What China’s first lady, Bak child chatted about during visit


The visit was supposed to be a closely held secret. Officially, all that students and teachers at Bak Middle School of the Arts knew was that VIPs would be on campus Friday morning.

But with dueling contingents of American and Chinese security officials scouring the school on Wednesday and Thursday, it was little surprise when the motorcade pulled up at 11 a.m. and out stepped first lady Melania Trump and Madame Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s President Xi Jinping.

» PHOTOS: Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan visit Bak Middle School

They spent slightly less than an hour on campus at the public arts school in northern West Palm Beach. But it was enough time to take in multiple music performances, visit four classrooms and chat with awed students, including one boy who had a special moment with Peng.

The visit took shape earlier this week with a request from the Trump administration to arrange a visit to a local public school focused on the arts. Peng, a prominent Chinese folk singer and administrator at an arts academy in Beijing, had indicated she wanted to visit an arts school, officials said.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Presidential summit in Palm Beach

The school district suggested Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Bak Middle and the Conservatory School at North Palm Beach. Federal officials settled on Bak, an application-only school for students interested in the arts.

By Wednesday, the school was being scoured by security agents from two separate nations. Students began to get an inkling of who might be visiting when they saw the Chinese security officials.

“This one was by far the most complex (dignitary visit) I’ve seen,” said Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa, who accompanied the two first ladies on their vist to the school. “They each had their own delegation of security.”

In the first classroom they visited, 80 female students performed the song Astonishing, from the musical Little Women, according to pool reports. They also listened to a performance by the school’s symphonic band.

In another class, Trump and Peng reviewed students’ international relations projects and spoke with the students who created them.

Trump said she thought it was “great” when a student told her she would like one day to be “a senator, and perhaps then president,” according to The Associated Press.

“The kids were genuinely excited and authentically surprised,” Avossa said.

Perhaps the sweetest unscripted moment, he said, was when an eighth-grade boy of Chinese heritage said something to Peng in Mandarin Chinese. Peng beckoned to him and another boy of Chinese heritage in the classroom.

» Upset about Trump-Xi traffic? Take it up with Secret Service

“She asked him to come forward, and they did and they sat and chatted,” Avossa said.

The boy who had spoken to her was American-born, Avossa recalled, but it turned out that his parents were from the same Chinese province as Peng.

Peng told the boy how pleased she was to see that, despite growing up in the United States, he still spoke his parents’ native language and was familiar with the country’s traditions.

Before they parted ways, the boy asked her for a favor.

“He said ‘I would like a picture to prove to my mother that I met you,’” Avossa recalled.

Peng obliged, asking a Chinese photographer to take the picture. Trump indulged him as well, posing in another shot.



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