Jenna Bush Hager got emotional while opening up about the heartfelt letter her late grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, wrote to his successor, Democrat Bill Clinton, after losing the 1992 election as an incumbent.
With Joe Biden being declared President-elect and President Donald Trump refusing to concede, the former First Daughter has reflected on the peaceful transition of power between Bush and Clinton, who developed a close friendship over the years despite being political rivals.
‘[My grandfather] started this tradition where the outgoing president would write a letter and leave it in the desk of the Oval Office so when the new president would come on the first day, he would open his desk and there it would be,’ a teary Jenna, 38, said on the Today show Monday morning.
Candid: Jenna Bush Hager, 38, has opened up about how her late grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, handled losing the 1992 election as an incumbent to Bill Clinton
Heartfelt: She explained that he wrote Clinton a letter that he left in the desk in the Oval Office on inauguration day in 1993. They’re pictured in the Oval Office together in 2005
Over the weekend, the Today host shared on her Instagram Stories a photo of the letter that her grandfather left in President Clinton’s desk on January 20, 1993.
Bush, who delivered a gracious concession speech one day after Clinton was projected to win the election, told the Democratic challenger that he would be ‘rooting’ for him.
The letter, which is in Bush’s handwriting, begins: ‘Dear Bill, When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too. I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
‘There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.’
Different time: In the letter, Bush told Clinton he was ‘rooting hard’ for him. The letter has been shared on social media following this year’s election, as President Trump refuses to concede
‘How it’s done’: Actress Kristen Bell was among those who shared the dignified letter on Instagram
Beginning: With his letter, Bush started the tradition that the outgoing President would write some words of wisdom and support to the incoming leader
Bush ended the letter by lending Clinton his unwavering support throughout his presidency.
‘You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well,’ he said. ‘Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck, George.’
Jenna praised her paternal grandfather when she shared the letter, writing: ‘How I miss my Gamps, a man who started a beautiful tradition of leaving a letter of support for the next president.’
A number of people have posted the letter on social media after Biden was named President-elect, including actress Kristen Bell.
Hard to handle: After reading Bush’s letter out loud on the Today show on Monday morning, Jenna teared up and recalled seeing her grandfather’s heartbreak on election night
Broken hearts: ‘We got tucked into bed that night knowing he wouldn’t have a second term,’ Jenna said. She is pictured with her paternal grandparents as a child
‘How it’s done. Class. Grace. Dignity. Respect. Humanity,’ she wrote.
After reading Bush’s letter out loud on the Today show on Monday morning, Jenna recalled seeing her grandfather’s heartbreak on election night.
‘At first, you couldn’t really tell,’ she said. ‘I was like in fourth grade, but there was excitement. And then all of a sudden, my grandmother left the room to go needlepoint because I think it was clear then that he would lose, and he was devastated. He had worked really hard. He thought he wanted to finish the job.
‘It wasn’t an easy night,’ Jenna continued. ‘His heart was broken, and for all of his little grandkids who loved him, our hearts were broken. We got tucked into bed that night knowing he wouldn’t have a second term.’
Looking back: Bush delivered a gracious concession speech one day after Clinton was projected to win the election
Putting politics aside: Bush and Clinton became close friends, and Jenna joked that he’s the ‘black sheep’ of their family
Hopes: Jenna, who is pictured with her family after she voted, said she hopes her grandfather’s tradition will continue with President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden
The two could have gone their separate ways, but Bush’s letter ended up sparking a bipartisan friendship between the former leaders.
‘The joke is everybody’s family has a black sheep, and President Clinton is our black sheep,’ Jenna said, laughing. ‘[My grandfather] was a like surrogate father for him.’
Jenna’s grandfather passed away in November 2018 at age 94, seven months after his wife Barbara, who died in April 2018 at age 92.
‘No matter who you voted for, it’s not about that,’ Jenna stressed. ‘It’s not about the political parties or the one man that sits at that office. It’s about a love and a respect for our country, and [my grandfather] had that so much that he created this beautiful tradition that I hope will continue.’