How Jill Biden will change the role of First Lady

Dr Jill Biden knows exactly the role she would be walking into as First Lady.

Having served eight years alongside Michelle Obama as Second Lady, Dr Biden is expected to take a more traditional approach than her predecessor.

While Melania Trump has been a remote and almost unknowable presence in the White House, Dr Biden has said she would return the office to one that had a bigger public impact.

"The beauty of it is that you can define it however you want," Dr Biden said early in her husband's campaign.

"And that's what I did as Second Lady - I defined that role the way I wanted it to be.

"I would still work on all the same issues. Education would be right up there - and military families," she said.

 

But Dr Biden would shrug protocol in one way, saying that she plans to continue teaching college English as she had during husband Joe Biden's time as Barack Obama's Vice President, as well as promoting educational access.

"I'd travel all over this country trying to get free community college," she has said.

"We need good reading programs, and we need equity in schools. We're competing in this global market, and the US's standing has got to get better."

Dr Biden, 69, has been an energetic surrogate for her husband on the campaign trail, travelling the country and appearing at socially-distanced rallies even as Mr Biden, 77, campaigned remotely from their Delaware home.

Mr Biden is devoted to his wife, often introducing himself in public as "Dr Jill Biden's husband".

The pair has been married for 43 years, with Dr Biden becoming stepmother to Mr Biden's two young sons Beau and Hunter after the tragic deaths of his first wife Neilia and infant daughter Naomi in a car accident.

In August this year, Dr Biden addressed the Democratic Convention, telling the crowd "Being a teacher is not what I do but who I am".

She holds four degrees, including two master's and a doctorate of education in 2007 from the University of Delaware.

Presidential historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony said Dr Biden and Mrs Trump "couldn't be more different" and that the former was well prepared for the role.

"Any person who has spent eight years being Second Lady is at the greatest possible advantage," Mr Anthony said.

"Once they hit the White House they are ready to go."

Mr Biden himself summed up how his wife would take to the role as First Lady as: "Just think of your favourite educator who gave you the confidence to believe in yourself, that's the kind of First Lady Jill will be."

As for what Melania Trump, 50, will do next, insiders predict a return to her comfortable, high society existence, where she can once again enjoy her privacy.

The former model never seemed to settle comfortably into her forward-facing role, so much so that Mr Anthony described her as the "most reserved and mysterious First Lady for more than half a century".

Mrs Trump rarely gave interviews and worked on few of the "pet projects" that other first ladies have championed.

"She has a public profile that is perhaps the lowest and the most abstract of all," Mr Anthony told News Corp Australia.

To find a comparison: "You would have to go back some 70 years to Harry Truman's wife Bess Truman, who really was uncomfortable being a public figure and really did not grant any interviews and had very little interaction with both the general public and the media."

Mrs Trump almost seemed reluctant to assume the title of First Lady, waiting until the final days of both his presidential campaigns to stump for her husband.

She was similarly slow to move to Washington after Mr Trump's inauguration, waiting five months after January 2017 to move from the couple's New York home in Trump Tower.

This was mostly due to her desire to renegotiate a better prenuptial agreement after realising how much her husband needed her to achieve his political ambition, according to a biography published this year.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Mary Jordan wrote that Mrs Trump needed to "cool off" after the 2016 campaign brought widespread allegations of her husband's infidelities.

In The Art of Her Deal she said Mrs Trump knew how much her newly elected husband needed her and used the first months of 2017 "to amend her financial arrangement with Trump - what Melania referred to as 'taking care of Barron.'"


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