Jenna Bush Hager Talks Family, Success, Determination

Jenna Bush Hager, an American news personality, teacher, author, journalist and daughter of former President George W. Bush, spoke about her most recently published book “Sisters First” Feb. 27 in the Reynolds Performance Hall.

Hager co-wrote the book of personal essays with her twin sister Barbara Bush.

“The hope is really that it encourages women to lift each other up,” Hager said. “We know the power of sisterhood. We can see it in our friends, in our colleagues … women that encourage you and are mentors and with our blood sisters. My sister and I have realized that having a sister in each other has made us braver than we ever realized or thought possible.”

Hager said success is all about hard work.

“The most important thing is that you work really hard.” Hager said, “and the other thing
is that you treat people kind and that you’re open-minded and that you listen … you have to always be open-minded about career shifts, and always go after what you want, knowing that you have to work hard to be what you want to be.”

Hager had most of the audience laughing throughout her talk. She spoke about what her family is currently doing now that they are out of the public spotlight. She remarked that it was “so weird” to think that her dad is now an artist who spends his days playing golf and creating artwork.

She said that she became a teacher because she wanted to make a difference. When she began working with UNICEF and traveled to Latin America, where she met the inspiration for her first book “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope.”

“My job for UNICEF was to meet with adolescents and teens who had been marginalized for
whatever reason,” Hager said. “One of the teenagers I met was Ana, and she faced a lot of the issues UNICEF helps to combat… and she was a single mother… But what was so amazing about meeting her is … she was so hopeful and optimistic because she had gotten the help she needed, and she was on the right track.”

Hager said the people that she has met in her travels have taught her that life is a precious gift and that it is both a privilege and responsibility to reach out to those in need.

Following her speech, Hager participated in a question and answer session with audience members. She was asked questions about parenting, sisterhood, teaching, 9/11, gun control, what it was like living in the White House and whether the White House is really haunted— which she confirmed.

Following the question and answer session, Hager signed books on the Reynolds stage before a brief meet-and-greet, where she shook hands and took pictures with audience members.

In addition to her two novels “Sister’s First” and “Ana’s Story,” Hager has also written two children’s books with her mother, Laura Bush: “Read All About It!” and “Our Great Big Backyard.”

“I was always a writer,” Hager said. “I wrote for my school newspaper, and I’ve been working with Southern Living for seven years, writing about travel and entertaining and the South and just columns based on my life.”

Hager was a guest on NBC’s “Today” talk show, promoting “Ana’s Story”and “Our Great Big Backyard,” before she was offered a job as a cohost.

“I love to tell people’s stories,” Hager said. “I think it’s an honor to interview people and listen to what they have to say and authentically portray what people are doing, so nine years later, I’ve been working for them [“Today”]. And I do love my job. I think it’s a privilege.”

Photo by Travis Gupton.

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