Melania Trump heading to Africa like previous first ladies
WASHINGTON (AP) – When Melania Trump flies to Africa next week on her first extended international journey without the president, she’ll be following in the footsteps of her recent predecessors.
First ladies before Mrs. Trump performed numerous roles on their trips to the vast continent, but mostly sought to foster goodwill toward the United States. Some made the trip to check on the status of U.S. assistance programs or announce new funding. Some played tourist, or brought their children along for the cultural experience.
The current first lady leaves Monday on a weeklong trip to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt, traveling only with members of her staff and a pool of journalists. President Donald Trump will remain in Washington, with several trips on his schedule to campaign for Republicans in November’s elections. Their 12-year-old son Barron is in school.
Mrs. Trump’s office hasn’t released details about the activities she plans in each country, though the first lady said in a recent speech that she plans to emphasize child welfare. She already promotes child well-being in the U.S. under an initiative she launched in May named “Be Best.”
Patricia Nixon was first to travel to Africa on her own. She went as President Richard Nixon’s “personal representative” to Liberia, Ghana and the Ivory Coast in 1972, addressing legislative bodies and meeting with African leaders about U.S. policy toward the country now known as Zimbabwe, and human rights in South Africa, according to the National First Ladies’ Library.
Here’s a look at what other first ladies did on their Africa trips:
Hillary Clinton took daughter Chelsea on her two-week visit in March 1997 to Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and Eritrea.
The Clintons opened their journey at Goree Island in Senegal, a hub for the Atlantic slave trade for 300 years. Mrs. Clinton had said she wanted to see the island because of its significance to black Americans. She discussed violent crime In South Africa, along with the need to improve education for blacks in a country that had recently abolished its apartheid policy of racial segregation.
The first lady returned in 1998 when President Bill Clinton made his first visit to Africa; it was also the first visit to the continent by a U.S. president in 20 years. The White House billed the 12-day tour of Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana and Senegal as a way to encourage trade and investment in Africa.
Mrs. Bush traveled to Africa five times on her own between 2005 and 2007, President George W. Bush’s second term, apart from two separate trips she took with him.
Her trips mostly focused on promoting efforts by the Bush administration to combat the spread of HIV, as well as malaria. She also emphasized literacy, drug prevention and national parks. During one stop in South Africa, she praised HIV-positive mothers for working to erase the stigma associated with the disease. She spoke openly with African women about taking control of their sex lives. Mrs. Bush also announced millions of dollars in U.S. funding for programs to stem the spread of AIDS and mosquito-borne malaria.
In Mozambique, she covered her face with a white mask to help illustrate the benefits of spraying homes with insecticides to combat malaria. She also passed out mosquito nets.
She was accompanied on these trips by one or both of her twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
Mrs. Obama went to South Africa and Botswana on a goodwill mission in the summer of 2011 to promote youth leadership, education and HIV and AIDS awareness.
The centerpiece of the weeklong trip by America’s first African-American first lady was a 30-minute speech at a U.S.-sponsored leadership conference at a church in Soweto township that became a popular refuge during the fight against apartheid, the system of government-imposed segregation in South Africa.
She was accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha; her mother, Marian Robinson; and a niece and nephew.
Mrs. Obama made a second solo visit to Africa in June 2016, the final year of the Obama administration. In Liberia and Morocco, she promoted an initiative to help educate girls in developing countries.
She also visited Ghana with President Barack Obama in 2009.