US first lady Melania Trump took her “Be Best” platform abroad on Friday, visiting with schoolchildren and veterans at an event hosted by Philip May, husband of British Prime Minister Theresa May, at Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The leaders’ spouses met while the US President and British prime minister held a bilateral meeting in the English countryside at Chequers, hours after Trump openly critiqued his British counterpart’s handling of the Brexit deal in an interview with The Sun. But here in London, the tone was cordial – festive, even.
Founded by King Charles II in 1682, Royal Hospital Chelsea is not actually a hospital, but rather, a home for retired soldiers, known as the Chelsea Pensioners. Applicants must be over 65 and “unencumbered by spouse,” according to its charter. Many of the veterans, who wear military uniforms, have jobs at the residence, including as guides, gardeners, and museum and chapel staff.
Dressed in a sleeveless dress by British designer and former Spice Girls member Victoria Beckham, the first lady held a “Be Best” chat with a group of uniformed schoolchildren and scarlet-coated Pensioners in the hospital’s Great Hall.
The students, who participate in a program called “Be the Best You Can Be!” aimed at engaging and empowering London youth, discussed the importance of respect and resilience before asking questions to the veterans and the American first lady.
“Why is your motto ‘Be Best’?” a student asked Melania Trump.
“I want to help children be best in everything that they do, to be best at whatever your passion is, where you’re focused – everything in life, really … and be best with each other, to be kind,” she said.
Trump formally rolled out “Be Best,” which focuses on children’s well-being, fighting opioid abuse and positivity on social media, earlier this year at the White House.
While their spouses faced more contentious and high-stakes discussions, Trump and May displayed a warm rapport, touring a chapel on the grounds and crafting remembrance poppy pins with the students and Pensioners.
Trump held up her handcrafted pin: “How does mine look? Is it OK?”
“Very professional,” the prime minister’s husband said, inspecting her work.
The duo then joined the students and Pensioners outsider for lawn bowling; Trump expertly tossing the heavy ball over a few rounds.
“A bit harder, ya know,” one student said to the first lady after a bad shot, his criticism prompting laughter.
The first lady will join her husband later Friday at Windsor Castle, where they will be received by Queen Elizabeth II for tea before departing for Scotland.