In her year as first lady, Melania Trump has been relatively quiet on all things political. So color me kind of surprised that she’s chosen to weigh in — sort of — on the discussion of gun control that we’ve seen arise in American discourse since the terrible mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day 2018. On Feb. 26, Melania Trump commented on the Parkland students, and I’m kind of surprised at what she had to say.
During remarks to spouses of governors in the Blue Room of the White House on Monday, the first lady spoke out in support of students who are calling for change after the school shooting that killed 17 people.
"In my year as first lady I have also learned that it is often times after tragedy that you see the strength and resilience of the human spirit," she began. She continued,
I have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change. They're our future and they deserve a voice. I know all of you are seeing this in your own states and territories too, and I believe that if we all come together we can start to effect positive change for our children and help prepare them for their futures. As I have said before, it is important that as adults we take the lead and the responsibility in helping our children manage the many issues they are facing today.
It's an interesting statement coming from the first lady.
And not least of all because she doesn't generally get involved in issues of policy.
Her comments appear to support the survivors of the Parkland shooting, many of whom have called for better gun control and been openly critical of her husband, President Donald Trump, in the days since the shooting. The student survivors are planning a March 24 demonstration demanding gun control reform, called the March For Our Lives, despite the president's approach to the issue of mass shootings focusing around mental health. Student survivor David Hogg also criticized the president for attempting to question why Democrats hadn't passed gun control when they controlled Congress during the first few years of the Obama administration, while fellow survivor Emma Gonzalez called comments by the president "disgraceful" in a speech, according to Politico.
Her comments also seem to stand in contrast to many claims about the students themselves.
A number of talking points have circulated to question the credibility of the student survivors, implying that the teens calling for change to gun policy don't know what they're talking about or are being used as pawns for a political purpose. Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican, appeared to question the credibility of the student activists, including implying that they were not in fact students, in a social media post the week after the shooting, according to The Washington Post, and others have suggested that the students are mouthpieces for anti-gun advocates. Even more awful, a number of conspiracy theories have claimed or suggested that the student survivors who are vocal about about the issue of gun violence are paid "crisis actors" and not actually survivors of a shooting
So Melania Trump coming out and saying unequivocally that these students should be listened to is kind of a big deal.
Of course, her comments also fit in with the first lady's stated priorities of helping children.
Melania Trump has made her cause as FLOTUS the "well-being of children," according to an October 2017 email from her spokesperson to Vogue magazine. On the campaign trail, she also promised to focus on the problem of cyberbullying (which raised some eyebrows, given her husband's propensity to Twitter attacks). And just in general, Trump seems happiest when she's surrounded by children and most comfortable lending her weight to causes that help them.
So I'm a little surprised that this is the line in the sand that the first lady chose to draw in terms of speaking out, however loosely, about a political issue. But since it's ultimately about speaking up for children, it makes sense. Here's to hearing more from Melania Trump standing up for kids.