First Ladies: Michelle Obama, Melania Trump perform good works

Whether the exquisite furniture in the Blue Room at the White House is genuine antiques or department-store reproductions is nowhere near as important as, say, the war in Afghanistan. And whether the wallpaper in the Red Room is refurbished or, at high cost, replaced has no effect on the national debt.

After all, the White House is merely a residence, an office complex and a location for important state affairs such as hosting foreign dignitaries. Some may consider attention to the building to be a frivolous waste of time and money.

Not Melania Trump and her predecessor, Michelle Obama. They see it as a combination of the people’s house and a museum, and both have taken their stewardship of it very seriously.

Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville recently filed a story on the work Trump has overseen. A sampling: When Trump moved into the mansion, the wall fabric in the Red Room was “so faded it was almost pink,” commented Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association. The WHHA helps finance repairs and renovations, at about $1 million to $1.5 million annually.

Trump saved a few dollars by having the wall covering restored instead of replaced. She also “repurposed” draperies in the Green Room. And the traffic-worn rug in the Diplomatic Reception Room was replaced with one she designed, with a border featuring official flowers of all 50 states.

One of the White House projects, on which both Trump and Obama worked, began when Jacqueline Kennedy moved into the White House. She found much of the furniture in the Blue Room was reproductions of a set of furnishings bought in 1817.

Tracking down the originals and bringing them back has been an ongoing project.

Finding someone who likes both President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama would be exceedingly difficult — perhaps impossible. But both their wives have, often quietly and behind the scenes, done good things for Americans. Ensuring the White House is a showpiece is just one of those endeavors.

Michelle Obama’s campaign on behalf of healthy eating comes to mind. So does Melania Trump’s work on behalf of children affected by the drug abuse crisis.

With politics as vicious and divisive as it has become in our country, it is encouraging to remember there is good work going on at the hands of those the presidents likely refer to as their “better half.”