AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
When President Donald Trump departed the White House in January of 2021, speculation immediately started about whether or not he would once again seek the presidency in 2024 to continue his mission to “Make America Great Again.” But for former First Lady Melania Trump, the work she began during her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has hardly stopped in the nearly two years since she left Washington. From her “Be Best” initiative to advocacy for foster children, Mrs. Trump continues to exemplify a life of service to others, representing the very best traditions of presidential spouses both during and after their time in office.
Throughout American history, several First Ladies have become icons in their own right by using their platform to advance causes that are important to them. Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, for instance, led conservation efforts to protect natural settings like the California Redwoods and the Hudson River. Nancy Reagan launched the famed “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, touring the country and raising awareness about the dangers of youth drug abuse. Following 9/11, Laura Bush became known as the “Comforter in Chief,” advising parents and reassuring children. While the nature of the office means that presidents are forced almost exclusively to deal with politically charged issues, presidential spouses often have a unique opportunity to rally the country around unifying issues.
For Mrs. Trump, that issue was a campaign entitled “Be Best.” Built on three pillars of well-being, online safety, and opioid abuse prevention, Be Best became an international effort to promote social, emotional, and physical health for children. “From coast to coast, Americans have unwavering resolve to help one another, and share a common bond in wanting to create a better future for our next generation,” Mrs. Trump said in a video announcing the initiative in 2017. “Be Best is a platform that helps children achieve their fullest potential and also highlights the people and organizations that are doing extraordinary things in our country and around the world.”
Mrs. Trump traveled throughout the United States and even abroad to promote her campaign, working with dozens of organizations to develop resources for parents and children. In 2018, her office worked with the Federal Trade Commission to create a booklet for parents about how to talk to their children about online safety. A few months later, Mrs. Trump traveled to Africa, overseeing U.S. aid operations in several countries and providing things like sports equipment to children in need. In 2019, she traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress regarding how Be Best could help with implementation of the SUPPORT Act, a bill signed into law by President Trump to stop illegal and unsafe drug imports.
Despite these tireless efforts, Mrs. Trump never received the glowing media coverage afforded to other First Ladies – a pattern that has continued since she left the White House. Vogue Magazine, for example, which featured Michelle Obama on their cover no less than three times to amplify her initiatives, and has featured current First Lady Jill Biden, failed to offer their cover to Mrs. Trump, an actual fashion model, even once. CNN opted to devote hours of coverage to Mrs. Trump’s wardrobe, but failed to mention the work she was doing to help children. Unfortunately, it seems, the mainstream media is only able to view Mrs. Trump’s impressive work through the lens of their blinding hatred for her husband.
However, to her credit, this unfair treatment has hardly deterred Mrs. Trump. Less than a year after leaving the White House, she unveiled the creation of “Fostering the Future,” an extension of her Be Best initiative aimed at securing scholarships for children in the foster care system. Mrs. Trump said on her website that the program will help address alarming statistics concerning foster children – only 50 percent finish high school, only 3 percent obtain a college degree, 20 percent end up homeless, and only half have gainful employment by age 24. The initiative is funded through the sale of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, as well as corporate sponsorships and individual donations. In September, Mrs. Trump also announced that she would be selling limited edition Christmas ornaments to fund the scholarships.
“We must equip these young Americans with the skills they need to reach their full potential through economic empowerment, and especially through expanded access to resources in the fields of science, technology, and the trades,” she wrote in a joint Fox News op-ed with late Congresswoman Jackie Walorski in observance of National Foster Care Month and in coordination with the launch of Fostering the Future. “Across the country, thousands of children entrusted to the foster care system are searching for direction, answers, and hope—and America must deliver.”
Again, the mainstream media has offered the scholarships scant coverage. What attention has been paid to them has often been shameless and bad taste attempts to damage former President Trump politically. But Mrs. Trump has nonetheless continued to press forward, determined to not let partisan squabbles get in the way of helping children. Every American, regardless of party, should be grateful for her grace and cheerful perseverance.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.
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