With the great media attention focused on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has also come numerous media requests for thoughts on his wife Melania Knauss Trump as a potential First Lady. While there is no way of predicting just how a presidential spouse might interpret the role they inherit by marriage, some of Mrs. Trump’s biographical information can be placed into a larger, historical context.
As a native of Slovenia in the former nation of Yugoslavia, Melania Knauss Trump would be only the second First Lady born outside of the United States, the first being Louisa Adams who was born in England. Born in 1970, she would be the only one who was born and raised in a Communist nation.
She would also be the first First Lady who is the third wife of a President, although she would be the second First Lady to have married a divorced man – the first being Nancy Reagan.
She would be the third First Lady with work experience as a professional model: Pat Nixon did so, on and off, in New York and Los Angeles before her marriage.
Also before her marriage, Betty Ford was contracted as a professional runway and print ad model in New York with the John Powers Agency.
As an immigrant who is married to a potential President that has made immigration a central part of his candidacy thus far, Melania Trump might well undertake some effort that helps or supports immigrant groups and their transition to American life as perhaps a humanizing public awareness campaign to counterbalance critics of her husband’s presumed views.
Many First Ladies used aspects of their own personal stories in a way that relates to or helps others like them – the best example being Betty Ford’s candor about her breast cancer detection and mastectomy.
No federal law would prevent Melania Trump from continuing to manage and earn a profit from her business enterprises. However, federal laws would dictate that its earnings and addition to the family’s income would be publicly disclosed. The matter also has the potential for exploitation by political opponents of a President Trump.
The great example of this is Eleanor Roosevelt who insisted on maintaining her writing, radio, and lecture tour enterprises, despite the fact that many of President Roosevelt’s opponents in the media turned out editorials attacking the First Lady for what they characterized as her “undignified” commercialization of the presidency and his political opponents succeeded in getting her to disclose her profits.
Ultimately, it had no political impact on the Administration.
Ironic historical fact: were the Trumps to come to the White House they would not be the first couple who had a First Lady (Hillary Clinton) as a guest at their own March 20, 2005 wedding.
Exactly 101 years and three days earlier, Eleanor Roosevelt had married Franklin Roosevelt with a First Lady and President as guests at their own March 17, 1905 wedding: her uncle and aunt, Theodore and Edith Roosevelt, then the incumbent President and First Lady.