A crowd of students booed first lady Melania Trump as she was introduced Tuesday at a Baltimore youth summit on opioid awareness, where she told them that “drugs will only slow you down.”
The loud boos drowned out the cheers and applause of some in the crowd at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Event Center, but Trump smiled through it.
“I know each of you has hopes and dreams for the future, whether it’s college, joining the military or playing sports,” she told more than a thousand middle and high school students. “Your future will be determined by the choices you make. Using drugs will only slow you down.”
Trump was introduced by Jim Wahlberg — the brother of actor Mark Wahlberg — at the B’More Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness. The educational event was sponsored in part by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, which raises funds for youth programs.
“Listen,” Jim Wahlberg implored the crowd as Trump stood on the stage with him. He asked the students in the audience to stand if they had lost someone they loved to an overdose. A number of people stood.
He then introduced Trump to the mixture of jeers and cheers. It was difficult to hear her speech in some sections of the arena because so many students were talking.
“This is an issue that has impacted many lives in your community,” the first lady said. “I hope that the knowledge you gain here will help you tackle the tough decisions you may face so that you can lead healthy and drug-free lives.”
She touted her “Be Best” initiative that focuses on issues facing children, including online safety and opioid abuse.
The words “Be Best” briefly appeared on a screen above where Trump delivered her roughly six-minute speech.
“I have used ‘Be Best’ to shine a light on programs like these that show what it means to ‘Be Best,’" she said. “Whether it be showing a simple act of kindness, providing care where there is need, or teaching something valuable, this initiative promotes the positive actions happening in our communities and around the globe.”
She received mostly applause — and some more boos — as she wished the students a happy Thanksgiving and left the stage. Trump was scheduled to return to the White House where she and the president were to participate in the holiday tradition of “pardoning” a turkey.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and U.S. Attorney Robert Hur also spoke at the event, which was sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s 360 Strategy, an initiative designed to combat heroin and opioid use. The summit program included a hip-hop group, a DJ and a performance by the Baltimore City College marching band.
“We’re currently living through a massive public health crisis,” Mosby told the audience, emphasizing the soaring numbers of overdose deaths.
Maryland Policy & Politics
President Donald Trump has had a tempestuous relationship with Baltimore, calling the city a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” in a July tweet attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Baltimore Democrat who died in October. The barrage kicked off a week of Trump attacks on the city and its violence. He said the city’s homicide rate is higher than El Salvador and Afghanistan and alleged billions of dollars in federal aid to the city had been “wasted” and “stolen." City officials disputed that claim.
The president returned to his criticism in an address to House Republicans at a Baltimore retreat in September.
“We’re going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule,” he said.
Baltimore’s representatives in Congress have been seeking more federal help to combat illegal drug use.
Cummings long promoted legislation that would provide $100 billion over 10 years for services to combat substance use disorders. The legislation is modeled after the Ryan White Act of 1990, which provided billions of federal dollars to combat the AIDS crisis.
The measure continues to be sponsored in the Senate by Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a presidential candidate, but it has not advanced in Congress.
Maryland has been receiving tens of millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from a program designed to expand access to opioid treatment. The program seeks to address the opioid crisis, in part, by making federally-approved medications more widely available.