Day one of RNC: “Make America Safe Again”

Highlights and observations from day one of the 2016 RNC

Through the eyes of a young, aspiring journalist

By Sarah Stubbs

The overwhelming theme of day one at the 2016 Republican National Convention was nationalism. Any discrepancy or shift from the far right resulted in resounding “USA, USA, USA” chanting on the floor in the Quicken Loans Arena on Monday. Whether it was escorting a Code Pink protestor out of the Q, shouting down the Never Trump delegates, or justice for the families of the Benghazi victims, nationalism was the answer.

While mainstream media focuses on the striking similarities Melania Trump’s speech had to Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 DNC – two paragraphs, specifically – I’m wondering why there isn’t more talk about the political issues that were expressed in the most blunt, raw manner I have ever seen in recent political history.

Day one of the RNC was structured around the theme of “Make America safe again.” The wide array of speakers had these resolutions to how we might make America safe again: keeping the military strong, taking care of veterans, supporting police, securing our borders, and “naming the enemy” of radical Islamic terrorism.

Here’s a summary of the highlights of the RNC, day one:

The Never Trump Vote

The RNC opened with chaotic controversy as the “Never Trump” delegates requested another roll-call vote over convention rules after the first was a mix of ‘no’s and ‘yea’s. The delegates were voting on proposed rules that would require delegates to vote in the same way their respective state’s primaries and caucuses voted this spring.

The “Never Trump” delegates strongly opposed these rules as they essentially guaranteed Trump to win the nomination.

Trump supporters erupted in chants of “USA, USA, USA” and other pro-Trump slogans while anti-Trump delegates yelled “no.”

The USA chants and cheering drowned out the ‘no’s from the Never Trump delegates and temporary convention chair and Rep. Steve Womack declared the rules approved and attempted to move on with the convention, even though the floor was still energetic and loud.

The “Never Trump” delegates, mostly from Colorado, walked out when the decision was made.


Speeches regarding the military and support for veterans all centralized on keeping America’s military strong to keep America safe. Retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the inspiration for the central character in the movie “The Lone Survivor” offered his take.

“The only way to keep America safe is to have an elite military,” said Lutrell.

Luttrell; Mark Geist and John Tiegen, US Marine Corps veterans and co-authors of “13 Hours”; Tom Cotton, US Senator (R-AK); Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, US Army; Joni Ernst, US Senator (R-Iowa) and veteran; Jason Beardsley, special operations adviser for Concerned Veterans for America and military veteran (Army and Navy); and US Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), former Navy SEAL, were the military-affiliated speakers, not including the mothers of Benghazi victims and fallen veterans.

Benghazi and Hillary Clinton

One of the most passionate speeches of the night, next to the former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani’s, was by the mother of  Benghazi victim Sean Smith, Pat Smith. In her speech she directly called out Clinton, stating that she blames Hillary Clinton personally for the death of her son and that she deserves jail time.

“If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency? She deserves to be in stripes,” said Smith.

The co-authors of “13 Hours” followed suit with a long recap of the events of that day in Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012. The demeanor and tone of their testimonies often jumped from serious to comedic when they made a tampon joke and described warfare as “whack-a-mole.” The crowd of delegates and attendees were not nearly as attentive or energetic during Geist and Tiegen’s speech as they were during Pat Smith’s.

#CrookedHillary and #HillaryForPrison

The teleprompter for the convention speakers could be seen from the press box. Anytime the speaker referenced Clinton in Trump’s preferred way on Twitter, “Crooked Hillary,” the teleprompter literally read #CrookedHillary.

At other points in the different speeches, the delegates erupted in “Hillary for prison” chants, often spurring roaring applause and subsequently, more “USA” chants. The speakers often had to pause for the chanting to settle down or join in.

Several references were made by multiple speakers that Clinton should be in prison because of her use of personal email as Secretary of State including Darryl Glenn, Colorado U.S. Senate candidate.

“We should send her an email and tell her she deserves a bright, orange jumpsuit,” said Glenn.

Securing the Borders

Three immigration reform advocates shared testimonies about losing loved ones to tragic crimes at the hands of illegal immigrants.

Several testimonies, such as Antonio Sabato Jr.’s, discussed how following the proper steps to become a legal citizen of the United States is a doable process. Melania Trump also mentioned in her speech that she took the proper steps to become a legal citizen as well, stating that being an American citizen is “the greatest privilege on earth.”


The first speaker during prime time was Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander. After he explained why he has been on the “Trump train” from the start (because he believes Trump will “always have your back”), Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, followed up with similar rhetoric. After that, many of the speakers were either minority government officials or law enforcement officers, or legal immigrants.

#AllLivesMatter #BlueLivesMatter

Sherriff David Clarke of Milwaukee, a black conservative, opened his speech with a passionate statement.

“I would like to make something very clear: blue lives matter,” said Clarke. The audience responded with deafening applause.

Several other speeches made reference to the racial tensions in the U.S .right now, stating “All Lives Matter” often.

“What happened to there’s no black America, there’s no white America, there’s just America,” said Giuliani.

Protestors Silenced by Nationalism

Before Melaina Trump took the stage, two protestors popped up in the audience. The first was a Code Pink (the progressive grass-roots organization) members. She held a sign that read “we can stop war” and an attendee one row in front of her attempted to snatch it away. She was escorted in less than three minutes.

Another protestor was spotted just by my press box. This one was another young woman and she held a sign that read “refugees welcome.” She made this statement while Giuliani was speaking.

She was also quickly escorted out. She held up a peace sign on her way.

The audience’s reaction to both protestor sightings was more “USA” chanting.

The Idolization of Trump

The internet responded immediately to the way that Donald Trump came out to introduce is wife, Melania, many saying it reminded them of a WWE entrance. Trump walked onto the stage to Queen’s “We are the Champions” as the lighting was dimmed to create a silhouette-effect and smoked filled the stage.

Clad in ball caps reading “Make America Great Again,” cowboy hats, or other clever Trump accessories, several delegates and attendees wore their support for Trump. All of the speakers, though, were even more straightforward with their words.

Jamiel Shaw, father of a teen who was killed by an illegal immigrant, said “Trump will put America first, not crooked Hillary. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Trump was sent from God.”

Immigration reform advocate Sabine Durden felt similarly.

“Donald Trump is not only my hero, he’s my life saver,” Sabine said.


Sarah will be back at the RNC, live tweeting, on Thursday. Follow her @sarahxstubbs.

She will also be taking of the University of Findlay’s Instagram account. Follow @ufindlay on Instagram to see the RNC through the eyes of an Oiler journalism student. 

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