Sept. 25, 2007 — -- Jenna Bush has taken on many roles in her nearly 26 years.
To America, she is the granddaughter of a former president, the daughter of President Bush and first lady Laura, a sister to her fraternal twin, Barbara, and a teacher to elementary school students in Washington, D.C.
But recently, Bush has taken on several new roles and she sat down with Diane Sawyer to discuss her work with UNICEF, her engagement to Henry Hager that made headlines around the world and her first book, "Ana's Story."
In the fall of 2006, Bush was hired as an intern to teach and chronicle the stories of children in four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. At a UNICEF-supported conference for women and children, she met a woman she calls "Ana," a 17-year-old mother living with HIV.
"She stood up in front of everybody and she said, 'I want everybody here to know that we're living with HIV/AIDS. We're not dying from it.' The more I got to know her, the more inspired I became," Bush said.
She was so moved by Ana's story that she wrote a book based on her life.
"I didn't go to Latin America thinking, 'I'm gonna write a book. This is what I'm gonna do.' I went there to work for UNICEF and to learn. But as my job for UNICEF was to document the lives of kids living in exclusion, I wanted to make them more than statistics. So I would take the statistic and write their historias de vitas — the stories of their lives — and then I met Ana. Through all the kids, I thought, 'This could be more, there should be something more,'" Bush said.
"Although she was orphaned at a young age and was born with HIV/AIDS and suffered abuse in her home … and she's a teenage mother … she sees her life as perfect," Bush said. "She sees her life as the way, you know, God made it for her, and she never complains. She dances."
The story may be about Ana, but Bush says her book is a portrait of the many children she met while in Latin America, a representation of the millions of children around the world living with the same adversities.
"What about the abstinence question, which we think of as part of the administration? Was it tricky to be writing about AIDS and sexual choices and condoms?" Sawyer asked Bush.
"No, I mean, not at all. First, because I'm not part of the administration. You know, I'm just my father's daughter. I think that when we're talking about keeping kids safe, and we're talking about Ana and other kids that are living with HIV or other STDs, kids need to have education. They need to be educated in order to make the right decision for themselves," she said.
When asked whether she agrees with her father about the Iraq War, Bush said, "You know I'm not here to talk about that, but I'm also not a policymaker. It's a really complicated, obviously a very complicated subject. Everybody can agree on that."
"You know there've been people — [actor] Matt Damon among them — who have said, 'Should the Bush daughters be fighting in Iraq?'" Sawyer said.
"Obviously I understand that question and see what, what the point of that question is, for sure," Bush said. "I think there are many ways to serve your country. And I think … what's most appropriate for me to do is to teach or to work in UNICEF and represent our country in Latin America. But you know I don't think it's a practical question. I think if people really thought about it, they know that we would put many people in danger. But I understand the point of it. I hope that I serve by being a teacher."
Bush told Sawyer she doesn't worry about her father's poll numbers, "because nobody knows him as a person. I mean, he's my father. I separate it, you know? He's a different person to me than what they portray him as. He's a totally different person. I think that's normal, I mean, he's my dad."
Bush said she worries about her father, but says, "He's doing a great job and he's hanging in there. … I worry about him probably less than he worries about me, you know."
As for her mother, Bush said, "She is calm and loving and supportive, and she would do anything for us. I think I've become more like my mom just because of what we're both interested in, children and teaching and writing."
Bush called her twin sister, Barbara, her "best friend."
"We've gone through every single thing together, you know from the womb on. Imagine going through this alone. That would have been really difficult. We had each other to say, 'gosh, so and so said this' or 'did you see this' … we're each other's best support system and best friends."
When asked by Sawyer whether there was a White House child that she always thought she'd like to emulate, Bush said, "I think Chelsea Clinton is very kind and smart and articulate. And she's always been very friendly to us, but we just wanted to be ourselves. … She's beautiful and poised all the time."
Since returning from her work with UNICEF in Latin America, Bush has made headlines for her recent engagement to Henry Hager, the son of a politician and a former aide in the White House, whom she has dated for three years.
When asked to describe Hager, Bush told Sawyer, "He's very smart. He's a hard worker. He's open-minded. He's extremely outdoorsy. If he could spend every day outside, he would. He's very into the environment, and he was as a child. He hiked a lot. And so, now he's trying to find a job where he can support the environment and, and be outdoors. And, so he's a lot of fun. He's very supportive. He's great."
The proposal took place while Hager and Bush were hiking in Acadia National Park.
"We hiked Cadillac Mountain, which is the tallest peak on the Northeast. … It's supposedly where the sun first hits the United States. … We got up at 4 in the morning. We had camped out in a tent, and he woke me up, and he was really excited, and of course, I did not want to go hiking at 4 in the morning. It was freezing. … We hiked in the dark for an hour and a half, and then when we got towards the top, with the sunrise, he asked me," Bush said.
Bush accepted Hager's proposal.
As for the ring, Bush said, "It's his great-grandmother's and then he reset it. … I got to read about his great-grandmother and great-grandfather, how they fell in love, he wrote a little letter to me about it."
In the coming months, Bush will go on tour to promote "Ana's Story," visiting schools to teach students about tolerance.
"This book does not have a tidy ending because it is a work of nonfiction based on a life in progress," Bush said. "Ana is a 17-year-old girl with a lifetime of choices ahead of her. This book must end, but Ana's story is still being written, this time by her."
For more information on "Ana's Story," please visit www.harperteen.com.
Click here for more information on UNICEF.