Donna Rice Hughes: Melania Trump has endured her share of vitriol on and offline
She is uniquely positioned to be an advocate for a safer, kinder cyberculture for America's children and families, writes Hughes
Editor’s Note: Donna Rice Hughes is CEO and president of Enough Is Enough (EIE) and has been a pioneering leader on the front lines to prevent the Internet-enabled exploitation of children and families since 1994. For more information visit www.enough.org and www.internetsafety101.org. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect that of her organization.
Never has there been so much lingering hostility so long after a presidential election.
Much of this hostility has been aimed at the first family, with a particularly cruel emphasis on Melania Trump.
And yet, despite the barrage of insults attacking her, including the New York Times reporter who referred to her as a hooker and the ex-boxer who called her a golddigger, the first lady continues to demonstrate grace, kindness and patience.
Her personal experience with this onslaught of ugliness gives her a unique vantage point, allowing her to speak with both empathy and authority on issues of bullying and social media cruelty. And often the best advocates for any cause are those who have experienced firsthand the social evils they seek to combat.
In recent weeks, Melania has emerged as a thoughtful and courageous advocate for a safer, kinder cyberculture for children and families. At the 2017 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards, she noted that “Together, we must declare that the era of allowing brutality against women and children is over.”
But it’ll take more than speeches to change the current political climate, in which our country is so dramatically polarized, and the conversation both on and offline has become increasingly disrespectful, aggressive and even violent.
Most recently, Rosie O’Donnell tweeted to Melania, “u need to divorce him, take ur son n parents and flee.” And Chelsea Handler continues her barrage of low blows against the first family, attacking Eric and Lara’s unborn child in a tweet that read, “just what we need, another person with those ‘jeans,’ (sic) let’s hope it’s a girl.”
But the attacks are not limited to the Trumps. Many of those I know, who, like me, voted for the Trump-Pence ticket, have been victims of hostile comments and cyberbullying. Two longtime liberal leaning friends of mine expressed outrage over an article I wrote on my personal Facebook page making the case for the Trump-Pence ticket. I posted it with the disclaimer, “We may not all agree, but can agree to disagree and treat others with kindness and respect.” And yet they could not find the space to do so.
And a nurse in my doctor’s office told me that when she posted a picture of herself with a wounded veteran at an inaugural ball, a number of her friends either unfriended her or asked to be removed from her page.
In fact, many I know have taken a hiatus from posting anything political on social media, just to avoid the vitriol directed at them for their support of the current administration.
Given the scope of the issue, Melania has and should continue to find common ground. Liberals and conservatives share many core values, including a belief in the importance of family and a willingness to fight to protect their children. Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month (as President Trump declared just last week), now is the time to encourage all Americans to put aside their differences and put their children first.
Here are a few slogans for Melania to consider and that have worked for Enough is Enough, my own organization, which fights for a culture in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect:
1. Every child deserves a protected age of innocence, free from exploitation.
2. While our nation remains divided over politics, it’s my goal as first lady to appeal to our higher calling as Americans, parents and human beings.
3. As parents, we must walk the walk as well as talk the talk. As we teach our children to follow the Golden Rule, we need to model that behavior ourselves.
4. Cyberbullying cannot be fixed by legislation alone, which is best left to the states. This is a matter of the heart and of personal choice.
5. Choose the high road over low blows.
But slogans only work if they are strategically deployed, so I recommend Melania meet with a couple of trusted leaders to advise her on how best to pursue this honorable agenda. At Enough Is Enough, we are making ourselves available to offer any help we can to advance her mission.
Bottom line, we need to check our differences at the door for the sake of the children and our nation, and constructively focus on what unites us.
I encourage Melania to continue to hold her head high and to demonstrate, by word and deed, what it really means to take the high road. The American people are watching, and they need a leading lady.