Bush daughters speak about sisterhood at SMU Presidential Center
*Editor’s Note: 11:20 a.m. Nov. 29 – This story has been edited throughout.
Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager relive their childhood through the stories written in their new book, Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life. The daughters of former President George W. Bush were at the George Bush Presidential Center on Sunday to talk about it.
The roughly 250 guests at the discussion were all ears to hear how the twin Bush sisters navigated their lives in and out of the White House. Moderator Meredith Land, NBC 5 news co-anchor, moderated the discussion.
“Our parents did our best to make us normal. I thank our parents for letting us grow and make mistakes,” Jenna said.
Barbara and Jenna Bush explain how their childhood was basically like anybody else’s minus the security detail and the world watching their every move. Both sisters thought their father, the Republican candidate in 2001, would lose the election and hoped he wouldn’t become president.
“We told him he was going to lose because people kept saying his opponent was very popular,” said Jenna, referring to former Vice President Al Gore, who ran as the Democratic candidate.
The twins thought it would ruin their lives if their father became president but then realized it was a privilege to be a part of history. They were also used to having presidents in their family: their grandfather, George H.W. Bush, was also a president.
Barbara Bush said as a child she thought that every grandfather was automatically a president as the audience burst into laughter.
“I thought when you became a grandfather, you became a president. I was excited to go to all of my friends’ inaugurations,” she said.
Their mom, former First Lady Laura Bush, was also present at the event and spoke about her daughters.
“They are playmates, cheerleaders, dreamers and partners in persuasion. Right down to getting their ears pierced,” Laura Bush said. “Together we moved out of dorm rooms, apartments and houses but never out of each other’s lives.”
It wasn’t easy to grow up under the spotlight, according to Jenna Bush, who spoke of her life as a student at the University of Texas at Austin.
“When I went ‘wild’ during college, the National Enquirer had a two-page layout titled ‘Pals says she’s a hard drinker’,” she said.
Jenna said she would apologize to her dad, who kept reassuring her that it was going to be fine and that she should continue to be normal college student.
“Our parents wanted us to be curious individuals and use our voices to make a difference,” Jenna said, adding that life has been a wild ride for her sister and herself, not just a “margarita wild” ride.
“Jenna is actually really funny,” audience member Osama Dandis said.
The sisters also talked about their lives today. Barbara has created her own non-profit called Global Health Corps that helps people worldwide.
“She has a huge heart and uses it to help the world,” Jenna said of her sister. “I was never jealous of Barbara and she was never jealous of me. Her successes were my successes and her heartbreaks were also mine.”
As for Jenna, she used to run from the press, but now she’s become a part of it. Barbara said she wasn’t surprised when Jenna joined NBC because she loved entertaining people.
The sisters explained that their book is written from both of their viewpoints and they typically speak in unison. They also said that they still think of Texas as home despite not living here the past 18 years.