George W Bush's daughters send heartfelt letter of advice to Sasha and Malia Obama

'We have watched you grow from girls to impressive young women with grace and ease' say Barbara and Jenna

Gabriel Samuels
Friday 13 January 2017 13:14 GMT
Jenna Bush-Hager and Barbara Bush first welcomed the Obama daughters to the White House in 2008
Jenna Bush-Hager and Barbara Bush first welcomed the Obama daughters to the White House in 2008 (AFP/Getty Images)

The twin daughters of former US president George W Bush have written an open letter to President Barack Obama’s daughters, applauding them for surviving the “unbelievable pressure” of White House life.

Barbara and Jenna Bush sent the message to Sasha and Malia Obama as their father prepares to leave office, encouraging them to take “the lessons [they] have learned” to “guide [them] in making positive change” in the future.

The Bush daughters reminded their successors of all the experiences they have enjoyed during their eight years in the White House, from visiting Nelson Mandela’s former Robben Island cell to promoting education for girls in Africa.

They added that they were rooting for them as they begin a new chapter of their lives.

“We have watched you grow from girls to impressive young women with grace and ease,” they wrote. “And through it all you had each other. Just like we did.”

Following Mr Obama’s election victory in November 2008, the Bush daughters showed Sasha and Malia around the White House.

The letter was published by Time magazine shortly after President Obama delivered an emotional farewell address to the nation in Chicago, which Sasha was unable to attend due to an exam.

The Bush daughters meanwhile praised the Obamas for withstanding the “harsh criticism of [their] parents by people who had never even met them”.

As both Obama daughters prepare to enter higher education, the Bush daughters said: “Enjoy college. As most of the world knows, we did.”

The twins were warned by police for underage drinking in 2001 while their father was President, creating a scandal in the media.

Read the letter in full below, as featured in Time magazine

Malia and Sasha, eight years ago on a cold November day, we greeted you on the steps of the White House. We saw both the light and wariness in your eyes as you gazed at your new home. We left our jobs in Baltimore and New York early and travelled to Washington to show you around. To show you the Lincoln Bedroom, and the bedrooms that were once ours, to introduce you to all the people—the florists, the grounds-keepers and the butlers—who dedicate themselves to making this historic house a home. 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.

In eight years, you have done so much. Seen so much. You stood at the gates of the Robben Island cell where South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades, your arms around your father. You traveled to Liberia and Morocco with your mom to talk with girls about the importance of education—girls who saw themselves in you, saw themselves in your parents, saw who they could become if they continued to study and learn. You attended state dinners, hiked in national parks, met international leaders and managed to laugh at your dad’s jokes during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon, all while being kids, attending school and making friends. We have watched you grow from girls to impressive young women with grace and ease.

And through it all you had each other. Just like we did.

Now you are about to join another rarified club, one of former First Children—a position you didn’t seek and one with no guidelines. But you have so much to look forward to. You will be writing the story of your lives, beyond the shadow of your famous parents, yet you will always carry with you the experiences of the past eight years.

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.

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.

Take all that you have seen, the people you have met, the lessons you have learned, and let that help guide you in making positive change. We have no doubt you will. 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. We met factory workers in Michigan, teachers in California, doctors healing people on the Burmese border, kids who lined the dusty streets of Kampala to see the American President, and kids with HIV waiting to get the antiretroviral drugs that would save their lives. One tiny girl wearing her finest lavender dress looked young, which she was not. She was little because she was sick. Her mom admitted that she might not live to see these drugs work, but her brothers and sisters would. After meeting this girl, Barbara went back to school and changed her major, and her life’s path.

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.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in