US first lady Melania Trump on Monday visited a school affiliated with the Gülen movement in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as part of her “Be Best” initiative to promote children’s well-being and speak out against cyberbullying and opioid abuse, the Ahval news website reported.
It was her first stop on a planned three-state tour that included Seattle and Las Vegas.
The Dove School of Discovery opened in 2009 and currently serves 386 students in prekindergarten through sixth grade. It was selected as the site for Trump’s visit to Tulsa because it was named among seventy-three 2018 National Schools of Character by the Charcter.org national organization.
Dove’s network of public charter schools in Tulsa and Oklahoma City uses Character.org’s framework called the “11 Principles of Effective Character Education.”
“I cannot emphasize further the importance of character-based education for our children. … Dove schools embody kindness, respect, positive interactions, and strong character through the curriculum that they teach every day. They are sculpting our next generation by creating a foundation of youth with strong character. I know they will go on to do great things,” Melania Trump said, according to a White House readout on the visit.
The Dove School of Discovery is one of more than 150 schools in the United States reportedly affiliated with the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government of orchestrating a failed coup in July 2016, an allegation strongly denied by the movement.
A total of 500,650 people in Turkey had been investigated as of January over real or alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to the pro-government Turkish media, and more than 150,000 civil servants have been removed from their jobs since the abortive putsch on the same accusation. Assets worth billions of dollars have also been seized by the government from businesses with suspected ties to the movement.
Ankara has repeatedly demanded that Washington extradite Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric who inspired the movement and who lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, but the United States has thus far refused, citing a lack of credible evidence.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in December that Melania Trump’s husband, President Donald Trump, had assured President Erdoğan that the US is working on Gülen’s extradition, despite a public assertion by Trump in November that a Gülen extradition is “not under consideration” as well as statements by the US State and Justice Departments to the contrary. Çavuşoğlu claimed that Trump privately discussed the matter with Erdoğan on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina held Nov. 20-Dec. 1, 2018.
“Thank you to the teachers, leadership & students of DOVE School of Discovery in Tulsa for welcoming me today. There is great work being done! It is so important that education includes not only academics, but the importance of a strong sense of character & values,’’ the first lady tweeted on Monday.