In May, the first lady unveiled a public campaign to improve the well-being of America's children. Three months later, however, it doesn't appear to have gained much traction — and according to the Washington Post, there are several reasons why Melania Trump's "Be Best" campaign seems to be stuck in neutral.
"The mission of BE BEST is to focus on some of the major issues facing children today, with the goal of encouraging children to BE BEST in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health," the White House website for the Be Best campaign says. "BE BEST will concentrate on three main pillars: well-being, social media use, and opioid abuse."
And yet it's unclear what the campaign has accomplished since then. The first lady has only held three official Be Best events since unveiling the project, and as the Post reports, there are a few reasons why.
The first is simply bad timing: One week after Be Best was announced, Melania was hospitalized for an unspecified kidney condition. For reasons that still remain unclear, she remained completely out of the public eye for nearly a month thereafter, eating up valuable time that could have been used promoting the initiative.
On a deeper level, the Post reports that the Be Best campaign has suffered due to Melania's relatively small staff. While former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush had around 25 staffers working for them, Melania only has 10, the Post reports. George Washington University research professor Allida Black tells the Post that no first lady since Mamie Eisenhower has had fewer people working for her in the White House. The first lady's staffing shortfall was exacerbated in early August when Reagan Hedlund, Melania's policy director, resigned six months after joining her team.
In addition, several mini-controversies have hampered the Be Best campaign. This began immediately after it was launched, when observers noticed that a promotional brochure distributed under the Be Best banner was copied almost word-for-word from a brochure that the Obama administration released in 2009. The fact that Melania had already been accused, during the Republican National Convention, of copying a speech from Michelle Obama only added fuel to that fire.
More recently, Melania faced criticism when, during a visit to a detention center for immigrant children, she wore a jacket that said "I REALLY DON'T CARE — DO U?" in big, white letters on the back. To be fair, it's entirely possible that the first lady was directing this message at the press, not the undocumented children who had been detained by her husband's administration and put into cages.
Nevertheless, many derided the jacket as a tone-deaf choice, as it suggested to some that she didn't care about the detained kids. Later, when leftist activist Therese Okoumou was arrested for an anti-Trump protest at the Statue of Liberty, she arrived in court wearing a dress that said "I REALLY DO CARE - WHY WON'T U?" on the back — with the phrase "BE BEST" printed a few inches lower.
Okoumou wasn't the first person to use "Be Best" as a punchline. In May, President Trump sent a tweet in which he referred to Sen. Chuck Schumer as "Cryin' Chuck Schumer" — a tweet that, as with many of Donald's past tweets, seemed to undercut Be Best's focus on positive social media interactions. In response, Schumer quoted Donald's tweet — and added the hashtag "#BeBest."
Despite these setbacks, Melania's office says that the campaign is going swimmingly. Stephanie Grisham, her communications director, tells the Post that Be Best is already a "success."
“We have a professional team and with Mrs. Trump’s leadership, the East Wing has executed on several successful large-scale events and her platform is no different," Grisham tells the Post.