Melania Trump hosts student listening session

First lady Melania Trump started a conversation on emotions at the White House on Monday afternoon, hosting 13 local ...

Posted: Apr 10, 2018 8:12 AM
Updated: Apr 10, 2018 8:12 AM

First lady Melania Trump started a conversation on emotions at the White House on Monday afternoon, hosting 13 local middle school students in the Blue Room for an intimate listening session on the issues they face at school, at home and with their friends.

Joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who briefly introduced Trump before taking a seat at the back of the room, the first lady welcomed the students, who came from public, charter and home schools.

"I feel today very excited and thankful because you're here and we're opening up the conversation," she said, hinting again at her emerging but as yet formally undefined platform almost 15 months into her husband's administration.

"Thank you in advance for sharing your stories and your thoughts about your struggles and triumphs. I want to help children everywhere be their best, so with your help, we can achieve positive results," the first lady said before asking the children to go around and introduce themselves and tell her their favorite hobbies.

Standing in front of a smart screen with a special pen, Trump invited the middle schoolers to come up and write their feelings on the screen, which elicited responses from "nervous" to "happy" to "respected."

Press was escorted out of the event, but a "wide-ranging" discussion continued for an hour, per East Wing communications director Stephanie Grisham.

Monday's event marks another effort by the first lady to put her finger on the pulse of the issues young people are faced with, a burgeoning platform with growing areas of focus and no scheduled rollout on the calendar. During her tenure, Trump has held other listening sessions and discussions on everything from neonatal opioid effects to bullying, social inclusion and internet safety; she has also visited children in hospitals locally and abroad.

Grisham told CNN in January that the first lady would be unveiling her platform "in coming months," but as April gets underway there is still no sign of a specific target in the vast umbrella of helping children.

"As we all know, Mrs. Trump's focus is the overall well-being of children," Grisham said ahead of Monday's White House event, "So it stands to reason that she would want to speak directly to them about issues they face on a daily basis."

Laura Bush announced her literacy program in July of her first year in the White House, and Michelle Obama kicked off "Let's Move," her initiative to combat childhood obesity, in February of 2010.

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