WASHINGTON — All eyes were on the First Lady Melania Trump as she announced her White House initiative in a festive official ceremony at the Rose Garden.
Mrs. Trump’s “Be Best” will combat critical issues facing children today. The comprehensive program will focus on three main points — well-being, fighting opioid abuse and positivity on social media.
“I believe we should strive to provide kids with the tools they need to cultivate their social and emotional health,” she said at the ceremony. “It is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind them that when they’re using their voices whether verbally online they must choose their words wisely and speak with compassion.”
“I do believe the children should be both seen and heard,” she added.
The platform pillars she revealed during her 10-minute speech in the White House Rose Garden include well-being, encompassing healthy living as well as emotional health; opioid abuse, including bringing awareness to neonatal abstinence syndrome and emphasizing the importance of healthy pregnancy; and social media, where Trump plans to encourage kids to use the internet in positive ways, tamping down cyberbullying and negativity.
The last of these issues has been a lightning rod of controversy for Trump, whose husband is perhaps one of the most public, and prolific, offenders of name-calling on Twitter.
Sitting in the front row, feet from his wife at the podium, the President listened as the first lady cautioned against using the very behavior Trump displays, sometimes on a daily basis.
“As we all know, social media can both positively and negatively affect our children. But too often, it is used in negative ways,” said Trump. “When children learn positive online behaviors early on, social media can be used in productive ways and can affect positive change.”
Also seated in the audience Monday were leaders from the various tech companies Trump assembled at the White House in March to discuss ways to improve social media kindness. Executives from Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Snap listened to the speech alongside representatives from the Families for Online Safety Institute.
“It is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind (children) that when they are using their voices — whether verbally or online — they must choose their words wisely and speak with respect and compassion,” said Trump.
The first lady mentioned 8th grader Kalani Goldberg from Arizona, who posted a video on her social media account expressing what she was going through facing bullies.
“Every day, you are hurting me. Every day, you are hurting each other. So please stop. Stop hurting me,” Goldberg said in her video.
Trump thanked Goldberg, in attendance at the White House with her family, for the bravery she demonstrated by coming forward.
“I am happy to report that since posting her video, many have watched it and most importantly, people have reached out to offer support and kindness,” the first lady said Monday as she recognized Goldberg.
Mrs. Trump also paid personal attention to Christian Bucks, who as a second grader in Pennsylvania developed something called the “Buddy Bench” to help connect kids during recess; by sitting on the bench, a child was signaling other students to ask him or her to play. The first lady used the example to tout her commitment to helping emotional health in children, developing relationship skills.
The First Lady devoted a portion of her speech to the opioid epidemic, saying she first became aware of the extensiveness of the crisis while campaigning with her husband two years ago. Since becoming first lady, Mrs. Trump has met with medical experts and families affected by the rampant explosion of prescription drug use across the country, visiting states such as West Virginia and Ohio, which are on the front lines of the addiction crisis. As part of “Be Best,” Trump said she wanted to promote programs that educate families about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the impact of drug use on children.
Mrs. Trump’s popularity jumps
Mrs. Trump’s profile has risen in the past several months. She attended former First Lady Barbara Bush’s funeral alongside four past Presidents and even planned the recent state dinner for the French president.
In a recent poll conducted by SSRS last week, 57% say they have a favorable impression of Mrs. Trump, up from 47% in January. This is the biggest number she has experienced in any CNN polling, and higher than any favorability rating earned by President Donald Trump in CNN polling history going back to 1999.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents have an unfavorable view of the First Lady.