Political Issue: FLOTUS

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Emma Frizzell

First lady Melania Trump. Born in Slovenia, Melania started off her career as a model, eventually gaining US citizenship in July 2006. Along the way, she married Donald Trump, modeled for Vogue and became one of America’s most well-known women as the current First Lady.

With the election drawing near, most American conversations revolve around the Biden vs. Trump debate. Although this discussion is important, we often neglect to acknowledge who they might bring with them to the White House. In President Trump’s case, it is First Lady Melania Trump. Born in Slovenia, Melania started off her career as a model, eventually gaining US citizenship in July 2006. Along the way, she married Donald Trump, modeled for Vogue and became one of America’s most well-known women as the current First Lady.

 

Melania may have begun her career as a successful model, but the majority of her accomplishments are in the political arena. Melania was the recipient of the 2006 Woman of the Year award by the Police Athletic League, an organization that consists of police officers who mentor children in school-related activities. Although she has been widely recognized for her success in her modeling career, arguably her greatest accomplishment yet is her Be Best campaign.

 

Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” program to fight childhood obesity. Nancy Reagan introduced the “Just Say No” anti-drug initiative. Like other first ladies, Melania introduced her Be Best campaign in hopes of bringing awareness to causes she cares deeply for. Although there have been discussions over how productive this campaign has been compared to previous First Lady initiatives, others applaud Melania for tackling multiple serious issues.

According to Whitehouse.gov, “Mrs. Trump puts the emphasis on children and how we can protect them, teach them and empower them.” She has acted on this by visiting hospitals, assisting victims of shootings and comforting families affected by hurricanes. Now, she uses the Be Best campaign, which was released in 2018, to tackle a variety of issues ranging from online safety to opioid effects on infants.

The First Lady and her staff have taken steps to meet the standard of the Presidential Records Act”

— Lindsay Reynolds

But, with praise comes criticism. In Melania’s case, it was the use of a personal email and messaging account to discuss White House activities. An article published by The Washington Post in September 2020 details messages sent after the presidential inauguration ceremony, discussing government hiring contracts, agendas for foreign visits and detailed descriptions of the plans of Melania’s Be Best campaign before it was released. 

 

Although the First Lady is not an elected official, some call Donald hypocritical for basing a majority of his 2016 presidential campaign on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email, claiming it was “worse than Watergate.” Melania’s Chief of Staff, Lindsay Reynolds, attempted to ease public concern by stating that “the First Lady and her staff have taken steps to meet the standard of the Presidential Records Act, relating to the preservation of records that adequately document official activities.” 

 

Along with this, Melania’s life behind the cameras has been uncovered by a former senior advisor to the First Lady, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, in her book Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady, published on Sept. 1, 2020. Wolkoff was Melania’s first hire to the Trump administration and eventually left in February of 2018 after being “scapegoated” and “used,” according to Vanity Fair magazine. She contributed to the uproar against Melania using a personal email, and stated that Melania “doesn’t really care” and has a “transactional marriage.”

 

Although the American spotlight is shining on the next presidential election, Melania continues to focus on her Be Best campaign and upholding the core beliefs behind it: children’s well-being, internet safety and education on opioid abuse. Whether she will continue working on this from the White House alongside Donald is currently unknown, but will be decided on Nov. 3.