Bush sisters write touching, personal letter to Obama sisters

Barbara and Jenna Bush Hager’s heartfelt farewell letter to Malia and Sasha Obama reminds us all of three important things.

Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager at Jony And Marc's (RED) Auction, November 2013, New York City. Theo Wargo | Getty Images for (RED) | AFP. Malia Obama and Sasha Obama at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, Alabama, March 2015. Saul Loeb | AFP

It’s a small club: those who’ve grown up in the White House. Few understand the perks and trials of being the child of an American president. Certainly this is what compelled Barbara and Jenna Bush (Hager) to show Sasha and Malia Obama around the White House (teaching them the fine art of sliding down White House banisters!) eight years ago and what compelled them to write a beautiful letter to Sasha and Malia as they transition to “normal life.”

They begin their letter with a lovely memory of when the girls first met:

The four of us wandered the majestic halls of the house you had no choice but to move in to. When you slid down the banister of the solarium, just as we had done as 8-year-olds and again as 20-year-olds chasing our youth, your joy and laughter were contagious.

And it moves into advice we’d all be wise to heed, such as:

1. The people who touch our lives matter most

Never forget the wonderful people who work at the White House. Our greeter as 7-year-olds at our grandfather’s Inauguration was Nancy, the White House florist, who ushered us in from the cold. She helped us make colorful bouquets of winter flowers for our grandparents’ bedside. Twenty years later, Nancy did the flowers for Jenna’s wedding. Cherish your own Nancy. We stay in touch with our Secret Service. They were part of growing up for us: there for first dates, first days and even an engagement and a honeymoon. We know it wasn’t always easy—the two of you and the two of us were teenagers trailed by men in backpacks—but they put their lives on hold for us …

2. Ignore the judgment, trust your heart

Enjoy college. As most of the world knows, we did. And you won’t have the weight of the world on your young shoulders anymore. Explore your passions. Learn who you are. Make mistakes—you are allowed to. Continue to surround yourself with loyal friends who know you, adore you and will fiercely protect you. Those who judge you don’t love you, and their voices shouldn’t hold weight. Rather, it’s your own hearts that matter…

3. Open yourselves to others who are not like you

Traveling with our parents taught us more than any class could. It opened our eyes to new people as well as new cultures and ideas … You have lived through the unbelievable pressure of the White House. You have listened to harsh criticism of your parents by people who had never even met them. … You stood by as your precious parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents, who put you first and who not only showed you but gave you the world. As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin your next chapter. And so will we.

This letter highlights the peaceful transition of power—even between families—that we enjoy in this country, as well a graciousness of spirit and of passing on of wisdom. Barbara and Jenna model how we can show love to one another, even toward those with whom we may not always agree.



Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

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