Role of First Lady necessitates responsibility

Delaney Mayfield

The role is not addressed in the Constitution, but can make or break a presidency. First ladies are seen as women who shake hands and kiss babies. They are trophies to extenuate their powerful husbands. But first ladies have played crucial roles in getting their husbands’ elected and their presidencies.

The wife’s job begins even before their presidency. Lady Bird Johnson, a UT and Daily Texan alumna, was the of her husband’s political campaign. Without her family’s wealth, it would have been nearly impossible for Johnson to fund his campaign for president.

Women like Laura Bush, another UT alumna, and Jacqueline Kennedy helped raise their husband’s approval ratings during election season. Both these men were involved in close presidential races. Their wives could have been their saving grace.

Hillary Clinton is a strong reason for her husband’s success as president. She took the heat away from her husband. When her approval ratings went down, his soared. With her husband as president, his health care reform act, dubbed “Hillarycare”, was under fire from both sides of the aisle. She took the blame for the his failed legislation. She had no official capacity at the time.

Despite Hillary’s direct involvement in her husband's presidency, Nancy Reagan acted as an unofficial president in the last months of her husband’s presidency. The president was suffering from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. She was willing to risk public scrutiny for the sake of her husband’s legacy and religion. Even with the public’s knowledge of this, Ronald Reagan remains one of the most admired presidents. His favorables remain in the highest of served presidents, even after the public has learned of his condition while in office.

Presidents have the opportunity to touch the lives of millions, but they tend to be far too busy to run organizations other than the country. Michelle Obama made it her mission that during her husband’s presidency she would make a dent in the childhood obesity epidemic. She started Let’s Move! a program to educate children on healthy eating habits and encourage them to move at least 30 minutes a day. In support of her organization, she helped pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, encouraging multiple Fortune 500 companies, including Disney, to introduce healthier options and start local organizations to get children moving.

The previous first ladies have shown outstanding levels of achievement, but Melania Trump’s plagiarism scandal separates her from hers. While Melania has been involved with philanthropic organizations such as the Police Athletic League and The American Red Cross, she has yet to show she is fit for the job of first lady. There is no doubt that she could make a positive impact as first lady, but her speech at the RNC was clearly plagiarized, whether she knew it or not. Melania’s public image now hinders that of her husband. If her husband is elected, those moments in time will forever surround her and her husband’s legacy.

All the women the women that have served as first lady have been women of great accomplishment on their own. These women are being elected and they are judged at the same level, if not more, than their husband’s. A first lady’s actions impact those of their husband’s.