Jenna Bush Hager got emotional Friday while discussing the heartfelt letter she and twin sister Barbara Bush penned to the Obama teens as they prepare to leave the White House and become “former first sisters.”
The letter, which was first published in full by Time Thursday, calls back to when the daughters of former President George W. Bush and granddaughters of former President George H.W. Bush first met Sasha, now 15, and Malia, now 18, eight years ago.
“Of course I’m tearing up. It’s just amazing how fast eight years go by and how they’ve become these really unbelievable women, and we just wanted to make sure they knew,” Bush Hager, 35, told Today co-hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira with tears in her eyes.
The women also read the letter in a pre-recorded video for Today, marking a rare moment in the spotlight for famously private Barbara Bush.
“In eight years, you have done so much. Seen so much,” the women wrote, adding, “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.”
They continued, “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.”
The Bush sisters encouraged Sasha and Malia to “never forget” the White House staffers who lived and worked alongside them during their residence there, and to stay in touch with the Secret Service members who guarded them tirelessly.
“Enjoy college,” they advised. “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.”
The letter concluded by hearkening back to the pressures of life in the spotlight that Sasha and Malia have overcome.
“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.”
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In their 2009 letter to the then-10 and 7-year-olds, the Bush sisters advised Malia and Sasha to “go to anything and everything you possibly can,” according to Today.
“Four years goes by so fast so absorb it all, enjoy it all,” they said. “Sasha and Malia, it is your turn now to fill the White House with laughter.”