For a while, Jenna Bush appeared to be mimicking her father's youthful taste for the partying lifestyle. She was caught with a phony ID in a Mexican restaurant and photographed...

Share story


WASHINGTON — For a while, Jenna Bush appeared to be mimicking her father’s youthful taste for the partying lifestyle. She was caught with a phony ID in a Mexican restaurant and photographed fallen on the floor at a frat party, cigarette in hand.


But now, at age 22, it seems she’s starting to act a lot more like Mom.


She has decided to settle in sedate Washington, and she has applied for a job teaching disadvantaged children at a public charter school about three miles from the White House.


If she lands the job, she will pursue a calling much like that of her mother, Laura Bush, who worked as an elementary-school librarian before turning political wife. Except that when the first lady went to work, half the world wasn’t standing by with a scorecard and a telephoto lens.

JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES

President Bush’s daughter Jenna has applied to teach at the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, which serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“I don’t know how they are going to pull this off,” said Doug Wead, an aide in the first Bush White House and a friend of the current president. “That school is going to get more scrutiny than ever. It’s going to be a zoo.”


After all, Jenna Bush has applied for a job not in Iowa City but in Washington, a city already preternaturally interested in every move its Pennsylvania Avenue neighbors make.


Moreover, the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School sits near a busy, four-lane road where a TV truck already was parked yesterday. The number of media outlets on Executive Director Linda Moore’s call list made clear that the little 7-year-old school with 250 children was on the brink of a new era.


And Jenna Bush hadn’t officially been hired yet.


Assuming she gets the job, Secret Service agents inevitably will stand sentry over the playground. Teachers will be cornered for interviews. Children may be grilled before bedtime with “What did Jenna wear today?”


“They’ll have to be careful nobody sneaks in to write about her,” said Carl Sferazza Anthony, a Los Angeles historian who specializes in first ladies.


Landing a first daughter could be a fund-raising boon for a public school where 90 percent of students come from low-income families. If presidential offspring arrive with anything, it is money and contacts, historians say, noting that when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son started selling life insurance, big shots across the country lined up to buy it.


“Just wait until Jenna Bush sends her students out to sell wrapping paper, because there is some fat cat out there who would be glad to have her call her dad and say, ‘Hey, this guy just bought $10,000 worth,’ ” said Wead, who is also the author of “All the President’s Children,” a history of first sons and daughters.


While at least one parent interviewed on the school grounds welcomed the idea of a famous addition to the staff, he made it clear that education was foremost and no funny business would be tolerated.


“I would assume that Ms. Bush would … certainly not be doing anything to draw public attention, because then it would be about her, not the student,” said Wayne Jackson, the father of a third-grader and a sixth-grader at the school.


It isn’t clear why Jenna Bush chose the Stokes school after having spoken earlier about teaching in New York’s Harlem. Ninety-six percent of Stokes students are black or Hispanic, and the school features immersion classes in Spanish and French.


But her choice of such a vocation for her first job out of college is evidence of her dedication, historian Anthony said. “She obviously could have done anything she wanted,” he noted, referencing a recent summer internship at a glitzy New York public-relations company. “She’s got to want to be doing this because she is going to be under a lot of press scrutiny.”


Their parents fiercely protected the twin Bush daughters from publicity during their father’s first four years in the White House, but making the transition to adulthood in a fishbowl was inevitable for them when he won a second term.


Jenna graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas, Austin; Barbara earned a humanities degree from Yale and is interested in working with HIV-infected children.