Aides says she is “happy and honored” to perform the traditional duties most associated with being First Lady: dining, standing with the President at official events, and so on. The trip abroad is only the last proof of his concentration.
“She doesn’t want to go out there and have people just write on her dresses and clothes. When traveling with her husband, she also wants to do substantive things on her own, ”said an assistant familiar with her planning and thinking. “She will play the ceremonial role but she has things that she wants to do. She doesn’t just want to be an arm candy.
This is the operational mantra of his office. His first months in office were a flurry of activity proving this point. She has taken more than 20 trips, the vast majority of them solo, spreading the message of recovery from the pandemic, visiting schools, talking about a free community college and services for military families.
Taking office during a pandemic is actually Biden’s approach to work. This allowed her to sidestep some of the more ceremonial aspects of being the first lady, like hosting parties, and instead focus on politics. It also allowed her and the president to play roles that the Trumps in particular did not: the chief comforters.
“I think we want someone who is real and can relate to us and relate to the struggles that people face with the economy and Covid and all. I think that’s what she’s going to try to do: bring that empathy, ”said Kate Andersen Brower, author of“ First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, ”said.
This empathy is often evident on these trips. At a vaccination clinic in New Mexico in April, Biden thought a woman looked scared of being vaccinated, so she walked over to her and put her arm around the woman’s shoulder while her vaccine was being administered.
There is also a feeling that Biden is striving to be a little more accessible first lady than his predecessor.
“I think we tend to look at the president and the first lady with that, usually with a sense of reverence and we put them on that pedestal. I think it helps that you have a sense of humor about yourself. Dr Biden is supposed to have a great sense of humor, ”she said. On April Fool’s Day, Biden donned a short black wig, a black face mask and a badge with the name “Jasmine” on her shirt and handed out ice cream bars to the traveling press until she bursts out laughing, revealing who she was.
This sense of normalcy is something she is aware of, says an assistant, but it is also just “Dr. B being herself. One aspect of being herself is continuing to teach English and English. writing at Northern Virginia Community College while balancing official duties.
Years ago, this would have been a risky decision: a first lady working or wanting to organize larger events while traveling abroad with her husband or not at all. More famously still, Hillary Clinton has been hit repeatedly as first lady for stepping outside expected limits, including leading failed healthcare reform efforts. There is no sign that Biden will go as far as Clinton, who clearly had higher political aspirations. But the fact that she keeps her day job always breaks the mold.
“It’s hard for me to think of it in historical terms,” she said ahead of the opening day, noting that she “taught the eight years as a second lady,” from 2009 to 2016.
Biden may not agree publicly, but Brower said she is slowly changing expectations for the role of the first lady of the United States: not too serious, substantial and independent. “I think she carved out that niche for herself and probably because she had been waiting to do this job for decades. So she kinda feels comfortable with that, ”Brower said.