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Video: Jenna on life, love, AIDS and dad

TODAY contributor
updated 10/1/2007 10:46:04 AM ET 2007-10-01T14:46:04

If there is to be another Bush in the White House, it’s going to have to be somebody other than daughter Jenna, the 25-year-old schoolteacher and new author told TODAY’s Ann Curry during her first live television interview ever on Monday.

What’s more, her fiancé, Henry Hager, the son of a prominent Virginia Republican family and a former aide in the Bush White House, has also decided not to seek public office.

Bush was adamant. She has other plans.

“I’ve ruled it out,” Bush told Curry. “Never. I’m not political in that way.”

Jenna Bush talked about her life, her future, her parents and much more while appearing on TODAY to promote her new book. It’s based on conversations she had with an HIV-infected 17-year-old she met while working for UNICEF in Latin America.

“I hope to continue writing,” Bush  told Curry. “I hope to continue teaching. I hope to work with kids any way possible.”

Kimberlee Hewitt  /  AFP - Getty Images
Jenna Bush and fiance Henry Hager
Until now, Jenna Bush and her twin sister, Barbara, have mostly stayed out of the spotlight while going to college — Jenna at the University of Texas and Barbara at Yale — and beginning their adult lives. But, after taking a volunteer job with UNICEF chronicling the lives of children in Latin America and writing a book about one girl who grew up in poverty and abuse, Jenna Bush has gone public in a big way.

Her book, “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope” (EXCERPT), has just been released by HarperCollins, and Bush recently launched her 25-city tour promoting it with a book signing at the Whitlow Stokes Charter School in Washington, D.C., where she taught third grade in 2004-2005.

Proud poppa
In the book, she advocates birth control and condom use, which her father opposes. But, she said, her father read and liked “Ana’s Story.”

“He was really proud,” she said. “He’s traveled all over the world, too, and he knows kids face these problems.”

Bush said she’s also received great support from her mother, first lady Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian who instilled in her daughters a love of books, and from her sister, who volunteered with UNICEF in Africa.

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“My sister, she’s amazing,” Bush told Curry. “She sort of inspired me to take this journey to Latin America.”

Bush said her father had some reservations about her writing the book and becoming a public person, wondering if perhaps it would be better to wait until he left the White House to publish “Ana’s Story.”

“He was worried that I would get some of the criticism that rolls off of him,” she said. “[But] I was passionate. I felt if I waited until he was finished, I wouldn’t remember Ana and the kids as much.”

She admitted that the fusillades of criticism aimed at her father hurt, and keep her from watching much television for fear of what she might see.

“He’s not the president of the United States, he’s my father,” she said.

Asked by Curry what the public should know about him, she responded: “That he’s incredibly open-minded, that he’s smart, incredibly smart.”

He is portrayed as an unbending ideologue, but, Bush said, the president never tried to tell his daughters what they should do or believe.

“They’ve allowed us to grow up and be who we want to be,” she said of her parents. “They’ve let us make mistakes and grow and learn. They just loved us unconditionally.”

Role reversal
And, they gave their daughters a sense of social responsibility. “My parents taught us it’s important to give back,” she said.

Slideshow: First daughters When Jenna and Barbara Bush were growing up, their mother would read to them and tell them stories about her students and how they affected her. Now, she says, the roles are reversed.

“It’s great coming home and telling her stories about kids in Latin America,” Bush said.

“She’s so incredible,” Bush went on. “She’s such a role model, she cares for us, she always encouraged us to read. She’s just incredible. She’s done a pretty great job. She’s just encouraged us to be ourselves. She’s never tried to change us.”

Her parents, she said, trusted her and her sister.

“They knew we were good kids; they knew we could make decisions for ourselves. They didn’t want to put that extra pressure,” she said. “If they had — if my dad had said ‘Latin America, Africa — it’s too dangerous. Don’t go’ — we would never have met these kids.”


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