First Lady Melania Trump was in Palm Beach Wednesday to accept Palm Beach Atlantic University’s 2020 Woman of Distinction.
PalmBeachPost reports First lady Melania Trump stepped on and off the stage at The Breakers Hotel on Wednesday amid standing ovations during the Women of Distinction luncheon, where she received the annual award for her #BeBest, child welfare campaign.
The first lady spoke for nearly nine minutes from a prepared speech, thanking Palm Beach Atlantic University, which usually fetes two women with ties to the local community who have championed local charities.
This year the nominating committee at PBAU decided the first lady should be the sole recipient of the award.
“America’s first lady has sounded the call for action,” said PBAU president Bill Fleming. “She serves as a role model with brilliance, elegance and grace.”
As for her ties to the community, the first lady described herself as a “member of the Palm Beach community” — a reference to the first couple’s announcement in September that they had changed their permanent residence from New York to Palm Beach.
Tickets for the event quickly sold out after the university announced in January that Melania Trump would receive the award in person. About 550 people sat at round tables decorated with blue table clothes, red napkins and centerpieces of white flowers.
The first lady told the crowd that since she launched Be Best in 2017, her initiative has been “shining a light on programs across the country and overseas that help our youth understand what it means to Be Best.” The three pillars of the program are well-being, online safety and opioid abuse.
She gave a shout-out to Microsoft, one of the tech companies she has met with and that are creating safer online experiences for children, she said. But she tip-toed around the president’s habit of mocking, name-calling and denigrating his opponents on Twitter.
“We live in an age where too many people allow the number of retweets or likes to define their self-worth,” the first lady said. “I am convinced now more than ever that teaching healthy online behavior is crucial to securing a safer future for our children.”
Critics of the first lady’s silence about her husband’s bullying while promoting her initiative to combat online harassment blasted the university for selecting the first lady for the award. Some wrote letters to the university, others wrote letters to The Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News claiming she did not deserve the award.
In a letter to The Palm Beach Post, Carol Bodeen, a daughter of a businesswoman and philanthropist Sydell Miller — a former honoree — said honoring the first lady “insulted all the preceding honorees and has denigrated its value and prestige.”
“Why would a woman of no achievements have been selected?” Bodeen wrote. “We seldom hear from her or see her other than attending state affairs or exiting Air Force One with the president.”
Kyra Kinnaman, a 2015 graduate of PBAU, was so upset about PBAU’s decision to present the first lady with the award that she wrote a letter, posted it to her social media accounts and sent it to The Palm Beach Post.
“I also hope that others add to this discussion, because selecting Trump as the 2020 Woman of Distinction is a misguided, embarrassing choice at best and a calculated, amoral choice at worst,” Kinnaman wrote, adding that the negative press would affect the school’s reputation.