AUSTIN, Texas (Dallas Morning News) — Audiences were treated on Thursday to some untold stories from four children of former presidents.
Twins Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and Steve Ford, son of Betty and former President Gerald Ford, shared White House secrets during a panel at the LBJ Presidential Library.
One fun fact came from the Bush twins in response to the moderator’s request for a “shocking story about a first lady.”
“People did think our mom was this cookie-cutter mother . She just happens to not shout and I think that’s why people saw her as more conservative than she is,” said Jenna Bush Hager. “But she’s a secret Rastafarian.”
Anyone hoping to see Laura Bush in dreadlocks, don’t hold your breath - they were referring to her love of Bob Marley.
The panel was part of the Enduring Legacies of America’s First Ladies conference, the final of three conferences held in Texas presidential libraries.
Robb said one of her favorite memories came on the 200th anniversary of the White House when she was surrounded by many first families who had all lost elections.
“We all are a large sorority, fraternity, whatever, because no matter how you might differ on any issue, we’ve all been there,” she said.
An enduring theme was the love the presidents felt for their families and especially their wives.
Robb said when her mother, Lady Bird Johnson, was tied up at presidential meetings, her father would get the White House communications staff to tape “Gunsmoke” for her.
“This was the 1960s and they hadn’t invented that yet, but they would somehow tape ‘Gunsmoke’ for mother so she could watch it,” Robb said.
For all of the White House children, their time spent growing up in the public eye also offered a chance to travel and socialize with leaders of different fields. Each cited their time there as a driving factor for what they decided to pursue as adults.
There were other perks too.
With some help, Steve Ford dragged his stereo up to the roof of the White House to play Led Zeppelin. On that same roof, Jenna Bush had her first kiss with now husband Henry Hager.
The Fords came to the White House as replacements, not elected by the American people. For the first week of Gerald Ford’s presidency, they lived in their family home while remnants of the Nixons’ were moved out.
“I remember Mom is cooking dinner and looks over at my dad and says ‘Gerry something’s wrong here. You just became president of the United States and I’m still cooking,’ “ Steve Ford said.
In the end, the general tone was one of bipartisanship, something Jenna Bush noted we don’t see much of anymore.
“All of these people are our parents, not politicians,” she said.