Oct. 23, 2017 - 2:02 - First lady's stylish contribution to the National Museum of American History becomes the latest addition to the historic collection.
Watch on Fox News.
By Alex Pappas Published October 20, 2017
Read entire article on Fox News.
Melania Trump is embracing a more active and public schedule as first lady – but she still runs one of the leanest East Wing operations in recent history.
According to a Fox News analysis of White House personnel reports, Melania Trump has significantly reduced the number of aides on the first lady's office payroll in comparison to her predecessor, Michelle Obama.
. . .
"She is more like a Pat Nixon or a Bess Truman than a Hillary Clinton or a Michelle Obama," Andrew Och, a first lady historian who was a producer for the C-SPAN's "First Ladies: Influence and Image" series, said of Melania Trump.
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By Serafin Gómez Published April 15, 2017
Read entire article on Fox News.
President Trump’s wife and their young son will officially be moving into the White House this summer, following the end of the school year, a senior White House official tells Fox News.
The move is in line with what senior Trump transitions officials told Fox News in December about first lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump’s timeline for moving from Trump Tower in Manhattan to Washington.
Since his January 20 inauguration, President Trump has lived at the White House while his wife and their 11-year-old son have stayed in New York City.
A senior White House aide says the first lady has been directly involved in arranging the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the summertime move.
The former model, born in Slovenia, appears to be taking an increasing role as first lady in her husband’s early presidency and frequently joins him at their South Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago.
Barron will be the first boy to live at the White House since John F. Kennedy Jr., who was a toddler, in 1963.
"Mrs. Trump said on the campaign trail that she wanted to be a traditional first lady like Michelle Obama or Pat Nixon," Andrew Och, a White House historian and author known as The First Ladies' Man, said in a recent interview.
"Melania Trump bringing and unifying her family under one roof of the White House is a very smart move, and a very traditional move," he also said. "The fact she was protecting (Barron) before this, by letting him finish out his school year, is not unprecedented. It is just a little bit unusual that they didn't move into the White House immediately after the inauguration."
Read entire article on Fox News.
Melania Trump is days away from becoming the 45th First Lady of the United States.
We called in historian Andrew Och, aka First Ladies Man, to understand how a former Playboy model stacks up against past first ladies.
Read the entire story here (this is an off-site link)
Melania Trump, wife of President-elect Donald Trump, worked as a professional model before she met her future hubby.
Melania told the magazine Parenting that she was 5 years old when she did her first catwalk. Commercials came by age 16. Melania told the magazine, "My mom loved fashion. We loved to travel and go to Italy and Paris.”
Yet, she won't be the first lady to be a model.
Betty Ford had a modeling career long before her stay at the White House. She modeled for various department stores and agencies.
Och said Melania is worldly, sophisticated and can handle the limelight as FLOTUS.
"She has been on the cover of every magazine around the world. She will be on the cover again."
And she's got another thing going for her.
But it's this racy GQ photoshoot from 2000 that had everyone talking this past election. [...]
Melania is about to become the second First Lady in American history to be born outside of the United States. The only other was Louisa Adams, the sixth president John Adams's wife, who was born and raised in London.
The only difference is that Melania will be the only foreign-born First Lady where English is not her first language.
In fact, according to a post by the International Business Times, the next first lady speaks five languages:
In September, Melania released a letter from her immigration attorney to shut down rumors that she may not have entered the United States legally.
Here's the tweet where she addressed the rumors with her attorney's statement. [...]
Early reports suggested Ivanka Trump was going to take a job in the White House while Melania stayed in New York with her son Barron.
New reports say that's not true, but if Ivanka did take on FLOTUS duties, it wouldn't be a first.
Harriet Lane, James Buchanan's niece, served as First Lady during his entire presidency. Although Trump isn't the "bachelor president" Buchanan was during his term, there's a chance he could seek counsel from his daughter.
Melania Trump is set to assume the role of First Lady on January 20, 2017.
“First ladies are expected to get behind causes to give them visibility and help provide solutions and bring in new resources,” said Andrew Och, known as “The First Ladies Man” because of his website and reporting on the topic. “Historically, first ladies have brought many issues to the forefront of society and the front pages of newspapers and magazines.”
Read entire article here
Andrew Och – who maintains an Internet website on first ladies and is known as “The First Ladies Man” – praised the choice of anti-bullying as a project.
“Melania Trump's choice of cyberbullying is a good one. Bullying is still a huge issue in America, and cyberbullying is something we understand even less,” he said. “If Melania Trump can get people and celebrities to unify behind her anti-cyberbullying campaign, she will be successful.”
He suggested Trump contact Lady Gaga, an internationally known entertainer who is “a huge advocate against bullying and also a Hillary Clinton supporter.” Och said, “If Mrs. Trump can work with Gaga on this issue, it will do a lot of good socially and politically.”
Read entire article here
Andrew Och said the United States wouldn't be what it is without Martha Washington, who helped put her husband George 'at ease.'
AUGUSTA - According to author and historian Andrew Och, George Washington "married up."
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"She was young, she was rich and she was hot," Och said Tuesday afternoon during a talk at the Maine State Library.
Och is the author of a recently published book titled "Unusual for Their Time: On the Road with America's First Ladies," and he shared stories and little-known facts about many of our country's first ladies to a group of more than 30 people.
The author explained to the engaged, attentive crowd that George Washington's wife, Martha, made him more at ease and was able to handle a lot of the day-to-day life at home, enabling him to focus on leading the Continental Army.
"If George hadn't married Martha, we'd be living in a place with a different name, with at least different accents, maybe a different flag," Och said. "The saying that behind every great man is a great woman was never more true."
Martha Washington, like a lot of people in those days, burned any letters, Och told the audience; but he came across some rare correspondence between Martha Washington and Abigail Adams. One of the letters from Adams asked Washington for advice on how to handle the role of being the first lady. Washington responded that Adams was smart and capable.
Throughout his talk, Och showed historical photos, videos and spoke about the most famous first ladies - Washington, Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt - but also about some that weren't mentioned in school history texts.
"They all did things that were unusual for the time, and a lot of them were the reasons their husbands were president," he said. "The guys needed these women to get where they were."
Some of the first ladies he mentioned included Helen Taft, Lou Hoover, Grace Coolidge and Edith Wilson.
Helen Taft is the reason there is a first ladies' dress collection in the Smithsonian Institution, she's the first to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery and she's the one who arranged to plant cherry trees around Washington, D.C., Och said. Lou Hoover spoke seven languages and helped start the Girl Scouts of America and its famous cookie drive.
Wilson's husband Woodrow, the 28th U.S. president, had a severe stroke in October 1919, and there are official documents and policies that have her handwriting on it. She was in the position to make executive decisions and help her husband make executive decisions.
"There's so much influence from these women," Och said.
Och was raised in Maryland a short drive from the nation's capital and was a film major at the University of Maryland in College Park. His parents were history buffs, so he spent a lot of time as a boy touring historical sites, battlefields and museums. Even so, he didn't grow up expecting to be a first ladies historian.
He said he was a producer "in the right place at the right time" on CSPAN's series about first ladies and was the producer tasked with traveling by himself across the country to every "library, museum, church, farm, train station, school, farm, cemetery, birthplace and plantation" for every first lady from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama. He was alone for nearly 14 months except for seven cases of gear.
"This story of these first ladies hadn't been told yet," Och said. "We know about their time in the White House, but I wanted to know who these women were outside of the public eye."
During his journey, people wanted to show him all of their best historical documents and relics, and he said they were opening up vaults, attics, storage facilities, back rooms and more.
"They wanted to bring it out to the public because not a lot of people have or will ever see these artifacts," Och said.
Although he didn't think this would be his career, Och said he fell in love with the information and the history.
"When you see the places these women were born, where they grew up, where they died, and you read letters and journals of their most intimate and private moments, and you learn about them as not figures in the White House or in oil paintings; they become real people," he said. "Their stories affected me, and it was a momentous adventure, and I had to dig in fully."
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Washington Post Article On First Ladies Man
Read entire article on washingtonpost.com
By Sadie Dingfelder August 4 at 6:00 AM
When you cast your vote for president in November, don't forget that you're also voting for the president's spouse, says Andrew Och, author of "Unusual for Their Time: On the Road With America's First Ladies." Och, who will discuss first ladies at a Smithsonian Associates talk Wednesday, says that even those first ladies who stay out of the limelight help shape their partner's policies. "The first lady is arguably the most powerful unelected woman in the world," he says. "Even Bess Truman, one of the quietest and seemingly uninvolved first ladies, was in on some very serious military and political decisions." We asked Och which potential first spouse, Bill Clinton or Melania Trump, would be better suited to the various tasks that traditionally fall to the first lady — or gentleman — of the United States. S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW; Wed., 6:45 p.m., $30.
A former model with international flair, "Melania Trump would just crush it," Och says.
Since he's an older guy with an unremarkable dressing style, Bill Clinton is unlikely to inspire new directions in menswear, Och says.
Melania has the potential to help improve her husband's image as a misogynist, but Donald Trump's tendency to publicly objectify women gets in the way, Och says.
Bill is seen as an affable, fun guy. That could help Hillary Clinton, who is often viewed as tough and unrelatable, Och says. "People might say, ‘You know what? Bill's a good guy, so maybe Hillary's not so bad after all.' "
Melania, who has said she would be a traditional first lady, would have no problem taking on assignments like china design or choosing invitation colors, Och says.
Bill might excel at designing tableware, but if he were caught doing it, the media would make fun of him mercilessly, Och says: "It would be seen as a major demotion from his former job as president."
Melania, who speaks five languages, would excel at showing around the partners of foreign presidents, Och says.
Given Bill's past scandals, this could get awkward, Och says: "When I point this out, a lot of people tell me, ‘I wouldn't leave my wife with Bill Clinton.' "
Melania would probably pick a noncontroversial issue, like breast cancer awareness or the Red Cross, Och says. "Since she's from a war-torn country, she could also do international work with refugees," he says.
With more power and influence than your average first spouse, Bill could take on controversial issues such as Black Lives Matter, Och says. "Bill Clinton has already shown that he can reach out across the aisle," he adds.
"I think Melania Trump would probably be better at putting together a nice meal," Och says.
"Bill went from eating Quarter Pounders with cheese to being a vegetarian. So there's not a lot of middle ground," Och says.
As far back as Martha Washington, family members have helped their candidates, but stakes higher now
Read entire article on lifezette.com
by Andrew Och | 01 Aug 2016 at 5:05 AM
One of the greatest assets for a presidential candidate is his or her family - this has long been the case.
Ever since the days of George Washington, candidates of all parties have been using their spouses and their family members to help drive home their points, show a more personal side, and win over voters. During the American Revolution, Martha Washington made speeches on behalf of then-General Washington from her coach while on the road to and from winter encampments.
From the winter of 1775 through the winter of 1778, Mrs. Washington traveled at great personal risk to be with her husband during the war. There she was, bundled up to protect herself against the elements - and she would have no problem stopping to address the crowds that would gather along the way to hear news about the general and the fighting. She also entertained visiting dignitaries and military officials at Valley Forge and other encampments to help promote her husband’s views and policies with a softer touch.
Flash forward to the conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia these past two weeks - and the world watched as the spouses of the candidates, as well as the Trump children and Chelsea Clinton, delivered carefully crafted speeches in support of their loved ones. None of this is an accident.
In America’s past, some candidates kept their children and families as far out of the public eye as possible. The Cleveland, Garfield, and Theodore Roosevelt campaigns come to mind as examples of this. Why, you may ask, in light of the positives just mentioned? For starters, security back then wasn’t what it is today. Public access to the candidates and their families was virtually unobstructed, and in some corners there was genuine concern for the safety of the candidates’ young children and the families’ privacy.
The press and the public can be cruel - and raising children in the white-hot political spotlight can be difficult.
But children and spouses usually make a candidate seem more user-friendly and congenial, even as using them effectively and responsibly in a campaign can be a tough line to walk.
A gregarious and affable wife - such as a Dolley Madison or a Grace Cleveland - can put gruffer husbands in a better public light. A clever candidate can use his politically savvy spouse and adult children to reach an entirely different audience and send important messages to benefit the campaign. These family members become surrogates and can even find Cabinet or administration positions in the event their family member wins the election (think of Robert F. Kennedy, who served as U.S. attorney general in the administration of his brother, John F. Kennedy).
This plan was used effectively by the Jimmy Carter campaign in the 1976 election, as one example. Rosalynn Carter organized and mobilized a group called the "Peanut Brigade," which employed the Carters' three adult sons - Jack, James, and Donnel - as well as Jimmy Carter's mother, Miss Lillian. Their grassroots efforts and sheer numbers covered a lot of ground and helped introduce a relatively unknown Georgia governor to the masses.
The Bush family has campaigned tirelessly for three different Bush men up to this point. And while it didn't work out so well for Jeb, earlier on for the Bushes, their work did show the power of family and the ability to get a candidate's message out there.
The Clintons are a known factor. With two presidential terms, a Senate career, and four years as secretary of state between them, the public knows Bill and Hillary Clinton pretty well. Chelsea Clinton grew up in the public eye. Then she all but disappeared for a little while, and now she's emerged again as an adult with a husband, two children, and a voice that could prove effective on the campaign trail. Chances are, if you like the Clintons, you will like Chelsea - and she could take some of the negative attention of controversy and scandal off Hillary - and perhaps even minimize Bill Clinton's past indiscretions.
When it comes to children, the Trumps seem to have the best of both worlds. Donald Trump has adult children who can campaign on their own and deliver serious policy and issue speeches. He also has a young son, Barron, age 10, who can travel with either of his parents and bring the family vibe that Americans love so much. Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric are all highly educated and have proven themselves more than capable of delivering a clear and effective message for their father.
Both Donald Jr. and Ivanka made very well-received speeches at the RNC, as did Tiffany Trump, and if that kind of clarity and positive reception continues on the road, the Trump children will prove to be huge assets to their father.
What the candidates need to remember is this: As soon as those family members are brought to the national stage, they become fair game for the public and the press. This is hardly the kindest platform - and having thick skin is a must. Candidates' children and family members need to ignore the criticisms, stay on message, and keep the ultimate goal - the White House - in their sights.
Most of the folks involved know the risks before they enter the game of politics. Like all games, there are winners and losers. The election in November will write the next pages of history - and tell us which political family played the better game.
Read entire article on lifezette.com
Andrew Och is the author of the new book, Unusual for Their Time: On the Road with America's First Ladies.
Andrew Och, Best Selling author of America's First Ladies book Unusual For Their Time, asks the question How will America address President Bill Clinton?
(Washington, D.C.) – The First Ladies Man, Author Andrew Och is discussing the current question at hand for our nation's future First Lady, what will be the historical implications if President Bill Clinton assumes the role of First Man.
Och, author of Unusual For Their Time has been tapped to discuss who will hold the role of America's First Lady in January 2017. The conventions thus far have accentuated the preview to America with the Melania Trump speech controversy. Och stated in a Breitbart Exclusive "Melania Trump's Speech a Missed Opportunity, Ignored Her Natural Appeal."
In addition and the most emphasized highlighted question remains…Two women had the chance to be the first female U.S. President. That left two men with the chance to be the first First Man (or more likely Gentleman). However, one of those men is former President, Bill Clinton. Many people ask me, "What will we call him? First Man? First Husband?" While his official title as the spouse of the President (if Hillary were to win) is yet to be determined, his title will always be the same. President Clinton. Frank Fiorina - having never been an elected official - had the only chance to be the first First Gentleman with no other title.
Mrs. Clinton's historical presence in our nation has made history. Again. She is the first First Lady - and, thus, woman - to be the presumptive Presidential nominee for her (or any other) party in the history of our country. This is a huge accomplishment for women in America, which has many folks scratching their heads and asking, "Why did it take so long?
Andrew Och is an Award Winning TV producer who has traveled the world in search of provocative stories and adventure. In 2012, he began his journey as he set out across America to document the lives of every First Lady of the United States. The series, First Ladies: Influence and Image aired on C-SPAN in 2013 to great acclaim and helped reveal the untold story behind the ladies of the White House. Och is a visible commentator about America's First Ladies on Fox News, Fox and Friends, Fox News Radio, Laura Ingraham, Lifezette, Newsmax, Sirius XM Radio, NPR and Breitbart.
Breitbart Exclusive Article On First Ladies Man
Read entire article on Breitbart.com
"The bestselling author of Unusual For Their Time: On The Road With America’s First Ladies told Breitbart News Melania Trump’s Monday night speech to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland blew a chance to introduce America to Donald J. Trump’s wife by emphasizing her strengths and natural appeal."
Melania Trump did a good job Monday night and the reaction from the delegates was exactly what the Trump campaign wanted and expected, said Andrew Och, the author of the book about America’s First Ladies. “The problem is she was using someone else’s speech for a large part of that.”
Media reports have compared similar phrases and themes in Trump’s speech and First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
The problem was complicated by Trump telling people that she wrote the speech herself, Och said. “That was a smart move because the Trump camp is trying to separate her from handlers and preparers. They want her to seem what she is: a smart woman. You don’t speak five different languages if you are a ding-dong.”
Trump is a well-traveled and accomplished woman, he said. “But, no one in politics–in a very long time–has written their own speech completely across the board, so when they step out and try to make it seem that she wrote her own speech and then something like this pops ups, it is very difficult to wheel that back.”
It is a further shame that in the end, it was not really a great speech, he said.
“The key here is that the Trump campaign missed a huge opportunity to put Melania Trump out there, and she should have killed it,” he said. “I could have written a better speech for her, honestly, not to pat myself on the back as a great speechwriter, but she is a smart, international woman with beauty, youth and a child, who has all the makings for a fantastic First Lady–the next Jackie Kennedy. They could have gone along with those lines and not gone with the lines of that 2008 speech.”
Instead of putting the Trump campaign way ahead with a speech that leveraged Melania Trump’s natural appeal, the campaign is stuck explaining what happened, he said.
Och was a producer for many years with C-SPAN, the cable industry’s government affairs portal. In 2012, he spent a year visited the homes and museums associated with every First Lady for a series called “First Ladies: Influence and Image,” which delved into the backstories of these women. The series and his book based on his travels for the series earned him the moniker: “First Ladies Man.”
Read entire article on Breitbart.com
Smithsonian Associates Article About First Ladies Man Event On August 10th, 2016
"The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady. It sounds like a saddle horse. Would you notify the telephone operators and everyone else that I'm to be known simply as Mrs. Kennedy, and not as First Lady." -Jacqueline Kennedy
Who would you describe as the smartest first lady? The funniest? Who would you want to be stranded with on a desert island? Andrew Och, the "First Ladies Man," is ready to share his insights on the women who spent time serving in Washington's most visible and powerful unelected position. He spent a year visiting sites associated with every first lady from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama to document their lives for the 44-part C-Span series First Ladies: Influence and Image, which aired in from 2013 to 2014. Since then the television producer and raconteur has added to his treasure trove of facts and stories.
Frances Cleveland was the youngest first lady at 21 years old and Nancy Reagan one of the funniest. Eleanor Roosevelt was the eyes and ears for Franklin once he was confined to a wheelchair, Lou Hoover the first woman to graduate from Stanford. Och shares what he has learned about these women and how they positioned themselves to promote their causes, protect their families, and support their husbands through their personalities, political astuteness, savvy, and good old-fashioned common sense.
***PRESS RELEASE ***
Andrew Och, Author of highly acclaimed First Ladies book Unusual For Their Time, asks the question: Who will be America’s next First Lady or First Man?
(Washington, D.C.) - The First Ladies Man book tour about America's First Ladies Unusual For Their Time is being tapped to discuss who will hold the role of America’s First Lady in January 2017. The conventions this July will be a preview for America to see who could be the next family to live in the White House.
In his latest interviews, author Andrew Och, highlights what the First Lady's office will reveal if Hillary Clinton becomes Madam President? What will President Clinton’s official title be for the office of the First Lady? Also revealed is the possibility of Melania Trump becoming our second foreign born First Lady. She has some serious - Jackie Kennedy - potential, should Donald Trump win in November. She is young, attractive and very fashionable. The public embraces all of these. She would, no doubt - be on every magazine cover on the stand. She also has that international flair.
In addition and the most emphasized highlighted question remains...Two women had the chance to be the first female U.S. President. That left two men with the chance to be the first First Man (or more likely Gentleman). However, one of those men is former President, Bill Clinton. Many people ask me, "What will we call him? First Man? First Husband?" While his official title as the spouse of the President (if Hillary were to win) is yet to be determined, his title will always be the same. President Clinton. Frank Fiorina - having never been an elected official - had the only chance to be the first First Gentleman with no other title.
Mrs. Clinton’s historical presence in our nation has made history. Again. She is the first First Lady - and, thus, woman - to be the presumptive Presidential nominee for her (or any other) party in the history of our country. This is a huge accomplishment for women in America, which has many folks scratching their heads and asking, "Why did it take so long?"
Andrew Och is an Award Winning TV producer who has traveled the world in search of provocative stories and adventure. In 2012, he began his journey as he set out across America to document the lives of every First Lady of the United States. The series, First Ladies: Influence and Image aired on C-SPAN in 2013 to great acclaim and helped reveal the untold story behind the ladies of the White House. Och is a visible commentator about America’s First Ladies on Fox News, Fox News Radio, Laura Ingraham, Lifezette, Newsmax, Sirius XM Radio, NPR and Breitbart.
Tactical 16 is a Veteran owned and operated publishing company based in the beautiful mountain city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tactical 16 strives to make the writing and publication process as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
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Americans have always fallen in love with first ladies who are young and attractive. Melania Trump, 46, is both.
If Donald Trump is elected president of the United States in November, his wife has all of the elements to be as popular on the national and international stage as a Jacqueline Kennedy or a Laura Bush.
First ladies serve many purposes on both the public stage and behind the scenes. They typically poll higher than their husbands — and history has shown that those who poll extremely well can even help their husbands' numbers and popularity.
The youngest first lady in history was Frances Cleveland. At just 21 years old, Frances Folsom married a 49-year-old bachelor president, Grover Cleveland. They are the only presidential couple ever to get married in the White House.
The Cleveland team immediately got to work using Frances' image and popularity to help secure Cleveland a second (and non-consecutive) term in the White House. The Clevelands were the only couple to do this as well. Mrs. Cleveland's image appeared on posters, ad campaigns, and every kind of souvenir imaginable. She was definitely a hot commodity — in fact, she was Jacqueline Kennedy before Jacqueline Kennedy.
In 2016, Melania Trump could do the same thing. She could become as much a part of the Trump campaign as Mamie Eisenhower was for her husband, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1952 and 1956.
Mrs. Trump is also smart. She speaks five languages: Slovenian, English, French, Serbian, and German. The only other first lady who knew more languages was Lou Hoover — Mrs. Hoover spoke seven, including Mandarin Chinese. She is confident and seemingly unflappable by the press. She has her own ideas and sticks to her convictions.
Melania Trump has dabbled in philanthropic endeavors, as well. She has worked with the Red Cross, and been involved with breast cancer awareness work. Causes like this play very well both nationally and internationally in the public eye, and thus would reflect well on her husband. She has even said in interviews that she would be a more traditional first lady, like Betty Ford or Jacqueline Kennedy.
And what of her nationality? Melania Trump would be only the country's second foreign-born first lady. John Quincy Adams' wife, Louisa Catherine Adams, was the first — born in London, England. Mrs. Trump was born in the war-torn Eastern European country of Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia. This could also play very well for her. If Mrs. Trump were to take on international causes, such as refugee orphans or global women's rights and freedoms — similar to a post-9/11 Laura Bush — this would push her popularity up even higher. She also supports her husband's immigration policies, which could pull people in Washington and across the country over to his way of thinking.
She could even grease the skids of foreign relations with Vladimir Putin and the Russians, if she played her heritage correctly.
Melania Trump is a former model and fashion designer who is poised to grace the cover of almost every major magazine out there.
She is also the mother of a 10-year-old boy, Barron William Trump, the youngest of Donald Trump's five children. The only thing that plays better than a young, attractive first lady in a first family is young children.
Melania Trump really does have it all when it comes to the elements that make a popular first lady.
And when we consider the alternative — Bill Clinton — who do you think visiting presidents and dignitaries would rather have showing their wives around Washington, D.C.? Melania or Bill?
Andrew Och, digital director at LifeZette, is the author of the new book, "Unusual for Their Time: On the Road with America's First Ladies."
The unique sorority of women known as America’s first ladies have been (and are) many things to many people. They have been ambassadors. They have been confidants. They have been advisers, friends, partners, campaign managers, and sounding boards for their presidential spouses.
They were also many things before they ever occupied the White House. These flesh-and-blood women were little girls, young women, daughters, sisters, cousins, brides, aunts, and girlfriends - and most of them were mothers. Only one first lady never had any children and that was Sarah Polk. She and James Polk were a political power couple for the ages, but that's a different article for another day. This weekend we celebrate Mother's Day, and so we recognized the first ladies of our country who were and are mothers.
It's hard enough being a mother under what we might consider "normal" circumstances. Mothering children while living in the White House fishbowl is quite another story. In most cases, this becomes an issue early, on the presidential campaign trail. With today's smartphones, 24-hour-news and the Internet, it's hard for first ladies to protect their children and their everyday activities from the prying eyes of the outside world. It makes their jobs as mothers even harder - and that challenge is something these women have shared for centuries.
When Congressman James A. Garfield went off to the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1880, it was to nominate a presidential candidate, not to become one. However, he returned to his wife, Lucretia, and their family in Mentor, Ohio, as just that. Garfield then proceeded to conduct the country's first presidential front-porch campaign. The Garfields had extensively renovated their Lawnfield estate, and the last thing Mrs. Garfield expected or wanted was some 20,000 people roaming across her pristine yard - but that's what happened.
She also had her five children to think about. She did not want them bothered or drawn into the ever-growing media circus.
During the campaign, Mrs. Garfield would stand at the front door and wait for her husband to come downstairs from his second-floor office, where he would then walk out the front door to greet the masses. She would promptly shut the door behind him. She did allow some people into the house. There were important supporters, military members, and party officials who needed to be entertained on a more personal level, and they were welcomed into the front foyer - but only the front foyer.
There, she served "standing" refreshments such as water, tea, or lemonade, maybe some cookies to the privileged supporters - but she provided no seating. This was all part of an effort - a successful one - to keep her children out of the public eye. Sadly, President Garfield was assassinated less than a year into his presidency, so there is little to go on in terms of how she raised her children as first lady.
Grover Cleveland was the second bachelor to be elected president (James Buchanan was first). But Cleveland didn't stay single for long. He married Frances Folsom - he was 49, she was only 21 - on June 2, 1886. She remains the youngest first lady to date and they're the only presidential couple to be married in the White House. The young and attractive Frances Cleveland took Washington, D.C. by storm. She was Jacqueline Kennedy before Jacqueline Kennedy. She was stylish and charming, and before long, there were babies in the White House.
During the Cleveland administration, the White House and its grounds were still fairly open and accessible to the public. People would come right up to the Cleveland children and pick them up out of their strollers and out of the hands of their nannies. The public back then (as it does now, in some respects) believed the White House and everything in it belonged to the people - and that included the president and the first lady's children. But this was completely unacceptable to Mrs. Cleveland, who took measures to put an end to this kind of behavior.
The Clevelands chose to spend less time at the White House. They were there for the social season, but during the summer months and off months they took up residence near what is now Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C. The public felt snubbed. Many thought the Clevelands had become reclusive and snobbish as they tried to hide their once-celebrated children from the public.
Yet Mrs. Cleveland cared not a whit. She put her children's well-being ahead of her own popularity and her husband's. As it turned out, the negative opinions weren't enough to keep the Clevelands out of the White House for a second term. They were the only president and first lady to serve two nonconsecutive terms.
After President Willian McKinley was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901 - and died eight days later - the country had a new president in Theodore Roosevelt and a new first lady in his wife, Edith. After the Roosevelts moved their six children from New York to Washington, D.C., the White House was once again alive with youthful, bustling activity.
If you count President Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt now had seven children to look after in the White House. The Roosevelts were responsible for one of the largest structural renovations there, and Edith Roosevelt worked tirelessly with a well-known architect to redesign the executive mansion. They moved the family quarters upstairs and built the East and West Wings of the White House.
Given the size of the family and all of the pets that went with them (including a pony, a lizard, a barn owl, a hyena, numerous guinea pigs, and a blue macaw named Eli Yale) - the renovations were a necessity. The public couldn't get enough of this amazingly interesting family.
Ultimately, Edith Roosevelt decided to give the public what it wanted - the children. She, however, would control the access. She very wisely hired a professional photographer, Frances Johnston, to shoot a series of portraits of the family to give to the press. These photographs remain some of the best-known pictures of any presidential children.
There is a picture of son Quentin on Algonquin, the pony, as a police officer stands watch. (Algonquin was the only pony ever to have ridden in the White House elevator.) Another picture shows Archie on his favorite bicycle. Kermit is in a picture with one of the family's beloved dogs, Jack. Theodore Jr. proudly holds the famous blue macaw in another photo. The girls, Alice and Ethel, wore lovely dresses and stood under trees. These pictures were famously compiled and published in The Ladies' Home Journal and seemed to satisfy the public's vast appetite for images of the Roosevelt children.
In more modern times, we've seen such presidential children as Amy Carter and Chelsea Clinton struggle through their teenage years. We saw the Reagan children go through some rough patches with their parents, and, very recently, mourn them deeply in public. The Obamas have kept a watchful eye over their daughters and restricted media access to them. Now, during the 2016 presidential campaign, we've seen a new group of political offspring make their way across campaign stages, eat ice cream sundaes in public, give speeches at some events, and share their lives with the world while standing beside their aspiring parents.
The White House is the people's house. Presidents and their families are "hired" by "we the people," and they represent us in many ways. They are, of course, just people, striving to do their best in sometimes trying circumstances. But from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, America's first ladies have always worked to protect their families and their children, come what may - and for this they can be applauded.
Andrew Och, digital director at LifeZette, is the author of the new book, "Unusual for Their Time: On the Road with America's First Ladies."
A bittersweet ending has come to the Hollywood romance that is one of America’s greatest love stories. Nancy Reagan began to lose her husband, President Ronald Reagan, in 1994 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
She then put him to rest in a grave on top of a mountain in Simi Valley, California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum after he died on June 5, 2004.
Now, with her passing on Sunday, March 6, 2016, Nancy Reagan’s spirit has climbed the mountain in Simi Valley to be by her husband’s side once again.
During my research and filming as one of the producers of the C-SPAN series “First Ladies: Influence and Image,” I visited the Reagan Library in November 2013. Just days before I got there, Mrs. Reagan had given the museum a little white box with some of her treasured keepsakes and mementos. Among the items were three gold keys.
Ronald Reagan had given the first key to Mrs. Reagan in 1950 when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. They were dating at the time, and Mrs. Reagan — then Nancy Davis — had just been given her own private dressing room under her new contract with MGM. The gold key was shaped with the theater masks of tragedy and comedy at the top, and it went to her new dressing room.
Clearly she thought enough of the token to keep it safe for 63 years until she turned it over to the museum.
Two years later, after they were married and bought their first house together, Nancy returned the gesture in the form of two gold house keys. The tops of the keys were shaped like little houses and had red heart-shaped gemstones. Mrs. Reagan’s key has her initials engraved on the back and President Reagan’s has his. In addition, his key has something special that his wife included for him. Above his initials, inscribed in Mrs. Reagan’s handwriting, are the words: "Our First."
When asked if this was love at first sight, Mrs. Reagan always answered, "It might not have been, but it was pretty darn close." The couple often spent time away from each other because of his business travel. Reagan was out of town a lot as president of the Screen Actors Guild, as governor of California, and later as president of the United States.
One of the most personal and remarkable items at the Reagan Library and Museum is a letter that Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy Reagan in 1953 shortly after they were married. He had been in New York on business, while she stayed behind in California.
The letter starts off very affectionately, addressed to "Nancy Pants." He goes onto have a conversation with her, as if she were there with him at dinner. He writes about the meal, and what she would have liked or disliked. He holds a written conversation with her about other diners in the restaurant, and laughs about jokes they would have told each other.
I was told that they used this style of letter writing quite often in these situations. The Reagans had a bond so strong and so special that even when they were apart, they were still together.
After the president’s Alzheimer’s had progressed, Mrs. Reagan did an interview on CBS’s "60 Minutes" in which she talked about the "long good-bye" to her husband. She was very open about the loneliness that the disease had created in her life. She said that her partner, the man with whom she had spent almost her entire life, the man with whom she was looking forward to sharing her golden years, was taken away from her. Her pain was clear.
Now, Nancy Reagan’s pain is gone. She will be laid to rest next to her husband, President Ronald Reagan, in the grave on top of the mountain in Simi Valley, California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
She has been reunited with her "Ronnie." They are together once again.
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He’s read hand-written letters, interviewed relatives, looked through Barbara Bush’s family scrapbook, and went through museums’ back rooms. Mr. Och uncovered so many stories he couldn’t fit them all into 35 television programs he worked on for the C-SPAN cable television channel's idea and creation. So he’s traveling around the country holding talks to tell people about his interesting stories. Mr. Och says he was very fortunate to be along the ride for the C-SPAN idea.
Catch The First Ladies Man Live On Shut Up! With Linda Huffman Hayes (First Lady Lucy Hayes Descendant) And Deborah Kobylt At 4pm Est - Wed Sept 23
ONE OF THE PRODUCERS FOR THE HIGHLY ACCLAIMED C-SPAN SERIES - FIRST LADIES: INFLUENCE AND IMAGE TRAVELED ACROSS AMERICA FOR ONE YEAR DOCUMENTING EVERY FIRST LADY FROM MARTHA WASHINGTON TO MICHELLE OBAMA
ANDREW OCH, THE UNDISPUTED FIRST LADIES MAN WILL SET OUT ON SPEAKING TOUR ACROSS AMERICA THIS JUNE IN SUPPORT OF HIS C-SPAN DOCUMENTARY
UNUSUAL FOR THEIR TIME, THE COMPANION BOOK TO HIS SPEAKING SERIES IS DUE IN STORES DECEMBER 2015
May 7, 2015, Washington DC- Andrew Och is an Award Winning TV producer who has traveled the world in search of provocative stories and adventure. In 2012, he began his adventure as he set out across America to document the lives of every First Lady of the United States. The series, First Ladies: Influence and Image aired on C-SPAN in 2013 to great acclaim and helped reveal the untold behind the ladies of the White House.
From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, Mr. Och was given an all access pass to some of the nation’s most treasured collections and historical landmarks. Andrew Och, the unequivocal First Ladies Man, pulls back the curtain on the public and private lives of this unique sorority of women - with the largest complete collection of video and interviews about America’s First Ladies that exists in the world. These are the women who helped shape America.
Mr. Och states, "I think it’s important to be aware of the first ladies that did things or put policies into place that are still relevant today, and not just the obvious ones we learned about in school." He brings a fresh look and a new passion to an often overlooked subject in American History.
The First Ladies Man is set to publish his first book, Unusual For Their Time that is a companion to his speaking program; it allows him to tell all the tales from the road. Mr. Och’s travels were extensive; from Fredericksburg VA to California, Mr. Och relates, "On my very first stop in Fredericksburg for Elizabeth Monroe, I held earrings that were woven from her actual hair. I knew this was going to be the adventure of a lifetime."
Andrew continues and adds, "One of my last stops on the West Coast was the Reagan Museum and Library in Simi Valley, CA to research Nancy Reagan. The true love story that is the Reagan's was a powerful way to wind things up, and reaffirm that these women are people. Real people who live; love, laugh and cry."
Bringing education and entertainment together, Andrew Och has accumulated one of the most intricate and complete historical collections of America’s First Ladies. He is a historian, teacher, lecturer and producer who lives and breathes his work. During his lectures, he’s often asked- who was his favorite First Lady? Mr. Och’s answer sums up his lecture series, "I can’t name just one lady. They’re separate contributions need to be looked at as a whole because together they’ve helped sew the unique fabric of our country and for that we’re extremely lucky."
For more information on Andrew Och or to book him for a lecture series, please contact: