“It wasn’t a philosophical moment,” Jenna Bush Hager told more than 500 members of the Ringling College Library Association Jan. 13, 2014, at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Fla., it was about “a man, his daughters, a stuffed animal and a little joke.”
She was referring to that day in 2004 when then 22-year-old Hager was photographed by the media sticking out her tongue. She was on the campaign trail (probably in Ohio, as she explained they always seemed to be campaigning in Ohio) with her father President George W. Bush, her sister Barbara and a stuffed animal named Spiky which her grandfather, former President George H. Bush, won for Barbara when she was a child.
We “tried to act like little clowns,” she said because being president is serious business. She was trying to make her father laugh and after she stuck out her tongue, the president told her she shouldn’t have done it. She told him it wasn’t a big deal but the media thought otherwise.
Hager was in Sarasota kicking off the Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall Lecture Series as the Platinum Dinner speaker. Her father spoke the next day.
As a mother, author, Young Leadership Ambassador with UNICEF, correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show”, contributor to NBC “Nightly News,” and editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, Hager has carved out her own life and identify separate from her famous parents. She’s certainly come a long way from the young woman America watched during her family’s time in the White House.
Hager explained how she wanted to make a difference with her English literature degree from the University of Texas. She wanted to teach and she saw first-hand how education saved lives when living and working in Latin America.
She met a young, single, pregnant mother named Ana who was born HIV positive. Because of the “power of education,” Ana’s child was born HIV-free. Hager shared her experiences in Latin America in the book, Ana’s Story.
When asked what influence her parents had on her she said the former First Lady, Laura Bush who was sitting in the audience, knew how Jenna enjoyed being around children. To nurture this interest Mrs. Bush took her to a Texas orphanage to volunteer during her school years. Regarding her father’s presidency, although she and her sister “wanted to be normal college kids,” she realized the privilege of being part of living history when her father decided to run for the presidency.
“Not only did they bring us into the world, they brought the world to us,” she said referring to how the presidency led them around the world and introduced them to global issues.
Jenna Bush Hager is a refreshing, youthful, optimistic, realistic and genuine speaker. She’s the real deal. Listening to and watching her made me wish I had the confidence this 32-year-old has when I was her age. Regardless of your political affiliations, Hager needs to be commended and supported for her efforts in making the world a better place through education. This is educating those in developing countries so they can conquer issues as malnutrition, hygiene and disease and educating people in first world countries about the suffering others are enduring.
“The more we know about the plight of people around the world the more likely we are to help,” she said.
Although the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series is sold out, individual tickets for upcoming speakers may be available. Visit their website for the speaker line up and ticket availability.
Image of Jenna Bush Hager and Me: By Robert Pope Photography, Sarasota/Bradenton, Fla.