Now that First Lady Melania Trump has joined her husband, President Donald Trump, along with their son Barron Trump, in the White House, the spotlight on the 47-year-old former model has intensified. As a result, reports pointing out the unwritten rules that Melania is expected to follow have increased, along with pressure to follow in the footsteps of former First Ladies. While previous First Ladies have taken different roles when it comes to participating in the political aspects of their marriage, they’ve also chosen some sort of campaign or cause to champion during their time in the White House. What do the expectations for Melania mean when it comes to her anti-bullying crusade?
Donald Trump’s wife is experiencing pressure to follow certain “unspoken rules” now that she’s in the White House, pointed out the New York Daily News. There’s no written manual handed down from one First Lady to the next, but the guidelines are established, ranging from the basics (who does the move-in work and unpacking) to changing the decor.
When it comes to getting settled, Melania is expected to rely on the White House staff members. Numbering about 100, these individuals manage everything from organizing Barron’s toys (don’t forget his fidget spinner) to putting the Trump family’s favorite foods in the kitchen. Per tradition, the staff members even take responsibility for stocking up the bathrooms with her favorite products.
However, regarding decorating the White House in Trump style, Melania is allowed to team up with her interior designer, Tham Kannalikham. The two are limited to certain areas of the White House, specifically the personal living areas of the First Family. And the potential for change is considerable, with over a dozen rooms over two floors constituting the private living areas.
However, regarding who pays for those renovations, such as repainting the walls or changing out the furniture and rugs, that’s where it gets tricky. Congress has set aside a $100,000 budget for the anticipated renovations. With comparisons being made between Melania and Michelle Obama, however, it’s not known if the Trump family will use Congress’ budget or follow Obama’s lead and pay out of pocket.
Also regarding comparisons, Melania can team up with President Trump to bring something meaningful to the White House. The Kennedy family’s legacy was a swimming pool, while Eisenhower supervised the addition of a screening room. The Obama family added a playground for their daughters, which subsequently is being used on the property of a local D.C. homeless shelter. Will Melania and President Trump mark their own time in the White House with a legacy offering?
Regarding the other unwritten rules that have resulted in comparisons to other First Ladies for Melania, she’s expected to serve as the hostess on certain occasions at the White House, noted the Guardian.
Among the ceremonial duties of First Ladies are annual events, including the famous Easter egg roll and Christmas party, along with joining Trump at state dinners. However, it’s the cause that each First Lady has championed throughout history that often gets the most attention, U.S. history expert Christopher Andersen told the Guardian. Anderson noted that the tradition of First Ladies championing specific causes puts pressure on Melania to carry out her own campaign.
“Every first lady is also expected to pick at least one or two causes to support.”
Both Laura and Barbara Bush opted for literacy. Nancy Reagan chose drug addiction as her crusade, while Michelle Obama took on the challenge of creating and championing a healthy eating campaign.
Melania previously announced her plan to battle cyberbullying. However, with Trump turning to Twitter with posts that sometimes spark bullying allegations, Melania faced her own backlash over her anti-bullying campaign references. The Daily Beast noted that now Melania has moved into the White House. However, the pressure has intensified for her to follow in the footsteps of other First Ladies and begin a more public life, complete with campaigning for her cause.
Anti-bullying activists are watching to see if Melania comes through with her pre-election promise to attack cyber-bullying in her role of First Lady. About five months after Trump was sworn in as President, the Daily Beast termed her cause a “phantom anti-cyberbullying campaign,” but noted that the move to the White House gives Melania the chance for a fresh start with more visibility.
That may change, however, now that she’s moved into the White House. Donna Rice Hughes is president and CEO of Enough is Enough. As head of the non-profit organization that focuses on shielding both children and families from Internet dangers including pornography, Hughes revealed that she plans to talk about cyber-bullying with Melania’s chief of staff in a scheduled meeting. She told the Daily Beast that she views it as the ideal cause for the First Lady.
“I think cyberbullying is a perfect platform for [Melania] for a lot of reasons.”
Hughes praised her “grace and dignity” during Trump’s campaign and her subsequent time as First Lady, noting that Melania has faced “a lot of hostility–aimed at both her and her son.”
The cyber-bullying expert also emphasized that this cause is not a one-party concern.
“She has a unique opportunity to turn the tide so that children’s dignity is better protected in the digital age,” added Hughes. “This is something that affects all of us.”
However, Melania’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, when asked about the cyber-bullying campaign by the Daily Beast, responded via email with a non-specific reference to the First Lady’s causes.
“[Melania] and Barron are getting settled. We look forward to announcing her initiatives in the coming weeks.”
The Daily Beast also reported contacting four other organizations known for anti-bullying, but none had heard from the First Lady or Trump’s staff members as yet.
[Featured Image by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images]