First Lady Melania Trump Unveils 'Be Best' Campaign, Focusing On Children

May 7, 2018
Originally published on May 7, 2018 7:07 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The first lady unveiled her policy initiatives today. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, she launched a campaign that's focused on the well-being of children. She's calling it Be Best.

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MELANIA TRUMP: 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.

CORNISH: NPR's Sarah McCammon was at the event. She joins us now from the White House. Sarah, exactly what is this policy initiative going to look like?

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, as expected, the first lady is focusing on children and highlighting a lot of issues we've seen her discuss in the past. Unlike some past first ladies who had a very narrow focus for their policy initiatives - think Michelle Obama with the Let's Move campaign to fight childhood obesity or Nancy Reagan with say no to drugs - Melania Trump's Be Best platform is really quite broad.

There are three major aspects to it - well-being, which she says includes physical and emotional well-being; social media, something she's talked about a lot, especially cyberbullying; and finally, opioid abuse. This is also something she's highlighted with events at the White House, on a recent visit to West Virginia last year. She's concerned about the impact of opioids on infants and on children as they're growing up.

CORNISH: You mentioned cyberbullying there. And the president is often accused of just that online, right? Was that noted at all?

MCCAMMON: That is true. President Trump's habit of attacking, you know, the intelligence and appearance of his critics on Twitter has been well-established. Here is what Melania Trump had to say today about the issue of cyberbullying.

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TRUMP: As we all know, social media can be both positively and negatively effect on our children. But too often it's used in negative ways.

MCCAMMON: So she said that without specifically addressing her husband. Her spokeswoman has stressed that the first lady's platform isn't just about cyberbullying. It includes a lot of these other issues. But the fact is she's calling for kindness and respect and talking about that specifically in the context of social media.

CORNISH: So nothing about that. Nothing about the tweets at all.

MCCAMMON: Right. Not today. And this is an irony she has acknowledged before. Just a couple months ago at the White House, she acknowledged that people have criticized her and will criticize her for talking about this. But she thinks it's the right thing to do. And I spoke today with Stephen Balkam of the Family Online Safety Institute. He was invited here to the White House by the first lady's team. I asked him if the president's online behavior is a bad example for children.

STEPHEN BALKAM: Very much so. I mean, some of his behavior on Twitter is exactly what we tell children not to do.

MCCAMMON: But he also praised Melania Trump for highlighting the issue. And he said she's charting her own course here, and noted that she does have a 12-year-old son and maybe this is something personal for her.

CORNISH: Was the president there today?

MCCAMMON: He was. He mostly stayed in the background until the end when he came out to sign a proclamation, praised his wife for her concern for children and their well-being. So whatever he may be tweeting, he is expressing support for this initiative. And it's worth noting Melania Trump, like other first ladies before her, is more popular than her husband. A CNN poll out today shows her gaining popularity in recent months. She's less popular than some other recent first ladies but more popular than her husband. So that could give her a platform here that he doesn't have.

CORNISH: And what's next for this project?

MCCAMMON: It's not totally clear. She's going to keep talking about these issues she's talked about in the past. But there aren't a lot of specific policy proposals from the first lady so far.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thank you.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.