Those who follow my weekly column know that I sometimes take a holiday from politics to write about a holiday and its role in our popular culture. I had every intention of dedicating my May 14 column to Mother’s Day. However, President Donald Trump hijacked my plans. And while I will still do a deep dive on Mother’s Day, I have to first give the 45th President of the United States a few lines of text for delivering what has been described as the best foreign policy week since he took office in January 2017.
Let’s recap. On Tuesday May 8, President Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal which President Barack Obama implemented in 2015. During his announcement, President Trump described the Iran nuclear deal as “so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time.” (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/05/09/pullout-from-iran-nuclear-deal-is-latest-trump-move-to-dismantle-key-obama-policies.html)
On Thursday May 10, President Trump made a 3 AM appearance at Andrews Airforce Base to greet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the three American hostages who had just been released from North Korea without any conditions or ransom money: Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk.
My proudest achievement will be, this is a part of it, but will be when we denuclearize that entire peninsula,” the president said to the media. “This is what people have been waiting for for a long time. Nobody thought we could be on this track in terms of speed. So, I’m very honored to have helped the three folks. They’re great people. You know, I got to speak to them on the plane. These are great people, they’ve been through a lot, but it’s a great honor. But the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of the nuclear weapons.
Later that day, President Trump tweeted:
“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”
And on Saturday May 12, President Trump sent a follow up tweet:
“North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!”
And if all this positive news was not enough, the New York Times has already reported that President Trump’s efforts to forge an alliance with North Korea may result in a Noble Peace Prize for the president. “The idea of his 2019 nomination, formally submitted by a group of 18 House Republicans and heartily endorsed by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, has started to take root among his supporters over the past few weeks as his own potentially historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea looms.”
When the three hostages and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived at Andrews Airforce base, they were not only greeted by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, they were also greeted by first lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence. My first reaction to their presence at this homecoming was that it set the right the tone for welcoming our citizens back to their home or if you will their present motherland. My second thought was that these three individuals were safely back on US soil just a few days shy of Mother’s Day.
And of course one could describe both the first lady and the second lady as mother symbols of America. After all, they are both mothers of their own biological children. And the first lady is also a step mother of four and a step grandmother of eight. Coincidentally, earlier this week Melania unveiled her first lady platform, “Be Best”, a children’s emotional and physical well-being program which is comprised of three pillars: “well-being, social media use, and opioid abuse.” (http://fortune.com/2018/05/07/melania-trump-be-best-initiative-children/)
As we celebrate First Lady Trump’s evolving role in our country’s history, we are reminded that a month ago on April 17th, our nation bid farewell to another first lady Barbara Bush, a mother, grandmother and great grandmother who had the distinction of being the second first lady in history (the first was Abigail Adams) to have been both the wife and the mother of a president. Mrs. Bush also had a public platform, literacy, one she chose as a result of her experience helping her son Neil who is dyslexic learn to read.
Mother’s Day was conceived and championed as a U.S. holiday by Anne Jarvis in 1908 as a way to formally recognize the contributions and sacrifices of mothers. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure which officially recognized the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day). The commercialization of Mother’s Day has of course over the years contributed to the sale of cards, candy, flowers and restaurant dining. According to Specialty Food News, an estimated 92 million people will dine at a restaurant on Mother’s Day.
I have many memories of Mother’s Day because my grandparents and parents owned a restaurant. So I think of Mother’s Day as a day to not only recognize the contributions of mothers and grandmothers but also a day to be part of a community. After my family sold our restaurant, we always celebrated Mother’s Day, sometimes at home and sometimes at a restaurant. When my father passed away, I started a tradition of doing something special with my mother for Mother’s Day weekend.
In addition to being a restauranteur, my mother was also an actress who studied with Lee Strasberg at the legendary Actor’s Studio and appeared in many films. She taught me to love theater and film. One of our favorite activities was to watch movies together. So imagine how delighted I was to learn of the May 2016 release of Gary Marshall’s 2016 film Mother’s Day which was obviously scheduled just in time for its namesake holiday. I was so excited to go see this film with my mother because I knew that it would be the type of chick flick that we both enjoy. And the film did not disappoint. Starring Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and a host of others, the film included storylines which depict mother child relationships which have been challenged by circumstance: death, divorce, re-marriage, estrangement, and adoption. The film also includes the wonderful actor Hector Elizondo who has previously appeared with Julia Roberts in earlier Marshall films including Runaway Bride, Valentine’s Day and of course the one that propelled Roberts’s stardom, Pretty Woman.
Mother’s Day has the legacy of being the last Gary Marshall film. The prolific director died on July 19, 2016. Ironically, it also was the last film that I saw in a theater with my mother and the second to last film that I saw with her on Netflix. My sister rented it in October 2016 for the three of us to watch. The last Netflix film I watched with my mother was Now You See Me 2 (2016), a title which turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. My mother passed away unexpectedly in November 2016.
Interestingly enough, one of my last conversations with her was about the presidential election of Donald Trump. At the time I was a resident of Philadelphia and co-hosting a political radio show which aired on both Red State Talk Radio and in the Philadelphia metro area on which we had interviewed many Trump surrogates including Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump. Donald Trump’s win of Pennsylvania which frequently goes blue was one of the surprises of Election 2016.
My mother who had worked twelve hours as judge of elections at the polls in Northern NJ called me on November 9, 2016 and said “You did it. You helped elect Trump President.”
While my mother was telling me that she was proud of me, I am the one who is proud of her and honored to be her daughter. And although she is no longer here to watch a movie with me, I know that she is watching over me and that someday we will be reunited.
Happy Mother’s Day to one and all!