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Monday, February 20: The First Lady's Role

Rosie Moss’s suggestion for an NPR podcast that discusses Melania Trump’s choices in her position as First Lady…

Though there are no existing qualifications needed for the role of First Lady, recent women in this role have transformed the position into one of great influence and power. Though Melania Trump has only held the title of First Lady for a month, most people do not expect that she will be nearly as active as First Ladies before her in using her position of power to make changes throughout the country. In a recent NPR podcast, Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Anita McBride, the chief of staff for First Lady Laura Bush, discuss the distinctions between Melania Trump and previous First Ladies, and, consequently, how those differences might impact her role.


The first major difference they discuss is the fact that Melania is staying with her son in New York until the end of the year, rather than joining her husband in the White House. While this seems unusual to most Americans, McBride defends Melania’s decision, pointing out that every woman who fills this role changes and redefines what it means to be First Lady; it is possible that Melania needs more time to adjust to the new position. Garcia-Navarro brings up the idea that perhaps Ivanka Trump will take on some of the responsibilities that are typically thought of as the First Lady’s, as she was very involved in the campaign process. Both McBride and Garcia-Navarra agree that Ivanka has sometimes been present with Mr. Trump at times when it was expected for Melania to be present. Though there are some immediately noticeable differences between Melania and other First Ladies, it is definitely too soon to tell whether she will take on a role of leadership and make an effort to promote new policies and ideas, or if she will continue to take a more behind-the-scenes position.

Kris Ahn reflects on the film Jackie’s implications on CPU’s Monday debate over whether the office of the First Lady should be codified...


I want to recommend a film that is definitely on the subject of the First Lady, but perhaps not on codifying her role in the White House. Jackie is an Oscar nominated film starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. Portman gives an amazing performance in the movie, which focuses on the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination, framed through an interview Jackie gave to Life Magazine soon after her husband’s death. Although the movie is fictionalized and does not speak directly to whether or not the First Lady should have specific obligations in the White House, it does offer a view into what it might be like to experience losing your husband and president at the same time, under heavy public scrutiny. This asks the question of what obligations the First Lady should have, when she never necessarily asked to be the First Lady. Portman amazingly portrays the pain that came from losing her husband, and says she better understands the complexity of being the First Lady after inhabiting Jackie O for the movie.  In considering the First Lady’s obligations, the film makes me think about if the spouse is obligated to work towards advancing issues they care about, and if so, why that obligation is there. In light of our current First Family, it makes me wonder if history and tradition is precedent enough to turn a perhaps unwanted job into law.

Hannah Mitlak considers the film Jackie in the context of Melania Trump’s assumption of the Office of the First Lady...


Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, was lauded in reviews for its intimate portrayal of one of the most iconic and tragic moments of American history – JFK’s assassination. The movie (which I highly recommend) also gives a glimpse into the life of the First Lady.  In many ways, Jackie Kennedy modernized and publicized the role of the First Lady, yet as the film shows us, her most important role in the presidency was most literally her appearance, from her fashion choices to her noteworthy televised tour of the White House.  


The progression and devolution of the powers of the First Lady certainly change with the time, but the idea of assigning responsibilities to a spouse seems demeaning at best. As this Letter to the Editor in The New York Times points out, relying on a spouse for event planning and the life is a dated idea, and one no longer congruent with a country that employs more women than men.

Sam Ackerman offers further reading in response to Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon’s visit to Columbia…


After Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon’s visit to campus last week, a discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict is ever more prudent.


Here is a brief distillation of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict told from both perspectives:


Here is an essay written by Former President Jimmy Carter regarding peace and the potential for a two-state solution.  Some would say this article is more pro-Palestine.


Here is an essay written by Former Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon regarding steps to be taken in the peace process.  Note that Ya’alon had resigned from the Netanyahu government in 2015.  Some would say this article is more pro-Israel.

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