COVID-19 will undoubtedly change America as we know it, but it is also a defining moment for our first lady. For those closely watching, it seems as though she knows it and is rising to the occasion.
The truly unprecedented devastation of COVID-19 has impacted the role of the first lady in ways not seen before. There is no past occupant Melania Trump can look to as a guide because how a first lady would normally react and interact with the American people doesn’t apply under the current circumstances.
Trump can’t look to Laura Bush, who was seen comforting survivors of the attacks of Sept. 11, or visit a combat zone as Pat Nixon did during Vietnam – this enemy is unique and does not allow for the visible and customary scenes of a first lady.
Prior to this war with an "invisible enemy," Trump used her role to focus on children both domestically and internationally as part of her BE BEST campaign, which the mainstream media has largely ignored. Instead, they focus more on finding fault with the way she has continued traditions of those who came before her through her decorations and commenting on her superb sense of personal style. (Historically, Nancy Reagan faced similar harsh and unfair treatment in her first term.)
As all Americans try to adhere to President Trump’s guidelines to slow the spread and are practicing social distancing, the first lady can’t be on the front lines as she was when she visited the Texas coast after Hurricane Harvey or Florida following Hurricane Michael. For fear of spreading the disease, the first lady cannot be in hospitals visiting with patients as she did in El Paso and Dayton following the tragic shootings this past summer. This health environment is creating a most unique challenge.
However, armed with a growing team of heavy hitters, including former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, as her chief of staff and spokesperson, and others like Marcia Lee Kelly and Emma Doyle, the first lady is using her platform to provide a reassuring voice to echo the messages from the Coronavirus Task Force and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Via social media, she has posted videos about the importance of social distancing, and information on how to cope with stress during this time. She has posted photos of herself wearing a mask, provided tips for parents on what to say to their children and even provided fun activities to do with them such as Be Best crossword puzzles.
Aware of the global pandemic and how America is still leading in this fight, Melania Trump has been calling other first ladies across the globe, personally reassuring them that America is in the battle with them and proving the importance of soft diplomacy.
Trump has adhered to the social distancing guidelines as all mothers are, especially those with children now at home full time. The Annual White House Easter Egg roll was canceled out of an abundance of caution for public health. Using technology, however, she still read the book, "The Little Rabbit" and posted it online, reminding us that we can connect in other ways with loved ones over the holiday without seeing them in person – we don’t have to give up all of our traditions.
The first lady also had to reschedule their first royal state dinner in honor of the king and queen of Spain. She made it clear, however, that it was just postponed, reminding us all that there will be entertaining at the White House again and that we will also be able to have our own celebrations in our own homes.
Aware of the global pandemic and how America is still leading in this fight, Trump has been calling other first ladies across the globe, personally reassuring them that America is in the battle with them and proving the importance of soft diplomacy.
Our first lady is using her voice, gently guiding our country and focusing on parents and children in this time of unique crisis. Trump’s legacy of demonstrative compassion, ofttimes with inadequate recognition, is both welcomed and needed. Her predecessors found ways to provide comfort in tragedy but none in such a complex and challenging time from physical, mental and economic health standpoints.
Melania Trump is showing that she is more than able to handle this crisis and is charting her own course.