Melania Trump is following in the footsteps of other First Ladies in having a cause she feels passionate about and promoting her passion. Mrs. Trump is new to her position and she may have other causes she will promote in the days ahead, but currently it's books and reading for school age children, an enviable cause. First Ladies don't have to have a cause, but it's nice that the tradition lives on. (I've listed other First Ladies and their personal causes below, starting with Mamie Eisenhower.)
Librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro not only refused the gift and publicly insulted the First Lady, but she also denigrated Dr. Seuss's books. I find it distressing that a professional working with young children isn't mature enough to keep her personal political opinions to herself. Rather than seeing the gift as a teaching tool, Ms. Soeiro turned it into something unpleasant and to attack Dr. Seuss's beloved books is a tragedy. Springfield, Massachusetts is the hometown of Theodor Geisel who wrote the Dr. Seuss books. As Mayor Domenic Sarno of Springfield said, "Her comments that this is racist propaganda and that Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche and a tired and worn ambassador for children's literature is 'political correctness' at its worst."
As I've written before on this blog, The Newark Public Library in New Jersey is near and dear to my heart. I have the highest regard for librarians, in fact my daughter-in-law worked as a librarian in NYC. I believe that the wonderful caring librarians who worked at both the main branch of the library as well as the ones who worked at the Bergen Street branch helped me to become the avid reader and the person I am today. They led me to the Goofy Mrs. Goose in Animaltown series written by Miriam Clark Potter which opened up a whole new world to me. A silly world of laughter, friendships, pranks and caring for and enjoying the differences between the animals featured, all centered around lovable Goofy Mrs. Goose.
Written in the '50s and early '60, Ms. Potter's books could also be painted with the same brush as the Cambridgeport School librarian painted the Seuss books...."steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes." Whoa! Back up, Mrs. Librarian! I don't think a single child of any race or color would find the characters in these books to be racist or harmful stereotypes unless they were taught by someone to look for that, like Ms. Soeiro.
It was a different era in our country and we hadn't yet become aware as a nation of the harmful effects of our insensitivity. In fact, during the same time frame First Lady Mamie Eisenhower did her part to combat segregation. She invited African American children to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll and accepted an honorary membership in the National Council of Negro Women.
I'm sorry this particular school librarian doesn't like the Dr. Seuss books. I never liked them either because the rhyming made me insane! But my sons loved them. My nephew liked them so much, that his mother once made him green eggs and ham as a surprise. However, since The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957, it is not only an international bestseller but also a classic children's book. It is such a classic that Random House Publishers released a 50 year edition in 2007. I doubt that too many people didn't have this book at home at some point in the last 60 years. Mrs. Trump may have grown up with these books since she wasn't born until 1970. She donated these classics because these were books she had read to her own son. It's a lovely legacy. So what's the problem? Nothing except that a narrow minded person decided that she didn't like the person the gift was coming from and so she decided to turn this into a political debate. Not nice and especially not nice coming from someone who has a daily influence on young children.
Ms. Soeiro went on to say that her school district has plenty of resources and that the books should have been donated to an "underfunded and underprivileged community." Perhaps this librarian should go to her local library and borrow a book on etiquette. I'm sure she could find a section on how to accept a gift gracefully.
I'm gratified to see that the school administrators in the librarian's school district do not support what she did. She not only refused the gift and insulted the First Lady, but she also single handedly decided that certain books weren't up to her standards. I didn't think librarians were the ones who would want to ban books. Liz Phipps Soeiro, your elitism is showing and it's not very attractive.
The following is a list of eleven of Melania Trump's predecessors and the causes they supported when they were First Ladies:
Mamie Eisenhower led fundraising drives for the American Heart Association, as well as supporting increased benefits for military personnel and their widows.
Jacqueline Kennedy worked to restore the White House to it's original elegance.
Lady Bird Johnson supported the war on poverty and the Headstart Program. She's most well known for the Highway Beautifiction Act of 1965.
Patrica Nixon supported the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as publicly disclosing her pro-choice stance on abortion. She was also the first First Lady to appear in pants in public and model them for a national magazine.
Betty Ford was serious about the subject of equal rights for women, abortion and divorce. She's best remembered for being very outspoken in her beliefs. Having fought her own demons, Mrs. Ford helped establish the Betty Ford Center, dedicated to helping all people, but especially women, with chemical dependencies. Through her work with the Betty Ford Center she began to see the connection between drug addiction and HIV/AIDS and she began to voice her support for gay and lesbian rights and same sex marriage.
Rosalynn Carter's causes were mental health and the welfare of senior citizens. She is remembered for not only being very frugal in hosting White House events, but also by refusing to have hard alcohol served at those events. She wore simple, non-designer clothing.
Nancy Reagan was the antithesis of Mrs. Carter at the White House. She redecorated, ordered new china (all paid for from private sources and not taxpayer money) and generally turned White House events more upscale. She created a public relations dilemma when she began accepting free designer clothing. Mrs. Reagan is best remembered for her mantra "Just Say No to Drugs" as well as her close friendship with rapper and actor Mr. T.
Barbara Bush's cause was literacy and she worked tirelessly on the subjects of child and adult illiteracy, becoming actively involved with several organizations dealing with this subject.
Hillary Clinton dedicated her time in trying to help devise a better health care system and many critics at the time felt she was overstepping her role as a First Lady. She was also a strong proponent of historic preservation and education as the honorary chair of the Save America's Treasures Committee. She also worked on the conservation of the original Star Spangled Banner with the Smithsonian Institute.
Laura Bush pursued her passion for education, child development and teacher training. She created a national initiative called Ready to Read * Ready to Learn to promote reading at an early age.
Michele Obama focused her time on supporting military families, helping working woman balance their lives and encouraging National Service. She is well know for her passion in fighting childhood obesity, her organic gardening initiative as well as having an organic garden and bee hives installed on the South Lawn of the White House.