What Does Melania Trump Do? The First Lady Is Carving Out Her Signature Issues

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On April 26, 2018, the first lady of the United States celebrated her 48th birthday. That makes this as good a time as ever to familiarize yourself with what her goals and plans have been since entering public life. Or in other words, to answer the question: What does Melania Trump do as first lady, and how is it going so far?

If you're curious how the first lady is spending her 48th birthday, her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, reportedly told conservative website The Daily Caller on Thursday that she chose to spend the day with her family.

As for what she's been doing with all the rest of the days of the year, however, she's taken on a number of roles since entering the White House. It's worth noting that the title "first lady" ― or a presidential spouse of any gender ― is a ceremonial designation, not an official one, meaning it doesn't carry any inherent duties or requirements. Rather, first ladies traditionally carve out an issue, or set of issues, that they feel passionate about, and then advocate for them with their lofty platform.

In Trump's case, even prior to her husband assuming office, she publicly identified one issue she wanted to tackle as a public figure: cyber-bullying. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she said that she wanted to help fight cyber-bullying in American society, stating that it was a problem how cruel people could be to others on the internet, especially children. Specifically, she called American culture "too mean" and "too rough."

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This speech generated a lot of incredulous reactions, given that her husband, President Donald Trump, has a long history of caustic and bullying behavior, both on and offline, perhaps unrivaled by any other president.

It seems as though she's aware of the tension this presents. Last month, when the first lady was joined by tech company executives for a White House meeting on cyber-bullying, she acknowledged that some people were skeptical of her as an advocate against cyber-bullying.

"I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic,” Melania Trump said, according to Vanity Fair. "I have been criticized for my commitment to tackling this issue, and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right.”

In short, that's the single cause she's most firmly committed herself to as first lady, although that's not the extent of what she's done since arriving in the nation's capital. She's also acted as a functionary in a number of capacities, like when she was present to greet France's president and first lady, Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, this week. Earlier this month, she also hosted a listening session with students from various Washington, D.C. middle schools, saying that the event was "starting a conversation."

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These kinds of activities and involvements in official events are often taken on by first ladies. In addition to former First Lady Michelle Obama's eight-year emphasis on childhood fitness, she also regularly helped welcome foreign officials and heads of state, and also made solo trips out of the country to advocate for her causes, such as when she took a six-day swing through Africa and Europe for the "Let Girls Learn" initiative in 2016.

Thus far, Trump has not made a solo trip abroad, although she did join the White House delegation, including her husband, on its trip through Europe and the Middle East last year. She also joined the president on a later 11-day trip throughout Asia.

In short, some 15 months into her husband's first term as president, she's already carved out a niche as far as the issues she cares about. It remains to be seen how effective she'll be at combating cyber-bullying, but given that it's been one of her earliest publicly stated goals, it seems a safe bet that she'll continue to address it in the months and years to come.