he promised in 2016. He has melded a hard-line immigration posture with an anti-crime message, as was meant to be illustrated Tuesday with Mendoza's canceled address.
The night's antiabortion message was underscored by the appearance of a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, Abby Johnson, who says she walked away from her job after witnessing the abortion of a 13-week-old fetus.
Another speaker, Nicholas Sandmann, a teenager involved in a viral incident last year near the Lincoln Memorial, decried “cancel” culture and presented himself as a target of the “full war machine of the mainstream media.” He described the aftermath of a 2019 incident when he wore a “Make America Great Again” hat during an annual antiabortion demonstration in Washington and crossed paths with a Native American activist. The interaction, caught on video and widely covered by the national media, sparked partisan outrage.
“I learned that what was happening to me had a name,” Sandmann said in his speech. “It was called being canceled. As in annulled. As in revoked. As in made void.”
Sandmann's family filed defamation lawsuits against eight news organizations and has since settled with CNN and The Washington Post for undisclosed amounts. The Post has maintained that its reporting was accurate and fair.
Pompeo's address was videotaped in Jerusalem as he was traveling in the Middle East and Africa following the announcement of a diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the United Arab Emirates this month.
A House panel is launching an investigation into the speech, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said Tuesday. The move comes as Biden's campaign and other Democrats are accusing Pompeo of using his office for political gain.
".@SecPompeo's participation in the #RNCConvention during the course of official @StateDept work is not only unacceptable, but appears that it may also be illegal," Castro, chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said in a tweet. "I've launched a @HouseForeign investigation."
Pompeo aides have said his remarks were being made in his personal capacity and that no State Department resources would be used, though Pompeo is traveling at government expense and generally must use government-approved secure communications. The Trump campaign listed him Tuesday under his official title and honorific.
Philip Rucker contributed to this report.