It is difficult to present the argument that Melania Trump is anything less than a near-perfect first lady, whether you like her husband or not. That didn’t stop protests from some members of The Resistance, though, in Florida last week when she was presented with the Woman of Distinction award from Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA).
PBA is a small, liberal arts private Christian university, with an undergrad enrollment of about 2,800. The chances of a big, well-known university presenting any kind of award recognizing her work as the first lady are slim to none. In this case, even with such a small Christian university, criticism was heard from both students and alumni. Cancel culture, for once, did not win on a college campus.
Thank you @PBAUniversity for the 2020 Woman of Distinction award. It was wonderful to share the positive impact #BeBest has on communities across the country & inspiring to see a university so dedicated to teaching students the importance of giving back. pic.twitter.com/2uPBm3OT5Q
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) February 20, 2020
Melania Trump is, after all, a Palm Beach resident now. She accepted the award, given to women who “cherish community and family and want to preserve these ideals for others”, according to the university’s website, saying she is grateful. She focused on her Be Best initiative. When the school made the announcement that Melania would receive the honor a spokesperson said, its “emphasis on encouraging the potential of each person aligns with Mrs. Trump’s platform as First Lady.”
“As the first lady of the United States, it is a great honor to serve the people of this incredible country,” she said at the university’s annual Women of Distinction luncheon at The Breakers Hotel, where she accepted the award.
“When we teach our children to cherish our values and care for each other, they are better prepared to carry on Americans’ legacy of compassion, service and patriotism,” she said, adding it is “our duty as adults and parents” to ensure children have the best opportunities to lead fulfilling lives.
This year is the first time for a first lady to be given the Woman of Distinction recognition, an event the university began in 1991. Proceeds from the sold-out event go to a scholarship fund for women.
Critics questioned the character of the first lady and also her impact on the community. It doesn’t sound like a large number of students or faculty resisted the choice, but just enough to stir up headlines. The implication is that she must be held accountable for the actions of her husband’s administration. Above all else, the Orange Man is bad, and she is complicit.
“This award has historically gone to women whose character and impact in Palm Beach has shaped the culture of our home, and I have not been convinced that the first lady’s character or impact here is worthy of that recognition,” said Graysen Boehning, a senior studying biology and zoology at the school.
“While many students were excited that the school was bringing in the first lady of the United States to speak, others felt that her character was not representative of the community of love for people of all backgrounds and beliefs that PBA houses and fosters,” he said.
There was some bipartisan criticism voiced by both the College Democrats and the College Republicans over the choice of Mrs. Trump. The vice-president of the student Republicans sounded overly sensitive if you ask me. He questioned her morality, just as the Democrats did, which is disappointing.
Tyler Whitehead, president of the school’s College Democrats group, said that members of the student organization “were displeased and confused” by the decision to give Trump the award.
“The vast majority of students and faculty that I have spoken to about the decision were disappointed by what seems to be a politically-motivated move on the university’s part,” Whitehead said in a statement.
Austin Gergen, the vice president of the school’s College Republicans group, said there are likely “quite a few” who backed the move, though he hasn’t met them himself.
“I’ve talked to other students who believe this will tank their chances at graduate school, and I definitely think they’re overreacting, but I understand their concern. Overall, I think this was most likely a donor-oriented decision rather than a moral one,” he said.
A standard criticism of the first lady is over her modeling career which included nudity and some girl-on-girl poses. That was reported to have been in 1997 for a French magazine. It’s legit criticism of a first lady but since she has been married to Trump, it is his behavior that has been questioned, not hers. As the first lady, she has been terrific. She goes about her work without a lot of fanfare, and those who meet her come away with a good impression.
Melania Trump isn’t trying to be a co-president like Hillary Clinton was, and she isn’t wearing a chip on her shoulder as Michelle Obama often did. Most of all, she isn’t scolding anyone. She presents her anti-bullying initiative, Be Best, and it is a worthy venture. Her critics mock her but she isn’t deterred. I didn’t even mind when she wore the jacket that set the press on fire – that was the whole reason she wore it. She doesn’t get a fair shake. She is the best-dressed first lady in my lifetime, yet all of the women’s magazines ignore her. That is not how they treated previous first ladies and it is ridiculous.
All I want from a first lady is someone who can represent our country overseas and at home in a quiet, dignified way. She does that. Her behavior has never made me cringe or feel embarrassed, which is more than I can say for the past first ladies, even Republicans. I’m happy with how she handles her job.