Melania Joined by UNIS Students in Spite of Controversy


Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks.

On September 23, 2019, the current First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, rang the Opening Bell of the New York Stock Exchange. As part of her visit to the institution, the First Lady invited 10 Junior School students from the United Nations International School to accompany her. Those students were selected at random from the 90 whose parents volunteered them for the spot. While it is not unusual for celebrities to ring the bell in order to kick-off the day’s trading session, it is unusual that such celebrities have third and fourth graders present.

Before this information was covered in the press, Dr. Brenner, UNIS’s Executive Director, called for an assembly with the upperclassmen of the school (due to Week Without Walls trips, T1 and T2 students were not able to attend). Dr. Brenner told UNISVerse that the UNIS community was the first to be notified because, “At the end of the day, I’m here for you. I’m here for the students.” He stressed that he wanted to be sensitive to those community members who may have strong opinions on the matter.
At the start of the assembly, Dr. Brenner read a statement that was sent home to parents and students. According to the statement, “the United Nations stands for giving voice to differing opinions and positions.” After Dr. Brenner read the statement to the oldest of the school’s student body, a discussion was opened up and students freely expressed their own opinions on the situation.

T3 student Anna Radford stated. “It’s about the fact that both administrations (school and White House) extended a simple truth to their liking, claiming ‘meaningful discourse’ would come out of a group of J3s and J4s meeting with the President’s wife.”
However, amid strong feelings from many students, the decision was made by Dr. Brenner, as well as the rest of the UNIS administration, to extend the First Lady’s invitation to the families of the J3 and J4 students.

Before the bell ringing, students were taken on a tour of the institution and were given a chance to converse with the First Lady. According to the release given by the White House on the day of her visit, the students were invited “in celebration of the well-being of children”: one of the backbones of the First Lady’s “Be Best” campaign (an initiative founded by the First Lady in order to prevent cyberbullying and promote kindness among youth).

During the ceremony, flooded with cameras and news-outlet representatives, UNIS students stood near as the First Lady mounted a podium at the forefront of the New York Stock Exchange – the location of the opening bell.

Mrs. Trump rang the bell, and a new day of work commenced.