First lady Melania Trump added another component to her “Be Best” program by showcasing how multiple government agencies interact with youth and working with the groups to improve youth programs.
Trump on Monday engaged the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, which was originally founded under President George W. Bush’s administration.
“When Mrs. Trump was made aware that there is an existing mechanism in government that convenes 20 agencies that focus on youth-specific programs, she saw that as a real opportunity to bring their good work to the forefront and ensure that those programs aligned with Be Best get the attention and focus they deserve,” Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham tells CNN.
Trump showcased the youth-centric portions of agencies ranging from the State Department to the Transportation Department, Department of Labor, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In brief remarks, the first lady highlighted the work she has already done with “Be Best” and various government agencies, saying her goal is to continue “to enhance the lives of children everywhere.”
“It is with a great appreciation that I welcome all of you for this meeting. I’m looking forward to learning more about the programs available about and how we can work together to continue creating more opportunities to help and empower our children,” she said, before opening the discussion to representatives from some of the 18 agencies in the working group.
The interagency group essentially finds ways to build out and improve youth programs across several platforms. Trump will focus her attention on those that “align with the first lady’s Be Best initiative,” according to Grisham, who adds Monday’s meeting was the first convening of the working group since the beginning of the Trump administration.
“There had been very small, very sporadic meetings at the staff level,” says Grisham. “This event is significant in that it will be the first to bring a large number of principals from the agencies together.”
In February 2008, Bush signed an executive order improving the coordination and effectiveness of youth programs, which specifically called for “enhanced collaboration among government organizations at the Federal, State and local level, including faith-based and other community organizations, as well as among families, schools and communities, in order to leverage existing resources and improve outcomes.”
The initiative includes three different focuses including the health and well-being of children, social media kindness and safety, and assisting families impacted by the opioid crisis. She has faced criticism for including cyberbullying – which falls under the social media pillar of the platform – specifically in part due to her husband, President Donald Trump’s, prolific use of Twitter as a platform for name-calling and bullying.
On Sunday, Trump disparaged the late Sen. John McCain, a war hero who died last year following a battle with brain cancer. Trump, in a tweet about a component of the Russia investigation, referred to McCain as ” ‘last in his class’ (Annapolis),” implying the former senator was not a good student while at the United States Naval Academy.
Grisham addressed the independent nature of the first lady several times when asked about the juxtaposition of the first couple’s ideologies.
“The idea that two people who are married have to agree on all the same issues is antiquated,” Grisham tells CNN. “She does not control what [the President] does, he does not control what she does; I think that is something to be celebrated.”
Trump herself has said publicly that she anticipated the criticism her selection of cyberbullying would bring in light of her husband’s behavior, but that she intended to move ahead with it anyway. In November, speaking to students at Liberty University, however, she also said defending oneself on social media is okay, on occasion.
“Sometimes, you need to fight back. I’m sorry,” said Trump, adding she hoped to “do what is right for the next generation,” so they can “be respectful and kind.”