Up until this point, First Lady Melania Trump has remained a relatively low-profile figure in a White House full of larger-than-life characters, but her public profile is expected to increase this fall as 11-year-old Barron Trump starts his first year at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Md.
The first family has settled into living in the White House since Barron finished school in New York in June, and the start of the new school year will free her up to embrace her official role as FLOTUS.
Her office said Monday that an announcement about her agenda will be made “in the coming weeks.”
“The First Lady continues to be thoughtful about her initiatives, and we look forward to announcing something in the coming weeks,” spokesperson Stephanie Grisham told RealClearPolitics in a statement.
Regarding the details of that announcement, Grisham would only give a hint, stating, “It is safe to say that Mrs. Trump is very focused on the health and well-being of children.”
Since she and Barron took up residence in Washington in June, Melania has slowly become more involved in her husband’s administration, but she has done so at her own pace.
“Maybe she has made the decision to live life on her terms even though she is full time in the White House,” said Professor Katherine Jellison of Ohio University, who studies first ladies.
Said to admire Jacqueline Kennedy, Melania reportedly aspires to be a traditional first lady and is demonstrating that, while she also retains much of her European roots, evident in her haute couture style and her ability to speak several different languages.
So far, Melania hasn’t gotten involved in policy debates, and she has yet to appear on the cover of a major magazine. However, the first lady did join President Trump at a meeting on opioid addiction last week in Bedminster, N.J. Her rare appearance with her husband was so unusual that it sparked rumors that this could be a cause she might champion.
In a tweet she issued last week, she said, “Opioids are destroying our youth/people. Mtg w
@Potus & @SecPriceMD today to give my support to #STOPDRUGADDICTION.”
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 8, 2017
In fact, Melania was the first member of the Trump administration to respond publicly to the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, when she wrote on Twitter: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.
Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 12, 2017
During the campaign, Melania had spoken about wanting to combat cyberbullying, but that issue hasn’t been brought up lately.
Melania has had to defend her husband, as was the case when “Morning Joe” co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough dragged her into their Twitter war with Trump.
Brzezinski had started a “fake news” story alleging that Melania wanted out of her marriage, stating, “I know Melania. I haven’t talked to her in months, but if my gut is right, I don’t think she’s going to put up with it much longer. I know nothing. That’s just my instinct and I go with my gut and my gut’s always right. I’m just telling you, Melania’s got the worst job in the country and I don’t think she wants to do it a lot longer. I think she will do it for as long as she has to for her son, and that’s it.”
The first lady stood by her husband, responding in a statement through her press office to multiple news outlets, saying, “It is sad when people try to further their own agenda by commenting on me and my family, especially when they don’t know me.”
“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” Grisham said in a statement to CNN at the time.
Trump’s poll numbers have reflected the media’s relentless attack on everything he does, but his wife’s poll numbers are consistently high. A Fox News poll in July found her with a 51 percent approval rating, up 14 points since the same poll in December. The president has a negative-20-point job approval in the RealClearPolitics average.
We will likely see Melania Trump champion a cause that affects children, after watching her make numerous visits to hospitals and always engaging with the youngsters with a genuine smile on her face. Many of these events have been during visits abroad, and because she speaks six languages, this makes it easy for her to communicate with the children on their own terms.
Her first solo engagement as the first lady involved children, when she visited the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in March to read the Dr. Seuss classic, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
Veterans are another group for which Melania has shown an affinity. One of the few events she hosted in the White House was a reception in May for mothers of military veterans and, in April, she accompanied her husband when he visited wounded veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Her first solo trip outside of the country will involve veterans when she leads the U.S. delegation to this year’s Invictus Games, which will take place in Toronto, Sept. 23-30. The games were founded in 2014 by Britain’s Prince Harry to build awareness for veterans who were injured in combat.
Melania announced the trip in a statement earlier in July, saying, “In just two short years, the Invictus Games have allowed thousands of injured and wounded servicemen and women from many different countries to participate in adaptive sports competitions — something that should be lauded and supported worldwide. I am honored by the opportunity to represent our country at this year’s games.”
Regardless of what she chooses to do, Melania will likely struggle in her efforts to maintain a private life while her family lives in the White House.
“Jackie Kennedy tried to be low-profile, but the public kind of wouldn’t let her. They really demanded to see this young, glamourous first lady,” Jellison recalled, adding, “That sort of mystique has developed around [Melania]. She’s a mystery woman, so to speak, so people want to know more about her. That’s what Jackie Kennedy was not able to avoid, ultimately. People wanted to know more and more and more about this quiet first lady. So, she ended up fighting a losing battle.”