Fill out the brief form below for access to the free report.
The Keys to Melania Trump's Success
Like those before her, Melania Trump is keen to make a difference in her own unique way. Speaking in the Rose Garden, she officially launched Be Best, which tackles three key pillars: well-being, social media, and opioid abuse.
But what does it take to be effective as first lady, especially amid an ever moving spectrum of expectations, responsibility, and public opinion?
Communications Director Stephanie Grisham recently stated that most first ladies have focused on a single issue. In fact, several presidential spouses in the last century have taken on multiple causes, and Mrs. Trump can look to them for guidance. To be successful, here are three recommendations from the Bush Institute’s report A Role Without a Rulebook that Mrs. Trump should consider implementing.
Develop a Strategic Vision
As first lady, Mrs. Trump is uniquely positioned to be a compassionate listener and supportive facilitator. As she develops this platform, she should clearly define actionable goals that engage citizens at local and national levels.
She can look to her peer, Laura Bush, who launched Ready to Read, Ready to Learn with two clear objectives in mind: to ensure young children are prepared when they enter their first classroom, and once there have well-trained, qualified teachers. She also addressed how these goals would be achieved. By outlining a clear mission alongside defined actions, Mrs. Bush was able to make progress on these goals during her time as first lady.
Engage with Citizens and Peers
In a polarized political climate, Mrs. Trump must embrace the opportunity to transcend boundaries. Unelected but official, she is able to build bridges between government and civil society. For example, one of our most prominent first ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt, championed causes including racial equality, labor rights, women’s rights, and was the first presidential spouse to testify before a Congressional committee. Central to her efforts: Community and stakeholder outreach.
Engagement with predecessors and peers can also aid Mrs. Trump’s efforts. For example, longstanding advocates for mental health and those battling addictive diseases, Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford joined forces to advance policy and increase support for services. Reflecting on their collaboration, Mrs. Carter said: “[Betty and I] could be a stronger force if we worked as partners, and we did for many years.”
Mrs. Trump has the opportunity to leverage the power of partnership. As apolitical influences, first ladies can reach across industries and ideologies to unite diverse viewpoints and mobilize action. For example, Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, working with the public and private sectors to improve outcomes for service members, veterans, and their families by providing the tools needed to succeed throughout their lives.
While the role of first lady is one without a rulebook, these are proven actions that can aid Mrs. Trump’s efforts across a variety of platforms. When used effectively, a first lady’s podium serves as a force for change. To make a lasting impact with Be Best, Mrs. Trump must define a strategic vision, connect with the public and peers, and leverage the power of partnerships.
Natalie Gonnella-Platts serves as the Deputy Director of the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Natalie is responsible for research and programmatic efforts that empower women worldwide to lead in their communities and countries. This includes the work of the First Ladies Initiative, which aims to enable and support First Ladies from around the world in effectively using their platforms to empower women and children in their countries. Additionally, she is the host of the Bush Institute’s award nominated podcast, Ladies, First; the co-author of a first-of-its kind analysis on global first ladies, A Role Without a Rulebook; and served as a project lead on the development of the Bush Institute’s 2018 special exhibit, First Ladies: Style of Influence.
Natalie studied Communications and International Studies (Peace and Conflict) at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia. She earned an MA in War, Violence and Security studies from the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom. Prior to joining the Bush Institute, she held roles in New York City at American International Group (AIG), and in London at ConservativeHome USA, the Legatum Institute, and BBC Worldwide. She is a member of Akola Project’s Advisory Council; a co-founder of Each Inc., a non-profit that seeks to provide innovative technology tools to organizations that care for and protect orphans and vulnerable children; and has previously served as a project strategy advisor to Stop the Traffik’s Finance Against Trafficking initiative.Full Bio
What Gives Us the Spooks at the Bush Center?
From scary movies to a lack of representation of women leaders, find out what gives us the spooks...
Mrs. Trump's Trip to Africa
To be successful in “combating…the issues that children face today,” consideration of local needs and leadership are vital to Mrs. Trump’s goal of sharing Be Best abroad.
Which First Lady Are You?
Take our quiz to find out which first lady you are most like.