Status: 29.11.2023, 15:23 PM
Former First Ladies Hillary Clinton (L-R), Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump arrive at a memorial service for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at Glenn Memorial Church. © Andrew Harnik/dpa
It actually came: Melania Trump attended the funeral for Rosalynn Carter – with all the other First Ladies. It's supposed to have been nice – without cameras.
WASHINGTON — As five first ladies gathered at an Atlanta church on Tuesday to commemorate Rosalynn Carter, one of them stood out from the crowd: Former first lady Melania Trump wore a light gray in a sea of mostly dark dresses and jackets — for many, a visual reminder of her distinctiveness among the crowd of dignitaries.
Rosalynn Carter's funeral: Melania Trump attends with other first ladies
Melania Trump was kind when she met the Carter family, whose husband, Jimmy Carter, has regularly clashed with Donald Trump, and she seemed happy to be there, according to Rosalynn Carter's family. "She said nice things about my mother," Chip Carter, the Carters' son, said in an interview ahead of the funeral. "She thanked us for the invitation and we thanked her for coming – and I hugged her."
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Members of the Carter family said they didn't notice any signs of discomfort between Melania Trump and the others — Jill Biden, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton — when they were together outside of the public eye. But in front of the camera, there seemed to be plenty of it. The women barely looked at each other or smiled, and they seemed to make an effort to look straight ahead after entering the church.
Melania Trump, who had made herself scarce lately, stood next to Michelle Obama, but they didn't seem to be talking to each other or even acknowledging each other. At times, Obama — who said Donald Trump's false claims about her husband's citizenship had led to threats against her family — seemed to turn away from her.
Historically, it was nothing special for a former first lady to attend a memorial service for one of her predecessors — a solemn occasion that has long bridged party lines and brought former White House residents together to mourn.
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Carter's family said they specifically wanted to let Melania Trump know that she was invited to the service. In a time of division, she hoped that all First Ladies would show solidarity for her farewell greeting.
"My grandmother fought against some of her husbands and voted against them," said Jason Carter, the Carters' grandson. "But she was of the opinion that there are things that are more important than politics." Carter wanted to include Trump out of respect for the often unsung role of the first ladies, according to her family and friends.
"You know what the job entails," said Paul Costello, who worked for Rosalynn Carter in the White House. "I wouldn't call them best friends, but I think they have a lot of respect. . . . A unique bond, regardless of which party they belong to or how much their husband is respected or disrespected."
Rosalynn Carter was a role model for Trump
During the service, several speakers alluded to this enduring bond between the first ladies — a role that Carter, who died this month at the age of 96, modernized. It hired professional staff to take advantage of the high-profile platform and attended cabinet meetings and national security briefings despite criticism from some voters. A staunch advocate of women's rights, Carter was also her husband's closest political adviser.
"These women have a personal bond, not many people share what they've experienced," Jason Carter added in a speech at the ceremony.
Will the joint appearance bring political détente?
Jason Carter called each of the First Ladies by name from the altar and spoke of their "remarkable sisterhood." Alluding to the power and influence of his grandmother and the other assembled First Ladies, he added, to the laughter of hundreds in the church, "We also welcome your lovely husbands."
President Biden, who has known the Carters since their time in the White House, and former President Bill Clinton, a Southern Democrat whose path from governor to president was reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's career, attended Tuesday's service. Donald Trump, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were not present.
Virginia Tate, a privacy advocate who stood near the church on the campus of Emory University, had little hope that the gathering of the first ladies at the funeral service would have any impact on the political fractures in America. "It's kind of meaningless," she said. Others, however, felt that the images had made a difference.
"This is something the country needs. It's so hyper-polarized right now that people are always ready to start a fight," said Mark Rosenberg, a global public health attorney who was nearby.
Danielle Paquette contributed to this report.
About the author
Mary Jordan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent currently writing about politics. She worked for 14 years as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post in Tokyo, Mexico City and London.
We are currently testing machine translations. This article has been automatically translated from English into German.
This article was first published in English by the "Washingtonpost.com" on November 29, 2023 - as part of a cooperation, it is now also available in translation to the readers of IPPEN. MEDIA portals.