First Lady: Forget the pandemic and police violence. Gotta build those tennis courts

It seems that in these days of a raging pandemic, which has claimed more than 145,000 American lives, and racial strife caused by police brutality and insensitivity to the problem by the president, our first lady would have more to worry about than redesigning the Rose Garden and building tennis courts at the White House.

Yet, that’s what’s on her mind.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Melania Trump said in a statement that “decades of use and changes made to support a modern presidency have taken a toll on the outdoor space just off the Oval Office.”

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control reported on the same day that the U.S. had reported a total of 4,163,892 Americans have contracted the disease, and that 145,982 Americans have died.

Look, people are dying from COVID-19 at an alarming rate, and protests over the ongoing violence against Blacks, including the police murder of George Floyd, continue to roil our cities.

Yet despite all the bad stuff going on, her husband still goes out (maskless), plays golf and continues to insult people on Twitter. Why can’t she be better than that?  

First ladies dating back centuries  have put their energies into helping people and dealing with social issues, from crime and drug abuse to poverty and disease.

Among Melania’s plans for the Rose Garden is to make the space more accessible for people with disabilities, which is admirable, and adding improvements for audiovisual and broadcasting needs.

“The very act of planting a garden involves hard work and hope in the possibility of a bright future,” the AP quoted Trump as saying.

The garden project is one of many White House renovations she plans, including refurbishing the Red and Blue Rooms and building a tennis pavilion on the South Lawn.

That’s what an ailing country needs right now: more tennis courts at the White House. That’s taxpayer money well-spent.

This is all being done at the same time the Republicans are trying to cut back on unemployment benefits for those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Why won’t the first lady call for a national day of mourning for all those who have died? Or even initiate a memorial or remembrance project? Or set up a series of fundraisers to help people pay their rent or feed their kids?

Nope. We need those tennis courts.

Admittedly, she is not the first first lady to improve the White House. Jacqueline Kennedy focused much of her time on upgrading the facility.

According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website,  Kennedy “enlisted the aid of many experts, established a White House Fine Arts Committee, and created the post of White House curator.”

She also “invited artists, writers, scientists, poets, and musicians to mingle with politicians, diplomats, and statesmen. After a visit to the White House, the world-renowned violinist Isaac Stern wrote to Mrs. Kennedy to thank her. ‘It would be difficult to tell you,’ he wrote, ‘how refreshing, how heartening it is to find such serious attention and respect for the arts in the White House. To many of us it is one of the most exciting developments on the present American cultural scene.’”

We really haven’t seen too much of this sort of cultural awareness in the White House these days.

Other first ladies seemed to have cared a bit more for the well being of Americans along with the nation’s cultural interests.

Following are brief summaries of first ladies’ accomplishments since Jacqueline Kennedy from a website called “The Stacker,”

Lady Bird Johnson

The wife of Lyndon B. Johnson made her mark as a campaigner, mediator, nature-lover, money manager and groundbreaker — interacting with Congress in her work to beautify the nation’s cities and highways. As the Vietnam War sparked unrest and the nation mourned President Kennedy’s assassination, Lady Bird Johnson played an active role in her husband’s “Great Society” programs to alleviate poverty.

Patricia Ryan Nixon

As first lady in an administration steeped in scandal, Pat Nixon, the wife of President Richard Nixon, championed charitable causes and volunteer service. She visited earthquake victims in Peru, and, as the Vietnam War dragged on, she became the first president’s wife to visit a combat zone. 

Betty Ford

Betty Ford brought candor and compassion for breast cancer to the public after she underwent a mastectomy in 1974, her first year as first lady. The wife of Gerald Ford — the man who served as Nixon’s vice president and successor — also emerged as an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1982, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center for addiction treatment in Rancho Mirage following a battle against drug and alcohol dependency, about which she also spoke openly.

Rosalynn Smith Carter

The wife of President Jimmy Carter became and remains a leading advocate for mental health research and numerous other causes, including quality of life for the elderly. Rosalynn Carter emerged as an engaged and active first lady; she attended cabinet meetings and served as the President’s emissary to Latin America. In 1982, she and her husband launched The Carter Center, which boasts a mission to “wage peace, fight disease, and build hope.” She remains board president at the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving.

Nancy Davis Reagan

“Just say no” summed up First Lady Nancy Reagan’s focus during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. This served as the slogan for her vigorous campaign to decrease school-age drug and alcohol abuse. She also took on the cause of promoting foster grandparents.

Barbara Pierce Bush

Barbara Bush “understood that first ladies can wield enormous power…and she used her visibility and influence to encourage other Americans to empathize beyond their own experiences,” wrote CNN’s Kate Brower. Bush promoted literacy as her signature cause, and she worked on many other causes, including volunteerism and homelessness.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The wife of Bill Clinton spoke strongly and worked on behalf of women, families and health-care reform, and continued to trumpet those causes in later political endeavors. Hillary Clinton became the first president’s wife elected to the U.S. Senate and served as secretary of state for President Barack Obama. 

Laura Welch Bush

A former teacher and librarian, Laura Bush put education reform and literacy at the top of an ambitious agenda that included the Reading First program of No Child Left Behind, one of her husband’s initiatives. The wife of President George W. Bush founded the National Book Festival, and in 2006, hosted the White House Conference on Global Literacy. After the September 11th attacks, she became an outspoken supporter of the women of Afghanistan. She visited more than 75 countries and supported other causes, including AIDS relief and breast cancer awareness. 

Michelle Obama

Harvard-educated lawyer Michelle Obama, the nation’s first African-American first lady, made healthy foods and childhood exercise among her many causes. She worked with fifth-graders from Washington, D.C. to plant a 1,100-square-foot garden of fresh vegetables, and installed beehives at the White House. She helped launch the Let’s Move! campaign to address childhood obesity; Joining Forces, for service members; and the Reach Higher Initiative, for education. Alongside President Barack Obama, she volunteered at soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Melania Trump

In May, she revealed a children’s program that focuses on well-being, reducing opioid abuse, and encouraging social media positivity through her Be Best initiative. As investigations and turmoil plague the White House, the first lady has maintained a low profile, yet her approval ratings have far exceeded those of the president.

And she also built tennis courts at the White House during a deadly pandemic.

Published by Mike Sturman

I am a retired journalist with nearly 30 years in the field, during which time I was a reporter and held numerous editor positions at local newspapers and a number of magazines. After I retired, I was a sub in my local school district, then did PR for that district. I hold a Bachelor's Degree in journalism, and as for my politics, that's simple: I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm married, and my wife recently retired after 25 years as a teacher. We have one daughter, who has earned her PhD and works at a UC. Through this blog, I hope to pass on some interesting thoughts and ideas, entertain with some lighthearted posts and generally quell my pandemic-induced boredom.

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