This week, First Lady, Melania Trump is celebrating the one year anniversary of her Be Best campaign, an initiative designed to focus on overall wellbeing for young people, help end the opioid epidemic, and stop social media bullying. It’s so easy to talk about the fact that the third aspect of it, ending social media bullying, is a policy with no teeth because she has no ability to check her husband who was called people online everything from “sleepy” and “low IQ” to “horseface” and a “dog” all within the year that this campaign was launched. Beyond the faux-social media bullying platform, however, there are other serious flaws with the other aspects of Melania Trump’s initiative; youth well-being and the opioid crisis.
The Trump administration put forth a good sum of money towards ending the opioid epidemic, but only a small portion of the funds have actually been released, therefore the work needed on the ground to fully challenge the epidemic is not at full capacity. In the area of improving overall youth well-being, let’s look at what’s happening with our kids. Be Best is working with Department of Education on parts of its initiatives. Right now under Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, there are cutbacks to many different programs designed to help children.
The Department of Education is making it harder for students with disabilities to get access to services in schools. They’re making it harder for students who are labeled severe emotionally disturbed and have other mental challenges to get assistance. They are rolling back civil rights work that was designed to ensure that our children can be treated fairly in school. Add to this lack of support teachers receive and one can see how every day, the Trump administration has worked with to make sure that our children cannot “be best” in school.
Outside of school, it is still challenging for youth who come from marginalized communities to “be best.” For example, President Trump consistently touts the job numbers, even though job growth was larger under President Obama. Few seem to report the fact that, in Chicago for example, the black male youth unemployment rate is at 45%. Without access to jobs, many of these youth are heading to street activity, which would of course lead to increases in crime, that President Trump and his supporters love to mention when discussing the plight of America’s inner cities. Should not African American youth be considered part of the Be Best well-being program?
The fact of the matter is that marginalized youth have been targeted under the Trump administration. Children are being separated at borders, families are being evicted from homes at record rates, and poorer people live under the daily possibility that they may lose what little health insurance they may have received from the Affordable Care Act. Our children are suffering for across the country. They’re suffering in the streets and in our schools, and it is shameful that the media and so many other outlets out there simply watch this go by and look at it as some type of joke.
When I first saw Be Best rolled out, which was the playoff for someone to work, Michelle Obama was doing, I thought the media was going to do its job and called out the hypocrisy that it represents. Unfortunately, the media wants to be engaged in this farce of we call the presidency. When I say “farce”, I am calling it a farce for the marginalized I’m calling it a farce. For the people who feel like they’re working hard every day and they’re getting played as from healthcare to tax policy. Just look at what’s happening to Gold Star families and the GOP tax plan is hurting them.
My hope is that those who are out there, particularly those of us who are educators, will to continue to do our work every single day to uplift our children and, help them really be the best they can be because we have an administration that has turned their backs on them at every single juncture. It is really unfortunate because education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but this an administration that scoffs at the idea of public education and everyone being able to live their best lives. We should not be celebrating Be Best. We need to be doing the real work on the ground to really help our children be the best that they can be because the Trump administration is putting them in situations and conditions where they can only be their worst, and I know that we can and do better as a nation. Let’s get out there and do the work because our government has failed us miserably.