Jenna Bush Hager

Jenna Bush Hager: Being a kid at inauguration was 'magical'

Jan. 21, 2013 at 9:52 AM ET

As Sasha and Malia Obama start their second term as first daughters on Monday, Jenna Bush Hager says there might be some tears in store on this emotional big day.

"I remember crying, being in tears just because this is something he'd worked for for so long," the former first daughter and TODAY contributor said this morning as she looked back on what it was like to watch her father be sworn in as president.

"I've gone to the last three inaugurations," said Jenna. "It's pretty amazing to be there with all the politicians...and to look out to this huge crowd. It's living history, and it's not something that many people get to do."

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Jenna Bush was 7 when her grandfather was inaugurated.

Jenna, who has now experienced four inauguration ceremonies firsthand, was just 7 years old when her grandfather, George H.W. Bush, took office in 1989.

"I was in the first grade," she remembered, looking back at footage from the ceremony. "Those bangs — I got them before Michelle Obama!"

"Being in the first grade and really seeing history live was magical," she said. "But also seeing my grandpa, who I love so much, getting what he'd worked for his entire life, meant so much."

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She was a college student when her father took the oath of office.

She was 19 when her father was sworn in the first time in 2001, and 23 when he took the oath again in 2005.

"Look at that Freshman 15!" she laughed, looking at pictures of herself from the first ceremony.

Jenna and sister Barbara offered their advice to Sasha and Malia Obama in an open letter in 2009, sharing stories about their experience in the White House and a few tips for the future.

"We also first saw the White House through the innocent, optimistic eyes of children," they wrote, advising the Obama girls to "surround yourself with loyal friends," celebrate Halloween, "play Sardines on the White House lawn," and "go to anything and everything you possibly can."

"I really wanted to make sure that we passed on any knowledge...just to really enjoy these years, because they really go by so fast," she added later in the broadcast, noting that she saw similarities between her family and the Obamas in how both sets of parents have made an effort to let their children have normal childhoods.

"Our parents taught us that we could disagree," Jenna said. "It doesn't have to be all about politics, but it's about family. And on that day, that's what it was. Watching your father or your grandfather being sworn into such a high office is a privilege, and we were proud, just as a granddaughter and a daughter."

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Jenna and her sister Barbara at the inauguration in 2001.

Jenna said she and her sister also got to give Sasha and Malia some pointers in person.

"We got to show them around the White House which was really fun because we were young too," she said. "We taught them how to slide down the banisters!"

Neither George H.W. Bush nor George W. Bush could attend Monday's inauguration ceremony, due to the elder Bush's ongoing health problems — the 88-year-old former president was released last week from a Houston hospital after seven weeks of treatment for bronchitis, a bacterial infection and a persistent cough.

"I'm sad they couldn't be here too, but of course they're watching from home and cheering on the president," said Jenna.

This year marks the first time George H.W. Bush has missed an inauguration since 1997.

Image: US-POLITICS-OBAMA-CHURCH
Mandel Ngan
The historic halls of the White House ring with the energy and enthusiasm of youth: presidential daughters Malia and Sasha. Here are images of their adventures over the years.

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