Melania Trump, who will become just the second foreign-born first lady in US history, will assume the very public role after having spent much of her husband’s presidential campaign avoiding the campaign trail and the limelight, saying she preferred to remain home in New York to care for the couple’s only son, who is 10. She will succeed First Lady Michelle Obama, who has taken on a very public and active role in advocating for health and wellness issues.
Trump delivered only a handful of speeches as her husband bounded from one unlikely phase of his campaign to the next. But she did lay out in broad terms what her priorities would be as first lady in the final week of the campaign — and to accomplish at least one of those, she may have to begin in the West Wing.
That’s because Trump said in a speech last week outlining the priorities she would bring to the East Wing that in addition to “helping children and women,” she said combatting cyber bullying will be “one of the main focuses” of her work as first lady.
While Donald Trump has repeatedly mocked his opponents on Twitter over their looks and intelligence, Melanie Trump vowed to combat meanness on the Internet, saying “our culture has gotten too mean and too tough,” particularly as others are mocked over their “looks or intelligence.”
“It is never OK when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked. It is terrible when it happens on the playground, and it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet. We have to find a better way to talk to each other,” Melania Trump said, delivering a rare speech in Pennsylvania last week. “We must find better ways to honor and support the basic goodness of our children, especially in social media.”
But while her agenda as first lady may be tinged with irony, Melania Trump has in many ways been a balancing force for her husband — chiding him in private when his temper flared and he lashed out on Twitter at his political opponents and urging him to be more “presidential” in their private conversations.
She has also served as a symbolic counterweight to her husband’s hardline rhetoric on immigration. While the Slovenian-born former model has said she agrees with her husband’s immigration proposals, Donald Trump and his supporters have frequently touted Melania Trump’s status as an immigrant to push back on attacks that Trump is anti-immigrant.
Melania Trump has said becoming a naturalized US citizen in 2006 has been “the greatest privilege in the world.” She will become the second foreign-born first lady, 192 years after England-born Louisa Adams became first lady.
But her immigration history also risked becoming a liability during the campaign amid reports that she may have worked as a model in the United States before obtaining the proper paperwork to work legally in the US. She and her attorney have insisted she followed all appropriate laws.
Before her speech last week, Melania Trump delivered only one major speech in the campaign — at the Republican National Convention before her husband accepted the Republican presidential nomination.
While initially well-received, the speech was ultimately tarnished by controversy after it came to light that parts of the speech were lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.