Why Melania Trump & Michelle Obama Meeting Is Greatly Significant, Too
The surprisingly subdued President-elect Cheeto and President Barack Obama met for the first time in the Oval Office on Thursday, but they were not the only historic meeting of the day: First Lady Michelle Obama greeted incoming First Lady Melania Trump as well. These two women in the same room for the first time is significant — and a tantalizing fan fiction waiting to happen, since there's no video or photos of it.
"Michelle has had a chance to greet the incoming First Lady," President Obama told reporters in a video on The New York Times website. "We had an excellent conversation with her as well."
While there were photos and videos of Donald Trump and Obama after their meeting, there won’t be an official photo of Melania and Michelle. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obamas canceled the traditional photo op of the current and incoming first couples, though Us Weekly reported White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it didn’t happen because it was a “lower priority” than the photo op of Trump and Obama in the Oval Office.
During the actual meeting, they could have discussed their firsts — and seconds — in the White House. Michelle is the first African-American first lady in our nation’s history, while Slovenian-native Melania will be only the second foreign-born First Lady in the United States. (The first was Louisa Adams, 192 years ago.)
They have also both experienced firsthand criticism: Michelle has faced unyielding racist comments, memes, and social media posts throughout these eight years, while Melania has been lampooned for her previous career as a model and whether she began working in this country legally.
And facing the role of first lady itself may have created a sliver of a shared moment. Michelle was reticent about her husband running for president and what it meant to be first lady. Although she was not sure about her title and status, Michelle dove into her platform of encouraging children to eat their vegetables and exercise as part of her Let’s Move program, planted a vegetable garden at the White House, and even showed up future first ladies with her serious dance moves.
Melania might also not be sure about her own legacy and role as first lady. She's planning to tackle cyberbullying as her potential cause, even though her husband has been a cyberbully himself on Twitter. Or she may go a totally different route: As reported in USA Today, she may be more comfortable as a social hostess like Jackie Kennedy. Jean Wahl Harris, a first lady historian at the University of Scranton, says, "In terms of the evolution of the first lady, I see (Trump) moving us back to the more traditional role. A very traditional social hostess is something I think she will be comfortable with."
This meeting was undoubtedly the first lady version of the presidential peaceful transfer of power.