USA First Look

Why Jenna Bush Hager is quoting her dad on Twitter

The daughter of former President George W. Bush tweeted an excerpt from a post-9/11 speech in which her father praised the contributions of Muslims to the US.

Jenna Bush Hager posted an excerpt on Twitter Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, from a 2001 speech her father gave at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. following the 9/11 attacks. Ms. Bush Hager says the speech is a reminder 'to teach acceptance and love.'
Nati Harnik/AP/File | Caption

Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former president George W. Bush and correspondent for NBC News, tweeted remarks made by her father in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that praised Islam as a religion of peace and acknowledged Muslims’ contributions to the United States.

“ 'This is not the America I know',” she wrote, quoting her father, adding, “just a reminder this am to teach acceptance and love to our kids for all races, all religions...."

She then posted a larger excerpt of from her father’s speech, given at the Islamic Center in Washington:

"America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country,” said Mr. Bush at that time. "Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect."

Ms. Bush Hager's post was largely seen as a response to President Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from Syria. It's the latest expression of protest from a former "First Kid," just days after Malia Obama showed up at a Sundance Film Festival event that expressed solidarity with protestors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Such activism is a kind of presidential tradition, as Colby Bermel wrote for The Christian Science Monitor in January:

Joshua Kendall, author of “First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama,” says that “in general, political children tend to be rebels.... There is this tradition of the First Kids really speaking out, and Malia is firmly in that tradition.”

The most direct parallel between Malia and another first child, Kendall says, is with Amy Carter, the youngest of former President Jimmy Carter’s four children. Both were around the same age at the time of their fathers’ inaugurations – Amy was 9, Malia was 10. Both are Ivy Leaguers – Amy went to Brown University, and Malia will attend Harvard this fall.

The teenage Amy was known for her political activism, having marched with counterculture figure Abbie Hoffman. Both were arrested in 1986 at an anti-CIA demonstration in Massachusetts. A year later, after she and Hoffman were acquitted, 19-year-old Amy invited supporters to another CIA protest at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia.

Mrs. Bush Hager and her sister Barbara recently penned a public letter to the Obama sisters meditating on life after the White House and offering advice on the finer points of post-office decorum (“We stay in touch with our Secret Service”). And both the letter’s affectionate tone and Bush Hager’s Tuesday Twitter post seem to stand as an implicit rebuke of today's rancorous partisanship.

"We have watched you grow from girls to impressive young women with grace and ease,” they wrote in the letter.

"Your parents ... 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."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.