Melania Trump finds her way in her first 100 days

Updated 8:21 PM EDT, Fri April 28, 2017
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Story highlights

The Trump administration marks its first 100 days on Saturday

Melania Trump has begun to build staff and develop a platform

Washington CNN —  

First lady Melania Trump spent part of her Friday crafting at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, working with the children as they colored a floral coloring sheet with a pink marker and bonding with one girl who was celebrating a birthday.

“My birthday was this Wednesday,” she told the girl. The table of crafters continued to talk about birthdays, including President Donald Trump’s, which is in June.

“He’s 70,” the first lady said when asked how old her husband is.

She asked the children their favorite books and singers, and after several minutes of crafting, she thanked them for spending time together. One young patient presented her with a picture.

“That’s so nice,” she said. “Beautiful! I love it.”

Friday’s visit was another sign of a reluctant first lady becoming more comfortable in her new role, 100 days in to the Trump administration.

Out of the spotlight

The first lady’s first 100 days have been largely characterized by her absence from Washington and the spotlight; she made the unprecedented, independent decision to stay home at Trump Tower in New York with son, Barron, 11, through the conclusion of the school year.

It’s still unclear when precisely she will make her move to the White House, but there are signs that the wheels are in motion: Official White House interior decorator Tham Kannalikham continues to make the house a home for the Trumps, according to the White House.

The role of first lady comes with no instruction manual, and each of her predecessors have made their own mark, some more political, some more private. Trump, who was born in Slovenia, has faced a learning curve in her new position.

“The fact that she did not grow up in the US has made it more difficult for her because it is a position with no definition, no job description and she didn’t grow up watching first ladies as part of American culture,” said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies” and a CNN contributor.

“We’ve seen that most people do not want the first lady to be involved in policy, so she is carving out a more private, less political role than we’ve ever seen,” Andersen Brower said.

Trump has eased her way into the role, performing the traditional first lady duty of America’s official hostess; initially traveling to Washington rarely, but more frequently in recent weeks. She’s participated in key events, hosting the 179th annual White House Easter Egg Roll and welcoming governors and spouses at the formal Governors Ball.

And she was by her husband’s side throughout the inaugural festivities; she watched as he gave an address to a joint session of Congress; she joined him to award a Purple Heart at Walter Reed; and she spoke in front of Senate and Cabinet spouses on Wednesday, as well as other major moments.

She continues to define her platform and build her East Wing staff. Friday’s children’s hospital visit was another sign of how she’s embracing the role.

Key events

One of her team’s first tests was the Governors Ball, a black-tie social event held in the State Dining Room. She chose “spring renewal” as the theme.

“I am proud to invite all the governors to the White House for this important annual event,” she said in a statement. “Tonight, we come together as one Nation, leaving political labels and partisan interests behind.”

She’s also hosted the spouses of world leaders, including Japanese first lady Akie Abe, Israel’s Sara Netanyahu, China’s Madame Peng Liyuan, Queen Rania of Jordan and Argentine first lady Juliana Awada.

And she planned this year’s Easter egg roll, which welcomed more than 20,000 guests to White House grounds. Trump studied egg rolls past and designed an event that would both return to tradition, with activities such as cookie decorating and thank you cards for the troops, and highlight her own family’s interests, including a DC United demonstration for soccer fan, Barron.

It received widely positive reviews: “All seemed to go off without a hitch,” said The Washington Post. The New York Times: “The mood was cheery despite the clouds and an occasional downpour, and the Trumps played warm hosts.” USA Today: “Soggy but solid.”

The White House also hosted its annual spring garden tour last weekend.

“@POTUS & I are pleased to welcome visitor’s @WhiteHouse #Spring garden tour. We hope everyone enjoys exploring the beautiful grounds!” she tweeted.

Defining a platform