Washington, DC - First Lady Melania Trump today celebrated the one year anniversary of BE BEST, her awareness campaign that focuses on some of the major issues facing children today. The initiative is focused on encouraging children to BE BEST in their individual paths in life, by shining a spotlight on successful programs and services that teach them about the importance of positive social, emotional, and physical health. Attendees included representatives from many of the programs the First Lady has worked with throughout the year.
BE BEST EXPANDS
Broken into three separate pillars of well-being, online safety, and opioid abuse, Mrs. Trump continues to evolve and expand her campaign based on research and information learned from her many visits and events. Moving from a focus of social media to the larger scope of online safety, this pillar encompasses any digital program that prioritizes safety and digital citizenship in today’s technology-driven world. BE BEST will continue to raise awareness around the importance of safe and positive online behaviors and work with technology companies to create a better online world. Mrs. Trump will also expand her focus from babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, to children of all ages when talking about the dangers of opioid abuse. While visiting a university last winter, Mrs. Trump listened to students share personal stories about opioid addiction – and in response, BE BEST will promote resources and programs available for all who struggle with addiction.
During her remarks, the First Lady announced that a BE BEST Ambassador was appointed through the United States Agency for International Development, and will serve as the liaison between the First Lady’s office and the agency. At today’s celebration Mrs. Trump called upon all partner agencies to appoint a BE BEST Ambassador in order to further amplify her work.
BE BEST INTERNATIONAL
First Lady Melania Trump also announced a second solo international tour. The trip is set for the fall of 2019 and will further her commitment to visiting schools, hospitals, organizations, and companies that support children around the globe.
BE BEST AT WORK
Before departing, the First Lady recognized members of the Farming High School Robotics Team from Minnesota. The team designed a motorized wheelchair for 5-year-old Rocco Zachow who suffers from limited mobility, after his family reached out to the Robotics team for help. Members of the team presented the new chair to Rocco on-stage at the White House this morning.
“I am proud of the work Be Best has done so far,” said First Lady Melania Trump. “Taking the experiences we gained this year and expanding upon all that we learned, I know Be Best will continue to be a source of help for children by focusing on programs aimed to combat some of the issues of today’s world. I want to thank all who attended today’s celebration and look forward to what the coming years will bring.”
The First Lady celebrated the anniversary of BE BEST in the Rose Garden of the White House. Guest speakers included Dr. Francis Collins of National Institutes of Health; Toni Townes-Whitley of Microsoft, and Eric Bolling a Senior Political Anchor, all who shared personal stories of how BE BEST has impacted their fields of work. A reception with lemonade, cookies, and lawn games for kids was held in the Kennedy Garden prior to the start of the program.
More details about BE BEST can be found at www.BeBest.gov.
FULL LIST OF EXPECTED PARTICIPANTS, ORGANIZATIONS, AND COMPANIES IN ATTENDANCE:
First Lady Melania Trump
President Donald J. Trump
Vice President Mike Pence
Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Department of the Treasury
Secretary Alex Acosta, U.S. Department of Labor
Secretary Alex Azar, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Department of Transportation
Secretary Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education
Secretary Robert Wilkie, U.S. Department of Defense
Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
Assistant to the President & Senior Conuselor Kellyanne Conway
Acting Administrator Dr. Uttam Dhillon, Drug Enforcement Administration
Administrator Mark Green, U.S. Agency for International Aid
Director Jim Carroll, Office of National Drug Control Policy
Ambassador Robinson Githae, Republic of Kenya
Akousa Okyere-Badoo, Minister of the Embassy of Ghana
Ambassador Yasser Reda Abdalla Ali Said, Arab Republic of Egypt
Ambassador Edward Sawrengera, Republic of Malawi
White House Regional Communications Director Carolina Hurley
Kelly Nantel, National Safety Council
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of National Institutes of Health
Toni Townes-Whitley, President, US Regulated Industries at Microsoft
Eric Bolling, Senior Political Anchor
Be Best Ambassador, Julie Cram, U.S. Agency for International Aid
Rogue Robotics Team, Farmington Minnesota
Zachow Family (Rocco Zachow & Parent – Kyndie Zachow)
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Children’s Inn, National Institutes of Health
Community Anti-Drug Coalition
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Students Against Destructive Decisions
Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Good morning, thank you all for being here today.
Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge some of the people and partner agencies who have been so supportive of my efforts over this past year including my husband President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Mrs. Pence, Cabinet Secretaries Alex Azar, Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao, Alex Acosta, Robert Wilkie, Steven Mnuchin, and Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, leadership from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Safety Council, the United States Agency for International Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Office of Management and Budget. I am grateful for your support, thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be here today.
I’d also like to recognize some of the organizations that have traveled to be here today and have become true partners with my office. They include the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Twitter, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Facebook, Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, Amazon, Lily’s Place, Snap, Google, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to name a few. There are so many organizations that have worked alongside my office in the past year. On behalf of a grateful nation, I cannot thank you enough for all you are doing on behalf of children. Your work is saving lives and helping children and I believe there is no greater gift you can give to this country, thank you.
I have always said that as a mother and as First Lady, it concerns me that today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world can make children less prepared to express or manage their emotions, causing them to turn to forms of destructive actions such as bullying, unhealthy habits, risky online behavior, drug abuse and addiction, or even suicide.
One year ago today I announced BE BEST, an awareness campaign dedicated to the children of this country and all over the world. BE BEST has three pillars – the well-being of children, online safety, and opioid abuse – and it continues to have one goal, which is to educate children and parents about the issues they face, and promote programs and services available to help them with today’s challenges.
My office has spent the past year listening to and learning from children, parents, medical professionals, teachers, leaders in technology and social media, and many others who have a stake in the vital issues that can affect the next generation. In fact, this past year has shown me that children are vulnerable to more than just social media and so I expanded one of my pillars to online safety. I look forward to using BE BEST to promote any digital programs that make online safety and digital citizenship a priority in today’s technology-driven world. I have also expanded my focus of the dangers of opioid abuse to include kids of all ages, and will continue to work with partner agencies to highlight and promote the programs and resources available for all who struggle with addiction.
Since announcing BE BEST, I have visited schools and hospitals, and visited 15 states to promote and highlight some of the successful work being done by so many on behalf of children. I have participated in children’s events, including speaking engagements focused on one or more of the pillars of Be Best. I have had the opportunity to meet with more than 30 foreign diplomats, heads of state or spouses to exchange ideas on the challenges children are facing all over the world, and have hosted or participated in 18 roundtables and policy briefings. I am also proud to have reconvened the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs in order to build upon the good work being done by our agencies and the government. I traveled internationally to 9 countries – including my first solo trip to Africa where I partnered with USAID to visit the beautiful countries of Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt to speak with children about Be Best and also educate myself about the different cultures and challenges within each community. While in Africa, I felt it was important that people throughout the continent and world understand that the United States cares. It is a fact that our own country is safer and stronger when people across the globe have opportunity, when our trading partners are flourishing, when nations around the world can withstand crises, and when societies are freer and more democratic. I am thrilled to see the Ambassadors of Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt and the Minister of the Embassy of Ghana in attendance – thank you each for being here today. The trip was very special to me and it is something I will never forget. I was heartened to hear that after our visit to Malawi, a member of our advance team was so moved by the visit and the children at the Chipala Primary School that she started a Go Fund Me page on her own time, and raised enough money to build a new classroom for the school. I have seen pictures of the construction, and want to take a moment to recognize Carolina Hurley for not only working as a volunteer on the trip, but for understanding and implementing one of the pillars of BE BEST to make a true difference in the lives of children. Thank you Carolina.
I am also excited to announce that for the first time in its history, the United States Agency for International Development has appointed a BE BEST Ambassador. Ms. Julie Cram was appointed in March and will act as our point of contact for moving Be Best forward within that agency. Thank you for being here today, Julie.
On this one-year anniversary of my initiative, I call on all of our partner agencies to appoint a BE BEST Ambassador who will serve as a liaison between my office and their respective agency to better highlight and promote the programs and services offered to parents and children on behalf of the U.S. government.
I’d now like to take a moment and introduce three individuals I have worked with over the past year and who have done tremendous work in not only helping children, but also educating me on how to better use my platform to help the next generation.
Dr. Francis Collins, is the Director of the National Institutes of Health and oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009. We have worked with NIH on several occasions and I continue to be impressed to their commitment to treating the whole child – both physically and emotionally.
Toni Townes-Whitley, is the President of the US Public Sector of Microsoft. She is passionate about leveraging technology to create positive societal and global impact and is one of the leading women in her field. I had the opportunity to visit Microsoft in Washington State in March, and was impressed by all they are doing, especially in the area of online safety.
Eric Bolling is the anchor and host of “America This Week” and a two time New York Times Bestselling author. He is currently on a 15 city tour speaking about the opioid epidemic. In 2017, Eric lost his only child- Eric Chase – to an accidental opioid overdose while attending the University of Colorado. I have worked with Eric on many occasions and greatly admire how he has turned his grief to help children.
Thank you all for those kind words, and for the work you have done and will continue to do to help children succeed and grow.
As I said at my campaign launch a year ago – I am here with one goal, which is to help children reach their full potential so they can grow up happy, healthy and contribute positively to society and the world. With that goal always in mind, we must continue our work to do what we can to affect positive change for our children. Through character education programs, children can learn the importance of social and self-awareness, positive relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Once a child understands these vital skills, they will be able to live out the tenets of mutual respect, compassion and self-esteem and understand the impact that can be made when all of those values and attributes are made a priority. In fact, we have some people here today who I consider to be absolute examples of what it means to BE BEST.
I recently learned about the Jackson family in Minnesota and how the Farmington High School Rogue Robotics team built a personalized and modified power wheels chair for two-year old Cillian Jackson when no other options were available. Inspired by Cillian’s story, the mother of five year-old Rocco Zachow reached out to Rogue Robotics for help. Rocco has a rare form of dwarfism and limited mobility. Using plans donated to them by the organization Go Baby Go, the students modified another power car into a motorized wheelchair by rewiring, coding and programming the chair’s electronics, redesigning the joystick, and customizing the seat just for Rocco. Over the last few weeks, the team has been hard at work and I am happy to say that members of the Farmington High School Robotics Team, and their Coach Spencer Elvebak, are at the White House with us today to present Rocco and his parents – Kynde and Jeremy – with their new powered chair.
This is truly what it means to BE BEST – Thank you for what you have done to change this little boy’s life, and thank you for being here today. Will you all come to the stage to present Rocco and his family with the chair?
Thank you again. Isn’t that great? These are the kinds of stories I will continue to highlight with the hope that other students, citizens and organizations will use their talents and resources to help children.
In my time as First Lady of the United States I will continue to make every effort to promote the many successful well-being and character education programs that exist today.
I will continue speaking with and learning from leaders in the technology industry in order to raise awareness around the importance of safe and positive online behaviors.
I will continue to work with those who are fighting the epidemic and stigma of drug addiction.
And I will continue to travel and speak to children directly about some of the challenges they face every day.
I am committed to visiting more schools, hospitals, organizations and companies to promote BE BEST, and speaking to children around the country and world about their ideas and concerns. I am also excited to announce my next International trip. Details are still coming together. But we plan to travel this fall and I am very much looking forward to it.
In closing, I want to again thank all of you for being here today, and for the support each of you have given. There is still much work to be done, but when it comes to the next generation of leaders and citizens, I know we all agree the work is worth the reward.
If we listen to our kids, whether it’s their fears, interests, ideas, or concerns, we can provide them the support and tools they need to thrive. I ask you again to join me in my commitment to promoting values such as encouragement, kindness, compassion, healthy living, online safety, and respect in our children.
My hope is that together we can BE BEST at helping children and families find effective ways to educate themselves and become part of the solution to so many problems and issues facing kids today. Let’s join together in recommitting to help children dream big, think big, and do all they can to BE BEST in everything that they do.
Thank you all for being here today. God bless you, your families, our children, and God bless the United States of America.