The once press-shy Jenna Bush has emerged as a prominent, if quiet, partner in the African goodwill tour undertaken this week by her mother, first lady Laura Bush.
“She thinks that her presence is … important to let American kids her age, young people her age – as well as African girls her age – know that her generation is also committed,” the first lady told reporters on the plane that brought her and her daughter from Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania – where Jenna’s twin, Barbara, is volunteering at a hospital for young AIDS patients.
For her part, Jenna handed out gifts of pens, postcards of her pets, bookmarks and spiral notebooks to several children at a Catholic-run AIDS prevention and treatment center, the Associated Press reports.
Later, at a social services organization for the rural poor, Jenna snapped up beaded jewelry – two necklaces and a bracelet – made by Tanzanian women trying to support their families. She also mingled among children dancing, singing and Hula-Hooping for the first lady’s entourage and passed out more of her trinkets.
The first lady said both her 23-year-old daughters, who graduated from college last year – Barbara from Yale and Jenna from the University of Texas – feel strongly about helping others.
“It is certainly part of the age. They’re idealistic and they wanted to help,” Mrs. Bush said. “But it’s a particularly American character and I admire that very much in my own girls and in the young people I’ve met around the country.”