First Lady Jill Biden made history when she announced she would continue teaching during her time at the White House, making her the first FLOTUS to do a paid job outside of the executive mansion.
“I’m really looking forward to being First Lady and doing the things that [I did] as Second Lady, carrying on with military families and education and free community college, cancer [the Biden Cancer Initiative], that Joe and I have both worked on. And I’m going to teach as well,” she told comedian Stephen Colbert, as reported by Independent.
As the 69-year-old begins to redefine her role, let us take a look at some of the duties that a First Lady is traditionally expected to perform.
White House decoration
The US first family can redecorate the personal living spaces in the mansion. According to Kate Anderson Brower, author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, only a few rooms of the house can be changed as the others are considered “historic rooms”.
First Ladies are generally responsible for choosing them and overseeing annual holiday decorations at the White House, including Christmas trees and oversized gingerbreads, according to Independent.
Hosting Hanukkah and Easter egg roll
The First Lady is also in charge of the Easter celebrations at the White House, who are “hostesses for the nation and the presidential administrations”, as described by the National Museum of American History.
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Hosting state dinners at White House
These state dinners are held when foreign leaders visit the White House, the planning of which typically falls on the First Lady. “The first lady and her staff are responsible for the elaborate planning and attention behind the glitter and ceremony of the state dinner,” according to the White House Historical Association.
No more casual shopping trips
Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama had reportedly told Oprah Winfrey during an interaction that she was excited about taking a shopping trip when she left the White House, which was otherwise forbidden due to security risk. “I do want to drop into Target. I want to – I do, I want to go to Target again! I’ve heard so many things have changed in Target! I tell my friends they’re going to have to give me a re-entry training for like, okay, what do you do at CVS now? How do you check out? It’s like I’ve been living in a cave,” she was quoted as saying.
Choosing a cause
First Ladies are expected to focus on a social cause during their time at the White House. For instance, while Melania Trump chose the initiative ‘Be Best’, Michelle created ‘Let’s Move!’ and ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative.
While First Ladies wear iconic designer outfits, they may not be able to keep the clothes. They can wear a gifted designer outfit only as long as they wear it once and donate it after. And if she decides to purchase a designer item, she is expected to pay the full price herself.
Not every gift is acceptable
Earlier the first families could not accept gifts from foreign officials and governments without the consent of Congress; now the gifts are handled by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Gifts from other than foreign officials can be accepted, provided they do not pose a risk to their safety.
The current First Lady should invite the future First Lady for White House tour
The First Lady, according to Independent, is supposed to invite her successor to the White House and give her a tour after an election. Melania, however, chose to skip the tradition when she and Donald Trump left the White House.
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