(Previously Published in AndMagazine, December 7th, 2016)
Ever since Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, the First Lady has done a lot more than bake cookies and gives tours of the White House. At the start of every Presidency, there is speculation about how involved the next First Lady would be in official White House matters. If Hillary Clinton had won the election, we would be all be guessing about the duties of the President’s Husband (the First Gentleman?). But Trump did win, and now it is time to consider the role that will be played by what could be the most powerful woman in America… the First Daughter, Ivanka Trump!
While Nancy Reagan was in many ways projected the image of a traditional housewife, she was also the gatekeeper to the President. Because Reagan was partially deaf in one ear but didn’t make this public until many years later, he sometimes appeared to not be paying attention or not engaged. Nancy often accompanied Reagan to “interpret” what was being said around the President. Over time she naturally became the guardian of the President, the gatekeeper to the power of the White House.
Nancy Reagan also played a significant role in policies for the growing drug epidemic of the 1980’s. When George Bush senior took over residency in the White House, some expected Barbara Bush to look for some issue to pursue, but she believed that the role of the President’s wife was to be… the president’s wife. But when the Clinton’s took power in Washington, Hillary showed that she could handle power roles as the First Lady, and later as Senator from New York and Secretary of State.
Now, as President Trump is packing his bags for a four year trip to Washington, speculations has begun about our government’s next Power Couple. Yet, few see Melania as a woman with strong political beliefs. During her time as Trump’s wife, she has had little exposure in the press. While Melania speaks five languages, there is not a lot that is known about her ambitions and beliefs. We all know that she used to be a model, that she is Trump’s wife, and she is the mother of Barron (Donald Trump’s son).
Alternatively, we know a lot about Ivanka. She is clearly the most trusted (and loved?) of his adult children. She was the most seen advisor, who gave the most introductions as her father led rally after rally during the election. Ivanka is the second oldest, but best known of Trump’s children, although Barron (the youngest) may give her some competition once Trump is President. The press clearly sees Ivanka as the most successful, and most articulate of the Trump children.
As Trump gets closer to the day when he must separate his business interests from the work of the Presidency, what role will Ivanka fill? In earlier discussions Trump has hinted that Ivanka will run his business, she has sat beside her father in meetings and calls with the President of Turkey, the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of Argentina. Undoubtedly, more world leaders will follow!
The latest tidbit is that Al Gore was looking for an opportunity to speak with Ivanka about global warming. When Gore arrived at Trump Towers he was surprised to see Ivanka with her father. In Washington, as Gore was the outsider, with the losing party, wanting to speak on an issue that Trump publicly dismissed as a hoax. Normally, Gore wouldn’t get an opportunity to gain credibility by speaking with the President. Is trump more flexible or is Ivanka more influential?
Ivanka has signaled that she is very interested in the environment and wants to make it her issue. However, for the environmentalists who are hoping that this means Ivanka will save the environment. Well.. That may be a bridge too far. Being interested and agreeing with environmentalists are two different things. If this is where Ivanka will make her stand, the process of learning about the environment may shift her opinions, and in turn, slowly move her father’s opinions. She could just as easily turn out to be a brilliant spokesperson for consuming nature at a faster pace to build a prosperous nation. Too, too early to tell!
The record-breaking part of Ivanka story is that she may be the first, First Daughter to overshadow the First Lady. This has taken a remarkable series of “accidents”. If Trump wasn’t 70, he wouldn’t have children that are old enough to be considered for senior roles. If Donald’s wife, Melania, had stronger political ambitions, there would not be as prominent a vacancy for Ivanka to fill. Add to that Ivanka “costarring” role with her father on reality TV, her performing substantive roles in Donald’s Trump’s empire, and her prominent position in the election. Ivanka is known to as many of the rich and powerful as her Dad, and he experience in managing the Trump Tower deal in Turkey (a role she played long before her father ran for President), clearly demonstrates that he has credible executive experience.
None of us know, including Ivanka, what her role will be, but it seems to be naturally shaping up that she will have some role, either in the government or as an unofficial “spokesperson” for a serious issue like the environment, just as Lady Diana championed animal rights and the outlawing of anti-personnel mines. Will the First, First Daughter be an effective leader and role model for women around the world? Maybe she should ask for tips from her BFF Chelsea Clinton!