Melania Trump receives 'Woman of Distinction' award at Florida university, students say she's 'not done enough'

The award is typically given to Palm Beach residents who have greatly contributed to the community


                            Melania Trump receives 'Woman of Distinction' award at Florida university, students say she's 'not done enough'
Melania Trump (Getty Images)

Although Melania Trump graciously took the stage at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) in Florida on Wednesday, February 19, to receive the 'Woman of Distinction' award, many students at the institution felt that the first lady had not done enough to deserve the honor that's been bestowed upon her.

When it was originally announced that the mother-of-one was going to receive the award, event co-chairwoman Eileen Burns said in January: "Our first lady is an exquisite human being, a magnificent wife and life partner, a superb mother and an outstanding first lady, who represents us brilliantly in the United States and worldwide. Melania is a perfect example of a Woman of Distinction and we are most proud to honor her."

The award is typically given to Palm Beach residents who have greatly contributed to the community. That was one of the points over which students took an issue with the nominating committee's decision. President Donald Trump and his family became official Palm Beach residents only in September 2019.

"This award has historically gone to women whose character and impact in Palm Beach has shaped the culture of our home, and I have not been convinced that the first lady's character or impact here is worthy of that recognition,“ Graysen Boehning, a senior at the school, told The Hill. “While many students were excited that the school was bringing in the first lady of the United States to speak, others felt that her character was not representative of the community which has love for people of all backgrounds, and the beliefs that PBA houses and fosters."

There were also those who questioned the committee's motive behind choosing Melania as the winner of the award. 

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive on stage as President Trump prepares to announce his candidacy for a second presidential term at the Amway Center on June 18, 2019 in Orlando, Florida (Getty Images)

Tyler Whitehead, president of the school’s College Democrats, said in a statement that the organization was “displeased and confused”. “The vast majority of students and faculty that I have spoken to about the decision was disappointed by what seems to be a politically-motivated move on the university's part,” he said.

Gail Meyer Asarch, daughter of Sydelle Meyer - a former recipient of the award - wrote in a letter to Palm Beach Post that all the previous winners of the award were "truly women of distinction".

"By awarding this coveted honor to Melanie Trump, the university has insulted all the preceding honorees and has denigrated its value and prestige. Why would a woman of no achievements have been selected? Was it just to sell tickets?" she wrote. 

She added: "I do not envy Mrs. Trump’s position. Not every first lady embraced that role. That was their prerogative, and it appears to be Mrs. Trump’s prerogative as well. We seldom hear from her or see her other than attending state affairs or exiting Air Force One with the president."

As she accepted the award in front of a sold-out luncheon, where she received standing ovations for her speech, Melania focused on her Be Best campaign. 

"Technology has become a daily part of our children's lives in both positive and negative ways," she said. "We live in an age where too many people allow the number of retweets or likes to define their self-worth. I am convinced now more than ever that teaching healthy online behavior is crucial to securing a safer future for our children."

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