A little over a week has passed since US President Joe Biden was sworn in and his administration has already started rolling out key policy changes to reverse some of the “damage” they claim was done by the Trump administration over the last four years. Not far behind is First Lady Dr Jill Biden who also got straight down to work carrying out her FLOTUS duties in a manner markedly different from her predecessor Melania Trump.
From handing out chocolate chip cookies to National Guard soldiers deployed near the Capitol, to making a number of public appearances to promote her husband’s plans for national unity — Dr Biden appears to have seamlessly settled into her role in the White House over the last few days.
But Jill Biden is by no means your typical First Lady. For starters, she has signalled that she will be returning to her job as a teacher at Northern Virginia Community College, where she taught full-time even when she was Second Lady. This would make her the first FLOTUS in history to balance her duties in the East Wing with her career, the New York Times reported.
Dr Biden is also poised to redefine the manner in which First Lady’s are perceived in the United States. Backed by a qualified team of staffers and her interest in shaping legislation, she promises to be a more active First Lady than the country has seen in the recent past.
The new East Wing staffers
Weeks before inauguration day, Dr Biden tapped a number of seasoned aides from the Obama-Biden administration for the East Wing. Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, former US ambassador to Uruguay and key attorney under former President Barack Obama was selected as her chief of staff.
Rory Brosius, a former Biden campaign adviser, is the director for the Joining Forces initiative, which was launched by Dr Biden and Michelle Obama in 2011 to support military families. Indian-American Garima Verma was named as her digital director. She previously served as an audience development and content strategist on the Biden-Harris campaign.
In a statement, Dr Biden said that her East Wing Staff would bring a “a shared commitment to building an administration that lifts up all Americans.”
“Together, we will work to open the White House in new, inclusive and innovative ways, reflecting more fully the distinct beauty of all our communities, cultures and traditions,” she added.
Five days into her role, Dr Biden has already made her presence felt with several virtual appearances before young Latinos, governor’s spouses and liberal officials, AP reported. During these meetings, she spoke about the President’s plans for the country and even promoted his pandemic relief proposal, which has faced considerable backlash from Republican lawmakers.
In stark contrast, Melania Trump had not even moved into the White House during her first week as FLOTUS. Instead, she chose to live in a penthouse suite at the Trump Towers in New York until her son completed the school year. It was also not until days after Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony that Melania selected her chief of staff.
While Melania delivered a number of speeches and acted as a surrogate for her husband during his term, she was known to have served more of a background role than many of her contemporaries including Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Trumps repeatedly broke away from tradition, including when they chose not to attend the Biden-Harris inauguration or officially welcome the Bidens to the White House.
Dr Biden’s first week marks a return to the age-old traditions of the White House. Last week, the first lady even paid a surprise visit to a group of National Guard soldiers deployed near the US Capitol and offered them chocolate chip cookies.
“The National Guard will always hold a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens,” she said. President Biden’s late son Beau was a member of the Delaware National Guard. Supporting military families is thus a major part of Dr Biden’s agenda as first lady.