Growing up as the child of a U.S. president can’t be a simple or easy experience. From the crazy schedules and security concerns to the media scrutiny, it’s likely a bizarre and curious whirlwind for young kids.
And it’s certainly an experience that few people have, which is likely why Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, daughters of George W. Bush and Laura Bush, published an open letter of encouragement this week to Sasha and Malia Obama, daughters of Barack and Michelle Obama.
In it, the Bush twins offered up advice and reflection, as the Obama girls prepare to exit the White House, with the twins pledging to “root” for Sasha and Malia as they move on with their lives and start to truly discover who they are. Perhaps the end of the letter most aptly summarizes its intent.
“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,” the letter, which was published by Time on Thursday, concludes. “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.”
The note earlier opens by recalling how the Bush twins met Sasha, now 15, and Malia, now 18, on the steps of the White House eight years ago before taking the young girls on a tour of the home and its grounds.
“The four of us wandered the majestic halls of the house you had no choice but to move in to,” the letter reads. “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.”
The text then goes on to mention the many events and experiences that the Obama girls went through during their time living in the White House, with Bush and Hager writing that they have personally watched Sasha and Malia “grow from girls to impressive young women with grace and ease.”
The letter continues:
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.
The note goes on to encourage Sasha and Malia to enjoy their college years, to explore their passions and surround themselves with loyal friends who will protect them. On a broader scale, the Bushes also told the Obamas to consider taking what they have learned in the White House to help make the world a better place.
“Traveling with our parents taught us more than any class could,” the letter read. “It opened our eyes to new people as well as new cultures and ideas.” Read the touching note in its entirety here.
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