First Lady Looks for Ways Bureaucracy Can Advance ‘Be Best’

March 18, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON—Melania Trump took a deep dive into the federal bureaucracy on March 18 at a briefing on government youth programs as she looks for ways to promote her “Be Best” initiative.

“My focus has and always will be on our children, the next generation,” the first lady said as opened a meeting of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. “They’re our future doctors, nurses, firefighters, scientists, teachers, chefs, generals, pilots, designers, reporters and missionaries, just to name a few.”

The first lady noted her domestic and international travels during the past year to promote “Be Best,” which focuses on child well-being, online safety and avoiding drugs. The initiative is nearing its one-year mark. Mrs. Trump told representatives of nearly 20 departments and agencies, including five Cabinet secretaries, that she wants to learn more about government programs and “how we can work together to continue creating more opportunities to help and empower our children.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who chairs the group, said Mrs. Trump’s initiative is “timely and has certainly influenced many of the plans and objectives of this working group.”

Azar went on to describe resources on a government website that can help people recognize opioid abuse in young adults. The site also has information on the risks of tobacco and e-cigarettes, he said.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pushed a proposal for billions in federal tax credits for people who donate to groups that offer scholarships to help students attend private schools, apprenticeships, and other educational programs.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke about his department’s literacy programs.

The first lady learned that the National Institutes of Health is preparing to enroll up to 10,000 pregnant women, including some who are addicted to drugs, in a healthy brain and child development study and follow them and their children for 10 years.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency has produced an old-fashioned card game to help teach children how to stay safe and help others during an emergency.

First Lady Visits School in Malawi, Promotes ‘Be Best’ Campaign

First Lady Melania Trump headed to a primary school in Lilongwe, Malawi, an area locals call the “warm heart of Africa” as part of the third day of her week-long solo trip to the continent.

The White House said Malawi was chosen because of the high poverty rate and the difficulties children—especially girls—have in accessing education. Trump is advocating for children’s welfare as part of her “Be Best” campaign during her first international solo tour as first lady.

Flying from Ghana, Trump arrived at Kamuzu International Airport on Oct. 4 where she was greeted by Gertrude Maseko, the first lady of Malawi, in a ceremony that featured drummers, dancers, and students waving the flags of both countries.

During the 20-minute drive from the airport to Chipola Primary School in Lilongwe, locals gathered to try and catch a glimpse of Trump. At one intersection, hundreds of people lined up smiling and waving.

First Lady Visits School in Malawi
First Lady Melania Trump (R) receives flowers from a young girl alongside the first lady of Malawi, Gertrude Maseko (L), as she arrives at Lilongwe International Airport on Oct. 4. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The school is struggling with only 75 teachers looking after around 8,000 enrolled children. According to the White House, the average class has 110 students.

Trump greeted two administrators as she arrived at the school with Virginia Palmer, the U.S. ambassador to Malawi. She approached a crowd of children in royal-blue-and-orange school uniforms who sang in English, “Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome all of you. We are happy today, we are happy today, we are happy to see you.”

What followed next was a whirlwind visit of both inside and outside classrooms of second and third graders. Trump first observed two outside lessons conducted in their native language, Chichewa. More girls than boys were in the first outside lesson, which totaled 275 students.

The first lady then ducked inside to observe an English classroom with 186 children in attendance. The teacher managed to impressively command the children, who wore name tags around their necks, to sound out the letters “L” and “U.” At the front of the room, the first lady sat next to a student called Miliam and helped her find the correct page in her textbook.

First Lady Visits School in Malawi
First Lady Melania Trump visits the Chipala Primary School in Lilongwe on Oct. 4, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

As Miliam sat sounding out letters and words, Trump sat with her hands clasped and smiled as she watched the group. Later she visited another Chichewa classroom and laughed when a little boy stood up and, in English, proclaimed, “I am the best.”

At one point, a teacher led the students in a song in English: “We say goodbye but not forever. We know that one day we shall meet again.”

“Thank you,” Trump said. “Beautiful.”

The Epoch Times reporter Bowen Xiao contributed to this article.

Follow Bowen on Twitter: @BowenXiao3
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