Melania Trump announces official work in rare public remarks

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WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - First Lady Melania Trump announced a campaign Monday (May 7) to raise awareness of children's issues including social media use and opioid abuse, making a rare solo public appearance in the Rose Garden of the White House to formally launch her official work.

"As a mother and as First Lady, it concerns me that in today's fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and oftentimes turn to forms of destructive or addictive behaviour such as bullying, drug addiction, or even suicide," the First Lady said.

President Donald Trump sat in the audience as she spoke.

Banners behind the first lady announced the name of the awareness campaign, "Be Best." After the first lady concluded her remarks, Trump signed an order declaring Monday "Be Best" Day, then kissed his wife on both cheeks.

Melania Trump wants to use her position to advocate for the "well-being of children" but not limit herself to just one area of advocacy.

"The unique aspect to this rollout is that she's not choosing just one topic as has been done in the past," said her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

The First Lady said her work on promoting awareness of issues affecting children would be structured around "three main pillars: well-being, social media use and opioid abuse."

She has in the past expressed an interest in combating cyberbullying against kids - something critics have called ironic given her husband's penchant for Twitter attacks on opponents.

"As we all know, social media can both positively and negatively affect our children," she said Monday. "But too often, it is used in negative ways."

At a March appearance at a White House meeting with technology leaders, Melania Trump acknowledged the criticism.

"I'm well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic," she said at the time.

Infrequent Remarks

She has largely stayed out of the public eye since becoming first lady, rarely appearing in front of cameras and publicly speaking even more infrequently. She dutifully walks by her husband's side at formal events or on airport tarmacs, her sometimes apparent reluctance to hold his hand drawing speculation about the state of their marriage.

Melania Trump has not responded directly to public allegations of infidelity against her husband by porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.

Both women claim that they had affairs with the president in 2006, after Melania gave birth to their son Barron, and that they were paid for their silence by the president's allies before the 2016 election.

The president or his representatives have denied both women's claims.

Monday's event is meant to signal a new level of public engagement for the First Lady, though it was not immediately clear how her schedule would change.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama regularly hosted events and made TV talk show appearances to promote her initiatives, including Let's Move, to combat childhood obesity, and Reach Higher, to encourage teens to continue their education after high school.

As her husband has combated infidelity claims, the first lady's approval rating has improved. It was at 57 per cent in a CNN poll conducted last week, the highest since the network first tested her popularity in early 2016.

In CNN's previous survey, conducted in January, her approval rating was 47 per cent.

Hillary Clinton's approval ratings were also strong as Bill Clinton's infidelities with Monica Lewinsky were aired publicly during his presidency.

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