First lady Melania Trump rolls out policy platform, focus on children

PHOTO: First lady Melania Trump speaks on her initiatives during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 7, 2018.PlaySusan Walsh/AP
WATCH First lady Melania Trump unveils 'Be Best' policy

First lady Melania Trump officially unveiled her "Be Best" children-focused policy platform in the White House Rose Garden Monday, with President Donald Trump watching and applauding from the audience.

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“As a mother and as First Lady, it concerns me that in today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and often times turn to forms of destructive or addictive behavior such as bullying, drug addiction or even suicide,” Mrs. Trump said. “I feel strongly that as adults, we can and should be best at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life.”

The platform will focus on three main issues facing today's children that Mrs. Trump said are of particular concern to her: physical and emotional well-being, social media use, and the opioid abuse.

The characteristically private first lady has veered from tradition in some ways, including, in the early months of her husband's term, by continuing to live in New York City for several months while son, Barron, finished out of the school year; but Monday's announcement, 15 months into her husband's term, comes as Mrs. Trump has embraced an increasingly public role as first lady.

With her husband, notorious for his threating tweets, sitting in the front row, Mrs. Trump spoke out about the need to teach children about the power of their words on social media.

“As we all know, social media can both positively and negatively affect our children. But too often, it is used in negative ways,” the first lady said. “It is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind them that when they are using their voices – whether verbally or online - they must choose their words wisely and speak with respect and compassion.”

The first lady, aware of the irony that comes with her taking a stand against cyber-bullying, has previously said she won't let it stop her.

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic,” the first lady said in March at a roundtable with technology leaders that was billed by the White House as a discussion on cyber-safety and technology. “I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right."

The first lady's communications director Stephanie Grisham has said the first lady's advocacy on the issue should be applauded, saying that the first lady is "an independent woman who is doing what she feels is right for children. This should be celebrated, not criticized."

PHOTO: First lady Melania Trump announces the launch of her Be Best initiative in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2018. Leah Millis/Reuters
First lady Melania Trump announces the launch of her "Be Best" initiative in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2018.

The first lady spoke about the visits she’s made to a non-profit that helps families and newborns recovering from opioid addictions, as well as a hospital, applauding their heroic work in helping children affected by the epidemic, and dedicating her platform to do more to raise awareness to the issue.

“I first learned about the real consequences of our nation’s opioid epidemic during my husband’s campaign. Since then, I have met with and learned from many people who have been affected by this true crisis,” Mrs. Trump said. “I will use BE BEST to bring attention to programs such as these in order to encourage conversation and replication.”

The first lady also said she would continue drawing focus to well-being programs already in existence to promote youth physical and emotional wellness.

“In my time as First Lady of the United States, I will make every effort to BE BEST at championing the many successful well-being programs in existence today that teach the tools and skills for emotional, social and physical well-being,” she said.

While former first Lady Michelle Obama put her primary focus on healthy living and nutrition through her "Let's Move" campaign, Mrs. Trump has continued the White House kitchen garden that was Mrs. Obama planted, joining with children last fall to harvest the garden's vegetables.

The president, who joined the first lady on stage after her remarks and signed a proclamation declaring May 7 "Be Best" Day, applauded the first lady's efforts, saying that her efforts "inspire us all" and declaring that today "we pledge to be best."

In addition to the president, Vice President Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Chief of Staff Kelly, and several members of the president’s cabinet were in attendance.

Some questions were raised when it was noticed that a pamphlet on the BeBest website, named "Talking With Kids About Being Online," adds a new cover page but otherwise is more or less identical to one published by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 named "Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online." On the last page it does include a sizeable mention of the FTC.

"The FTC approached us to include this as a good resource and we were happy to do so. It is a government resource, which is meant to be distributed," Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director, said in a statement.

"As it is clearly related to the social media portion of Mrs. Trump’s initiatives, it is a good resource to include with some of our BeBest materials. It was updated and edited to reflect today’s event and we were happy to be able to provide the children in attendance with such a resource," Grisham said.