Q&A with former first daughter, author Jenna Bush Hager

Jenna Bush Hager

DETROIT -- Jenna Bush Hager, a correspondent for NBC's "Today" show, is the daughter of former President George W. Bush. She is the author of "Ana's Story: Journey of Hope" (HarperCollins, $18.99) and "Read All About It!" (HarperCollins, $17.99), which she co-wrote with her mother, former first lady Laura Bush.

Hager and her fraternal twin, Barbara Bush, were college students when their father was sworn into his first term as president in 2001. With a flurry of media coverage, Hager was cited for alcohol possession later that year.

However, her public image has been on the mend in recent years.

Hager graduated in 2004 with a degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin and later taught school in the Washington, D.C., area.

She married Henry Hager in 2008 and was hired by "Today" in 2009.

Q: Your first book, "Ana's Story: Journey of Hope," was inspired by your work with UNICEF in Latin America. Tell me about your experience. How did that influence the path your life has taken?

A: My job for UNICEF was to travel around Latin America and document -- write the stories -- of kids who were living in exclusion, meaning they were living in poverty or had HIV-AIDS, faced abuse or didn't have access to food or clothing or school.

During this time, I met so many really inspirational kids, one of whom was Ana. She was 17. She's been infected with HIV/AIDS since birth. Her parents and her younger sister died from it by the time she was in the sixth grade. She was a teen mother; I met her with her baby. She was forced to drop out of school in her country because she had her baby. She was living with so much hope that she was going to have a better life, and that she was going to have a better life for her baby. In fact, her baby is HIV-negative. She's broken the cycle of HIV.

It is a narrative nonfiction; I mean, it is her story. I spent nine months documenting her life, meeting with her almost every day that I lived in the region.

Q: How did being the president's daughter shape your life?

A: Of course, it was such an incredible opportunity -- you know my parents introduced us to so much during those eight years, including trips to Africa and Latin America. We got to meet extraordinary people through their work, so it was a great, great opportunity.

Q: Except that you grew up in the spotlight during your teen years.

A: But that was OK. The good outweighed the bad for sure.

Q: How did you get past that and fix your party-girl image?

A: I never was worried about my image, honestly. I mean I think people who knew me knew who I was so I wasn't worried about that.

Q: What do you see in your future? Public office? More books?

A: No, not public office. You know I'm working for NBC right now for the "Today" show, and that's so much fun. I love being able to tell the stories of normal people who are making extraordinary change. I do hope to write more. That is my goal for this summer, (to) take a little time from NBC and be able to spend some time writing. But who knows? We'll see if that happens.

But no public office. You know, my sister and I, ironically -- maybe not that ironically -- aren't that interested in traditional American politics. We're more interested in policy. And there are plenty of ways to serve. We respect everybody who serves in public office, but it's just not something we're interested in.

Q: How did you get your job with "Today"?

A: I went on the "Today" show after I wrote "Ana's Story" and then after I wrote "Read All About It!" Both times I was on the "Today" show, and the executive producer, who runs the show, approached me and just said, "You're really good, you know, and we think you should be on television." And I laughed at it -- thought he was kind of kidding.

And then of course over time he kept acting interested. My husband and I talked about it. He thought this is such a great opportunity, you love to write, do it for a year and see what you think.

And I've loved it. I've been able to go to Haiti, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and then all over our country telling really amazing stories. So it has been a really great opportunity. I've signed on for two more years in September, so I obviously liked it.