Yesterday would have been former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s 100th birthday, and fellow former First Lady Michelle Obama marked the occasion with a sweet photo from a lunch they’d shared back in 2013, when the Obamas were first settling in to the White House and Michelle called on a predecessor to help her find her way. President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have worked hard to make good on a cornerstone of their campaign: the promise of a return to “normalcy,” after a Trump era that, regardless of one’s politics, felt like an unending series of disruptions to the norm. Michelle Obama’s throwback photo with Reagan seems like a similar callback to a time when one administration informed another, and shared history one could overcome differences in policy — a tradition the Trumps decidedly upended.
In one of the Trump administration’s final disruptions to our political norm, for example, former FLOTUS Melania Trump declined to invite Jill Biden for tea and a tour of the White House — a tour Biden may not necessarily have needed after her time there while President Biden was Obama’s VP, but a gesture that might have thawed the apparent frostiness between the incoming and outgoing administrations nonetheless. Melania had shared that tea and tour with Michelle Obama in 2016, but then chose not to carry the tradition further.
Michelle Obama, who clearly shares fond memories of her time spent with Nancy Reagan, has also written about former FLOTUS Laura Bush, her predecessor, telling her she was “a phone call away” if she ever needed advice about the role in her memoir Becoming. In 2018, Michelle revealed on ABC News that she’d made a similar offer to Melania, and it had gone unanswered.
In honor of former FLOTUS Nancy Reagan, Michelle had this to say on Facebook: “I always smile when I think about this day. I’d asked Nancy to come by for a lunch, just the two of us. Being First Lady is such a unique experience, and hearing about her journey couldn’t have been more meaningful for me. She so warmly and willingly offered her advice and encouragement — and I’ll always be thankful for her kindness and generosity over the years.”
The Trump administration didn’t just break traditions while in office; as their legacy unfolds, it continues to break tradition of how we expect our first families to be remembered, and our belief that their differences should ultimately fade in comparison to their shared desire to see this country succeed. It is difficult to imagine a photo like this existing years in the future with Melania Trump and one of her successors to the role of FLOTUS, particularly in light of the events of January 6. The Obamas felt like a groundbreaking presidency at the time, but the Trumps may ultimately have them beat in how much they broke the mold.
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