On Monday, July 18 at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump’s wife Melania gave a heart-warming speech. There was just one problem — it sounded weirdly familiar. That’s because a large chunk of the speech was almost identical to Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, at which her husband was receiving the Democratic nomination for President of the United States the first time. For your own reference, here are the two sections side by side:
Somewhere along the line, someone on this speech writing team forgot or disregarded that these were Michelle Obama's words. One report even tells the story of how Melania veered off course from her professionally written speech, and it's a fascinating piece that really explains the process. Regardless of who the blame lies with, it shows a lack of professionalism from Trump’s speech writing team and the speech should have been thoroughly vetted.
That’s not what I want to talk about, though. In defense of Melania, I’ve seen so many comments that what she’s saying isn’t important, and that “we’re not electing the First Lady.” The truth is, however, the First Lady is a pretty significant figure, and Melania Trump's position in the White House would be a great responsibility. The First Lady is one of the President’s closest advisors, his best friend, and is the one who calms the President when the nation is in a time of great stress.
The power of the First Lady has grown a great deal in recent years. Historically, there have been two “types” of First Ladies. There’s the Dolley Madison — the hostess of the White House — and there’s the Eleanor Roosevelt — an activist seeking change. Both types of First Ladies have important roles and ideas. Let’s talk about these more specifically.
The hostess First Lady is important for planning social events, including state dinners and decorating for the holidays. These events are particularly important in creating and maintaining close relationships with foreign and domestic partnerships. Dolley Madison was particularly known for her skills with planning and hosting events at the White House. The First Lady is also in charge of the decor of the White House, including everything from the china in the cabinets to the rugs on the floors. You can even watch a pretty lengthy special about Jackie Kennedy with her tour of the White House from the sixties here.
The activist First Lady is also known as a large policy advisor, an idea that started around the time of Edith Wilson during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. After the end of World War I, it’s largely known that Woodrow had a stroke and that his wife likely aided the final year of his presidency. She’s even sometimes known as the first female president. Eleanor Roosevelt, too, was known for her human rights activism during and after her husband’s presidency. This role became more formal when Hillary Clinton served on committees and task forces and when Michelle Obama took on the obesity problem in the U.S.
Regardless of what role Melania Trump or Bill Clinton (First Man? Who knows) takes on, you should know that it is an important one. This woman or man will serve as one of the President’s closest advisors, and their position and responsibilities should not be discredited or belittled. Some of the decisions that can change your future will be in their hands.