The Rose Garden is getting a redesign, and Melania Trump will be leading the efforts. The first lady will formally announce the revamp Monday, which in her words is meant to be an "act of expressing hope and optimism for the future," per prepared remarks seen by the New York Times. Included in the upgrade will be new flowers and shrubs, a limestone walkway, electrical updates to facilitate TV appearances, and a new drainage system. A Chapman University poli-sci instructor notes that the Rose Garden is a "traditional venue" from which presidents have offered big announcements and dedications—and so this gives Melania Trump the chance to be a "traditional first lady." Other first ladies who've put their touch on the Rose Garden include Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan.
Some, however, are criticizing Trump's focus on the garden while COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, similar to the commotion in March that resulted when she announced she'd be working on the White House's new tennis pavilion. "I think that the first lady should be aware that this could certainly look like another 'let them eat cake' moment," author Kate Andersen Brower tells CNN, adding that Melania should instead drive home that this effort is to ensure "the White House is a pristine and beautiful home for any president who occupies it," not just for the Trumps. A source adds that the renovation decision was made months ago; CNN notes White House renovations are often made in August, when the first family typically vacations. The redesign, which is being funded privately and with National Park Service support, should take about three weeks, an administration official tells the Times. (Read more Melania Trump stories.)