First Lady of the United States Melania Trump departed for her first solo trip on Oct. 4, 2018 to tour four African countries for the promotion of her Be Best campaign, which focuses on early childhood education as well as cyber bullying and healthy lifestyle choices. Trump visited Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt on her tour of the continent to give speeches alongside the United States’ own governmental foreign aid organization, USAID. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) noted problematic comments made by Trump’s husband, who has been criticized for racist remarks by referring to the continent in a negative light during a private discussion earlier this year. After hearing about the negative remarks, the African Union asked Trump’s husband to apologize, which was ignored. An article by The New York Times, as well as other news outlets like CNN and BBC, flagged this issue as a possible source of tension but also referenced Trump’s personal motivation for her trip.
An article by The New York Times cites Trump’s communications director Stephanie Grisham who spoke for Trump before her departure, saying “she is interested in Africa because she has never been before and knows that each country will have its own unique history and culture.” Trump spent her trip visiting schools, hospitals and tourist sites with minimal interaction over her presence from the public, according to BBC. She watched infants being weighed in local hospitals to show the importance of adequate nutrition as well as touring classrooms.
Nevertheless, Trump hopes to shine “a spotlight on successful programs and organizations that teach children the tools and skills needed for emotional, social and physical well-being,” while also stressing the importance of promoting “an environment in which all groups of society—including women and religious minorities—can lead productive and healthy lives.”
Trump recognizes that younger children are likely to be targeted by factors such as “education, drug addiction, hunger, online safety or bullying, poverty or disease,” she said in a speech. “It is too often children who are hit first, and hardest, across the globe.” Following in the steps of her predecessors, Trump is not the first first lady to make a visit to the continent but the general public response is not as enthusiastic towards her efforts. Some remarks on Trump’s arrival, provided by BBC, show a mixed review of the first lady with some fans praising her and calling her an inspiration, while others say she is not particularly inspiring,instead mentioning the trips of Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton in past years.