Melania Trump, First Lady of the United States, has generated much public interest. Unlike her outspoken husband, President Donald J. Trump, the first lady has remained more of a mystery. All eyes were upon her from the day Trump took office. The former fashion model paired a monochromatic powder blue jacket and dress with pointed stilettos and matching leather gloves to complete the classic look. The press gave her fashion choices favorable reviews, but wasted no time launching attacks on her introverted nature, describing it as a “stumbling block” and a “challenge.” Mrs. Trump has proven them wrong by wholeheartedly embracing her role as First Lady of the United States. In less than one year’s time, she has taken on difficult topics such as the opioid crisis, bullying, childhood health, and literacy. Her desire to create a brighter future for children has caused her to champion issues affecting them, including loneliness, peer pressure, and drugs. She expresses concern for people affected by tragedies and has continually demonstrated unwavering support for the police, fire departments, and the military.
Melania was born in the city of Novo Mesto, Slovenia, then called the Socialist Republic of Slovenia within Yugoslavia. She grew up in a modest home in a small communist town. Her father managed a car and motorcycle dealership for a state-owned vehicle manufacturer and her mother was a patternmaker. For this reason, Melania participated in fashion shows featuring children’s clothing. She attended the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana and studied at the University of Ljubljana for one year. She speaks English, French, Italian, German, Serbo-Croatian and Slovene. Melania became a fashion model in Europe. In 2001, she became a permanent resident of the United States. Five years later, she was proudly sworn in as a citizen of the United States of America. Her marriage to Donald J. Trump took place in January of 2005. The following year, they welcomed a son, Barron William Trump. Melania, who is Trump’s third wife and is 24 years younger than her husband, considers her first and foremost role a “full-time mom.”
Melania Trump possesses a natural passion for the arts. This is evident in her involvement with numerous philanthropic causes, including serving as Honorary Chairwoman for the Martha Graham Dance Company. Melania has actively helped many organizations, including being Honorary Chairwoman for the Boy’s Club of New York for five consecutive years, serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Red Cross, and being honored with Woman of the Year by the Police Athletic League. In 2010, she proudly became Chairwoman for the American Heart Association, which helped to raise $1.7 million for research.
Historically, the US Constitution provides guidance for the president, but does not define the duties of the first lady. Since the position is not an elected one, many of the previous first ladies traditionally carried out ceremonial duties. A main function of the wife of the president is to play hostess for social events. However, each of the wives put their own touches on the position. Some behaved subdued, while others chose to play larger and more politically active roles. Barbara Bush, wife of former President George H.W. Bush, often took a less political role. She once said, “I don’t make any decisions. I just go blindly on my own dumb way and have fun and try to be helpful.” Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, established her own office in the West Wing to be accessible to executive staff for political reasons.
Of the first ladies of the United States, Melania Trump is the second foreign-born. London-born Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, was the first. However, unlike Louisa Adams, Melania is the first of the first ladies to become a naturalized citizen.
Melania prefers to assume a traditional role as First Lady of the United States. Unlike some other President’s wives, she has a smaller staff of nine working for her. The media scrutinized her for not yet hiring a director of policy, suggesting that this might prevent her from advancing her role and agenda. Melania’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, suggests that the first lady is more interested in having a team that works well together and stated, “She also wants to be mindful and responsible when it comes to taxpayer money.”
During her first five months serving as First Lady of the United States, Melania delayed her move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She opted to maintain primary residence in New York to allow her son to finish out his school year. Despite criticism from the press, her decision to put family first remains her number one loyalty. Despite a late debut living in the White House, Melania has smoothly transitioned into her role as First Lady. She has taken on numerous engagements thus far, including giving a luncheon speech at the US Mission to the UN, attending opening ceremonies at the Invictus Games for Wounded Warriors in Toronto, and visiting an opioid recovery center for infants affected by addiction. She has also visited numerous children’s hospitals, planted and harvested the White House Kitchen garden with kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Washington, and hosted other nation’s leaders at the White House. She sat and spoke with victims of the hurricanes and of the Las Vegas shooting, experiences which she describes as somber and uplifting.
In September 2017, First Lady Melania Trump addressed a luncheon at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York to condemn bullying and urged world leaders to teach “moral conscience” by example. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton accused Melania of not doing enough to fight cyberbullying, going as far as questioning the first lady’s commitment to the cause. One month later, Melania launched an anti-bullying campaign as promised, making a surprise visit to a Michigan middle school with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to kick off the “Week of Inclusion” component of National Bullying Prevention Month.
During her visit to the school, Mrs. Trump sat with sixth grade students and chatted with seventh and eighth graders in the cafeteria. She spoke with students, gave hugs, and took selfies. First Lady Melania Trump promptly addressed issues of social isolation, whereby she encouraged students to reach out to one another. “I encourage you all to find a new friend, and have lunch with that friend.” She gave further advice. “Ask them what they like, what their hobbies are, so nobody becomes sad, or stressed and everybody feels included.” Of her campaign for kindness and compassion, Mrs. Trump said, “By our own example, we must teach children to be good stewards of the world they will inherit.” While some liberal news stations have questioned Melania Trump’s authenticity, her actions show that she is sincere about helping others.
On Thursday night, the national Christmas tree was lit by Mrs. Trump, who pushed a button after the President did the countdown. The lighting of the Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition which began on December 24, 1923, with President Calvin Coolidge. Earlier in the week, Mrs. Trump invited a group of young schoolchildren to visit the White House to see the holiday decorations. She also took part in helping to decorate the White House and shared, “I hope that when visiting the People’s House this year, visitors will get a sense of being home for the holidays.”