By Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – When Melania Trump flies to Africa next week on her first extended international journey without the president, she’ll be following in the footsteps of her recent predecessors.
First ladies before Mrs. Trump performed numerous roles on their trips to the vast continent, but mostly sought to foster goodwill toward the United States. Some made the trip to check on the status of U.S. assistance programs or announce new funding. Some played tourist, or brought their children along for the cultural experience.
The current first lady leaves Monday on a weeklong trip to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt, traveling only with members of her staff and a pool of journalists. President Donald Trump will remain in Washington, with several trips on his schedule to campaign for Republicans in November’s elections. Their 12-year-old son Barron is in school.
Mrs. Trump’s office hasn’t released details about the activities she plans in each country, though the first lady said in a recent speech that she plans to emphasize child welfare. She already promotes child well-being in the U.S. under an initiative she launched in May named “Be Best.”
Patricia Nixon was first to travel to Africa on her own. She went as President Richard Nixon’s “personal representative” to Liberia, Ghana and the Ivory Coast in 1972, addressing legislative bodies and meeting with African leaders about U.S. policy toward the country now known as Zimbabwe, and human rights in South Africa, according to the National First Ladies’ Library.