Jenna Bush Hager: Get in the Game

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The TODAY Show’s Jenna Bush Hager sits down for a wide-ranging conversation with Kate Bowler. Together, they share about the importance of family and intergenerational relationships (Jenna shares such tender stories about her grandparents), how they hope to let their kids make mistakes and be met with grace, and how they both (try to) find beauty in ordinary, regular days and regular problems.

In this conversation, Kate and Jenna discuss:

  • How to model openness and empathy across difference (even when people really, really disagree)
  • Why they want to raise their kids to be curious and independent
  • How the love of others makes us brave—brave enough to make mistakes (and why that’s okay)

Kate visited Jenna in New York City for this conversation. And Jenna is just as lovely and generous of spirit as you’d imagine.

CW: fertility issues; Alzheimer’s

Watch clips from this conversation, read the full transcript, and access discussion questions by clicking here.

Follow Kate on InstagramFacebook, or X (formerly known as Twitter).



Kate Bowler, Jenna Bush Hager

Kate Bowler  00:08

Hello, my dears. I’m Kate bowler. And this is everything happens. And it feels so good to say that oh my gosh, I’ve missed you. We are back for season 11. Can you even believe that? That is nuts and it’s been fun because I’ve been thinking about it all summer, we have been working on a really great season. And look, I promise I took breaks but like this is what I did all summer. It was just thinking about how we talk about embracing the past with the good, with the great with the okay with the Blair and the mare, and just the fantastic and transcendent. And we also thought this might be a really nice time to go visit some of our guests. So for this episode, my team and I went to go seat well, I don’t want to tell you who it is yet is very exciting. But it was a really fun trip. We went to New York, which always makes me feel like a fancy lady and then I sing a song to myself called cosmopolitan ladies, which is not a real song. It’s just when I make up when I go to a big city when I go to a big city. But it was such a great chance to have that journey feeling like when you are living in a way where you really want to discover something. I went to go visit Sue Laker Jawad. Do you remember her, we did a couple episodes together about her experience with leukemia. And she is so kind and so wise, and also does not live in the Manhattan area. And I thought she did, so I went to go visit her and and then like two hours later, I was still walking, and that’s when I learned some things are not close together. And also, you can really get your step count. And if you if you don’t know where you’re going. It was exactly what I hoped this feeling of journey and wisdom and discovery, and especially now because we are starting a new year together. Today’s conversation is kind of the perfect starter for the hey, let’s get this going. It’s also a time to revisit some of the primary themes that I’m trying to learn that Jessica and I wrote about a lot in our book good enough, which is like gosh, in a world of perfection, maybe we just need to lower the bar a little and settle for something a little bit closer to a good enough or my other favorite slogan, okay is life now. But today, and really together, we’re just gonna keep exploring how we keep going, how we find joy and courage and just a hell of a lot of reality. And let’s do it by talking with some of my very favorite people to learn from, like today’s guest, who has so much to teach us about the importance of family and how we borrow courage from one another. My guest today is Jenna Bush Hager. You’ll probably know her On today’s show where she co hosts with the absolutely lovely Hoda kabhi she’s editor at largest Southern Living magazine. And she’s a New York Times bestselling author of many beautiful books and memoirs and kids books. Her memoirs include everything beautiful in its time. And sister’s first, she is the daughter and granddaughter of two American presidents. She knows deeply what it means to serve and is according to every single person I know is matter. A complete and utter delight. So yeah, you’re really going to like this one. I thought maybe we could start at the beginning. Because you are part of a pair. I had a two peas in a pod sister situation where I answer to everything that sounds like a close approximation of my name. Amy, Katie, you just the sound of but your your Jenna Anne, tell me about what that experience was like?


Jenna Bush Hager  05:57

Yes, I am I mean, I was born with a twin. And I think it was the best thing that ever happened to both of us. And I also feel like having her and my life who who accepted me. I mean, the things about being twins is that nobody’s you’re at the exact same age at the exact same time. And therefore you don’t have one sibling who’s older and therefore thinks that their life is cooler, or whatever that looks like. We had such a shared perspective and history, that we just loved each other. And I think that kind of partnership, whether it’s a sibling or a best friend or cousin can make you feel so brave. I mean, I feel like both Barbara and I are doing things now as adults, and probably even as teenagers. If I look back, that were risky, you know, but we’re, we’re living really full lives. And I think that’s, that’s the beauty of it.


Jenna Bush Hager  07:02

When they like mirror back to you things that you might not have seen in yourself, just yell go for it no serious no, you can’t do it.


Jenna Bush Hager  07:09

Well, exactly and I think also like, you know, we just had a book party. I’ve started a book club at the Today Show, and we had a little, it’s our fourth anniversary. So it was just a little celebration and an indie bookstore close to my office. And I got really emotional because it is something I really care about. And I looked down and first of all, not only was my sister there, but she was like weeping in the front row. And I and she was sort of like, taken aback at how much How emotional she felt when she just kept saying, like, I’m really proud. And I think that’s how I feel about her in spades. You know, she’s my biggest cheerleader and I think when you have somebody that has your back like that, from the moment you were born, that doesn’t mean like, one time we were on book tour, we’re talking about sisterhood, and somebody came up and they were like, you’ve made me feel so bad because I fight with my sister and like, we fight and we probably still would, you know, or get grumpy at each other. But deep down, she believes in me and I feel that and I hope she feels the same. And so it empowers us to act to live to be you know, not sit on the sidelines.


Jenna Bush Hager  08:18

I don’t think I would know how to fight unless someone who really loved me was, this not that.


Jenna Bush Hager  08:23



Kate Bowler  08:24

Don’t say that again.


Jenna Bush Hager  08:25

Yeah, totally.


Kate Bowler  08:25

Oh, wait, your tendency is to.


Jenna Bush Hager  08:28

I know.


Kate Bowler  08:29

I would never hang up on someone.


Jenna Bush Hager  08:32

No, you’re right learning how to fight. I mean, that’s she was my first love. So she taught me, you know, all of the things about love about about being in relationship, you know, that then I’ve utilized as a mom, as a wife as a friend.


Jenna Bush Hager  08:48

I, I totally believe that I don’t, I don’t think I would know how to be a person unless I was, like, externally scaffolded like a badly built building, where if I didn’t have something on the outside, like, pushing in holding me up, I’ve always felt, I mean, especially in good times of our course, just like, you want that person to be there. But then in the bad times, like, yeah, you need them there just to say his love isn’t the end of your story.


Jenna Bush Hager  09:18

Yeah and you sort of want the people and you know, I know a little bit of your story, but you want the people that I feel like show up without asking. You know, I mean, I think it’s really hard because it’s everybody is living in silo with their own lives and their own problems. And obviously, the world is pretty heavy too. But you want somebody that’s like, I’m going to be there for you and you’re going to be okay, you know.


Jenna Bush Hager  09:45

I will make this totally insane situation, normal.


Jenna Bush Hager  09:48

Yeah funny or fun, whatever it is.


Kate Bowler  09:52

Yeah, and be bossy for you, it’s like, I have one of my very best friends. She’s just like, there is not a world in which I’m not getting a pillow are a blanket warmed.


Jenna Bush Hager  10:01

She’s just like burst which is something that probably you would feel embarrassed to ask for. But your bestie would be thrilled to say I’m going to make you feel as comfortable as you possibly can.


Kate Bowler  10:11

She be like testing the integrity of a door to see if you can like lifted from it. Like, separated.


Jenna Bush Hager  10:16

My sister when my babies were born with like, move my hospital bed to get like the good lighting so she could take the picture of on her iPhone of like me holding the babies my husband, I’m sure it was like y’all are insane. But I’m barbers like gotta get the natural.


Jenna Bush Hager  10:34

Yeah, I know it looks better. It’s totally what you’re gonna.


Jenna Bush Hager  10:39



Kate Bowler  10:40

Love, and I’m just thinking of your, your dating stories with your husband. Read me gently we as like you introduced a different person into your dynamic. And it sounds like he went all in. Just if you don’t mind telling me the bicycle goings? Yeah, cuz it slayed enslaved me.


Jenna Bush Hager  11:01

Yeah, he’s the poor guy. I mean, well, now, you know, we’ve been married for almost 15 years, which I can’t believe so. you know, this was probably 20 years ago now because we dated for a bit before then too. And um, my dad loves to mountain bike and my husband, I guess he does he’s a great mountain biker, but I don’t know back then if he actually really was or just was like trying to.


Kate Bowler  11:29

Just volunteer district.


Jenna Bush Hager  11:30

Yeah, totally just try to like, be in I don’t know but he and my dad because he loves to mountain bike had like a proper mountain bike a nice one and my husband I think had like his Schwinn twin speed from college. And so they were mountain biking and the issue and by the way, I was in Africa with my mom. I wasn’t even there. I was like, Dad, take Henry  to and to like also, we couldn’t really call I mean, this was before cell phones, it was before times and we were also you know, they’re working. So it wasn’t like we were at a hotel and could just like lounge and call. So I don’t think I heard this story till I returned home but the issue with mountain biking with my dad, which is one of the reasons I’ve never done it is that there’s especially men was there were like Suburbans of Secret Service, following him. So if you slow down, you’re gonna get like, just exhaust in the face and like Suburbans passing you so there’s nothing like it’s not relaxing. Nothing’s in once you get past you feel bad you know? You’re like cheese okay? So Henry Schwinn twin, the chain broke so he like pulled over got passed by all these Suburbans was like, slowly trying to fix it. And then of course, I’m sure although I don’t know that he would say this. He was trained to like, keep up. He was like probably 28 or whatever. He was young, my dad was older. He was on a hill and he was going full speed to catch up and a secret service man opened the door and hit him. So he likes Lou, you know, in the air, but he landed on all fours so he was fine. But the point is, you know, he stuck around. After that, and after so much more, I think to even be there biking I mean, again, it’s something I don’t do for that and by the way, these doors are bulletproof. Or not like a normal suburban door that just like what hurt this is like, very painful and very.


Jenna Bush Hager  13:44

I think what I like so much to about the way you talk to other people you love is like, they’re all people who like get in the game and yeah, have to laugh and Howard, and stupid and fun, but like, it’s kinda like, like, Double Dutch like, pick it up but everyone’s gotta everyone’s gotta keep moving.


Jenna Bush Hager  14:03

No, I definitely I think I’m I gravitate towards people and I think everybody does, who get in the game, I actually had and this is probably gonna make me cry. But I had this weird realization. Last week, I got to take my kids away for spring break, we put the Today Show on tape. And so that Hoda and I could both take our kids away. And I was it was pouring rain and we had just arrived at a beach you know, so you’re like, oh, gosh, like, and my kids were like, Let’s go swim in the rain and so we jumped in the pool and it was it was not it seems magical and it is but it’s cold, it’s cold. No, like you’re like, I’m actually very cold. But they were, you know, loving it. But I was thinking like when when I just had this moment of realization, because when my grandfather was much older and was, you know, dying, he like whispered to me it was hard for him to eat and talk, and we were sitting at dinner and he was like, don’t forget to be in the game. Don’t forget to live in the game. And I think, you know, his point was like, it was the end of his life and he couldn’t do the things he wanted to do so much. And even though swimming in the rain wasn’t some, like, you know, it seems more sort of beautiful than it actually is. It’s like, no, I’m gonna be that mom or that friend, or that colleague who’s like, gonna give it my all, you know? And not only because he said that to me, but that’s, that’s in my DNA it’s who I am.


Jenna Bush Hager  15:38

Have big theater of life feeling really like it’s happening now, it’s happening, right? I’m a I’m someone who has a really hard time doing all that, like live in the moment, there is something about the little fairy dust feeling where, like a kid destroying your laundry? Was then folded and , just like, kidding a warm towel.


Jenna Bush Hager  15:57

I mean, finding the beauty in that just because if you can’t find the beauty in the laundry, like, and I remember some another when I was doing an interview, somebody said to me, a father said to me, like the first time I had he had kids of different ages. So the first time I had the kids, I’m like, oh, gotta go change a diaper. Gotta go change a diaper and now with his youngest, he’s like, but changing the diapers living, changing the diaper or doing the laundry, like if you can’t find the joy in those things. And it’s not always like that also sounds like so Pollyanna, because you can’t always but you have to try. Because otherwise you’re missing out on like, 98%.


Jenna Bush Hager  16:37

Yes, yeah the ordinary isn’t always extraordinary. And if the ordinary is most of life.


Jenna Bush Hager  16:44

But you’re right, it’s like looking at the baby, you know, in the warm towel and finding the joy in that as opposed to the hardship of having to refold it, who cares?


Kate Bowler  16:54

Yeah, I guess I do feel the, like, intensity of the challenge of wanting to be like to feel all the like, suck the marrow out of this beautiful life feeling, especially when you’re around people who make you feel alive. You know, for food, like the dumb fun things. You watch your kids in, like, super fast shutter speed chain in front of your eyes. And then you can feel, I don’t know, like my, my friend’s dad always says, some people die with the song still in them. And I always think of that as like, what’s this? What’s the big song here? And then who do I get to sing it with?


Jenna Bush Hager  17:37

Sing it to totally, I mean, I feel extremely lucky. Because I know some people don’t like that word, but I don’t mind it. Because I you know, I get to, first of all work with a woman, who Hoda who is joyful, and chooses joy, you know, and I think and like locks in on and locks in on people. And we’re both are, you know, love to listen to each other and share and it’s and we’re open hearted, you know, and so it’s, I don’t feel like the first of all, the fact that I get to wake up and go into work with somebody like that, who I see at the crack of dawn, and I’m excited for that. I always say to women in particular, like if they don’t have that crew if they don’t have those people that like I have at work to find them because it makes life so much richer, you know, to be surrounded with people that that you can go to but like can also like you said just laugh with you know and or if you are have some sort of question you can feel free and vulnerable to ask. So first of all, I get to sit next to her every single day. And that feels like such a privilege and one that I don’t think either one of us take for granted. And then you know I have these three kids and I don’t take I always wanted to be a mom. And so I don’t take them for granted. I enjoy them I think I have fun being a mom I think they would say like I’m kind of crazy, but I think it’s a good thing. You’re like one of the little girls that were one of their Poppy’s friends in Spring Break said we were playing telephone under the water and I said your mom’s crazy. And I’m like that’s so like I don’t I love it, it’s like that I’m that so they’re and dancing and having fun and being part of it as opposed to sort of laying back reading which I also like Mommy has to read.


Jenna Bush Hager  17:48

I love to the sense of chosen this that you have in your family story but wanting you so much like the framed the framed proof of how much they will.


Jenna Bush Hager  19:52

Yeah, my parents had difficulty getting pregnant and though, and I think, you know, they wanted children. My mom was an only child, her mother was an only child, her great grandmother was an only child, there’s like been fertility issues on that side of the family for a long time. And so when they couldn’t get pregnant, they decided to to pursue adoption, which they were really excited about. But the and I think this sort of is the way that God works sometimes, too, is when you like, sort of let go of some of the fear. And then you know, and then control. You know, sometimes there’s these miraculous, yeah, blessing surprise, yeah, surprises. So they had put in the paperwork, and they took a photo. I’m like, my mom’s wearing a red sweater. They’re on behind the fence in our backyard is like behind them. And they had I guess, a friend come and take a picture of them for the application, which is where you used to have to do, I don’t know, you may still and, and so and then right, when they got the information back that they had been accepted for the next round, she found out she was pregnant. So they framed that photo for us. So that we would always remember


Jenna Bush Hager  21:12

Yeah, that were loved. Her feeling of being like, pulled into a story about yourself. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than someone who loves you being like, this is a love, from here to here. And like, even before you were you?


Jenna Bush Hager  21:27

Well, I think kids yearn for that. I mean, I remember just being desperate for my mom to tell us stories of her time teaching. Because it was before we were alive. And I think to think of our parents as humans, is something that’s so interesting for kids to do. But then, as you said, to elevate it, and where it’s also includes, you know.


Kate Bowler  24:39

Where you are […] these characters meet.


Jenna Bush Hager  25:04



Jenna Bush Hager  25:05

We’ll be right back.


Kate Bowler  25:10

I really love the way you talk about your grandparents, we get to talk to a lot of lovely people who are like you softhearted hearted people who love the who are like open to the world breaking their heart. And one of the kinds of people we get to talk to a lot is people who are caregivers. So they they love even when the story of who they are kind of gets lost through memory loss. That story that you wrote about your mom’s dad? You could have rewritten it a different way, how hard it was to watch him, lose his story about himself.


Jenna Bush Hager  25:52

So my grandfather had Alzheimer’s and he was the type of man before that would that I mean, and I like their shame was like, not part of who he was. I think both of my grandparents, my grandmother had two had three stillbirth after my mom, possibly one before my mom too, after and so she, you know, they had wanted a large family. And my mom was totally aware of that, you know, she knew that they had always wanted more since at more kids that she had always wanted more siblings. And so I think when we were born, it sort of quenched this desire in him, he had these he loved babies, and he would come over every day and see us during, you know, would we usually wake us up from our afternoon nap, which I’m sure my mind is like, they just went to bed. But he was such a joyful person. And he was he would never reprimand us, like, I remember testing him, like I would throw out this, he had like, sort of one of those old Oldsmobiles, where you have to roll up the windows manually. And I would throw out a Kleenex box, from his car over and over again, you were just like throwing down throwing it up. He would just pull over, get it out, pick it up. And there was never any sort of, like shame inflicted upon us ever. And then, you know, watching him lose who he was, because that part of him sort of left to you know, he was such a joyful person. In fact, his favorite thing to say, which is so sweet. When we were young and would spill things, which is like kids do often it’s like their full time, he would just like yell out happy days. And I think it would, I think it would to remind us, or you know, my parents probably that, like, who cares? If you’re don’t freak out, because your kids spell something like it just doesn’t matter. But what a perspective, every time right now know.


Jenna Bush Hager  28:02

There’s no smell tragedies in the version.


Jenna Bush Hager  28:05

There’s totally, and so he, but yeah, he had Alzheimer’s, probably when we were about 11, 10 or 11 so we really got to, you know, witness it. It was at that age where we understood things to you know, and, and understood it and yet couldn’t understand. Because he was so different than the person that we loved, you know, and lost sort of I mean, it was it was, it’s really hard and I’m sure many of the people you’ve spoken to have already articulated this, but it’s a really hard thing to witness because there’s sort of an agitation or at least in his case that came with it. That was not there, and there also was a shame, because there’d be moments where he would be lucid. So for example, I remember he asked my dad for he thought he had gambled his money away. So he asked my dad for a loan, and then in the middle of the night, he woke up and you know, was crying to my grandmother, because he realized he just was embarrassed that he wouldn’t do that. But, you know, I think I also believe that there’s a better place where, you know, he’s clear of mind, yes. It’s hard, it’s a terrible disease, and one of you know, that I hope there’s more funding for because there’s so little research and there’s such hope, you know, that I feel like there will be some, hope around it, and in our lifetimes, at least there’s.


Jenna Bush Hager  29:44

This lovely man named John Swinton and he was a mental health nurse before he became a theologian, which is like a fun too for a job. He’s from Scotland so he is one of those like, my accent, and he so he worked mostly with people with me memory loss. And that was one of the most deeply hopeful things I’ve ever heard someone describe to say about God was that when we can’t when we can’t see ourselves and that beautiful, long love story that is so intoxicating and beautiful that like when we lose the thread that like God is the one who remembers and holds it for us. And like gives that like, gives the fullness of us back to ourselves, and I was like, well, that’s really beautiful, frankly, helpful but when your grandma would say when he would say who? And then like.


Jenna Bush Hager  30:35

He would say, so who know who were you? Which is also a hard thing like, just hard thing for a 10 year old or 11 year old to hear. Their grandfather asked who their grandmother was, it was destabilizing a little scary. And she would just say, oh, honey, I’m the woman that loves you right now really sweet.


Jenna Bush Hager  30:57

Makes a really that story will really stick with me because I just think that would be the most beautiful thing to say forever to people, you’re like well I’m the one who loves, like even when the people in our life are not, we’re not in the part of the story we want.


Jenna Bush Hager  31:15

You didn’t give a disclaimer that this was just total Kleenex I’m just kidding.


Jenna Bush Hager  31:36

We’ll be right back.


Kate Bowler  31:39

The way you describe your family in which it has of course like entirely surreal elements because your life is unusual. And yet it has like wonderfully normal, stupid hilarious stuff, like the description of your mom helping you pack up for accurate robot to move out of college. Which just like, shoves everything in a garbage bag and opens a window, is one the greatest effort. But it shows such a like are like well, yeah.


Jenna Bush Hager  34:06

Totally, I mean, I think what’s hard for other people to understand, but it isn’t for us. I mean, like and also thank goodness, like I actually worry about the my kids having a normal childhood more than I think about ours, because my dad was not president until I was 18. So and even though my grandfather was which sounds like, well, because people will be like, but your grandfather was we lived in Texas, and he lived in Washington, DC. And so our day to day, I mean, I went to a public. I went to public school almost all the way through it, went to public high school and went to public elementary school. I rode my bike to school. We lived in like a house that’s now been torn down for a big fixer upper like we had a very normal childhood. So much so that I think we weren’t really even prepared for when my dad became president, I think we were like, and which is, which again, sounds naive, but I just think my dad was like, no, y’all can be normal college kids, which of course, was not the case. But he’s he is a dad wanted to promise us what we wanted, you know, and he also I know, didn’t want his job to affect our what the normalcy you know, I mean, I think and so I, you know, I’m sure people because I know people all the time are like, what was it like living in the White House and I’m like, why never lived there you know. And I think and although I’m sure it would be very magical in many ways to grow up in that. It was such a wonderful thing for Barbara and I, because we had, I think the best of both worlds, we had a totally normal childhood where our dad was worked in baseball was home at like, 4:35 because it was Texas, and we live in New York, and people work like crazy hours. So he could, you know, run while I rode my bike next to him like every day. I mean, it was consistent. And then, you know, when he wanted to become president, we were in college. So we were busy kind of exploring who we were outside of our families who we wanted to be what we wanted to study. And so it allowed us this. I mean, there were things that were unusual, but they happen so much later in our life, our childhood really in our adolescence, we were already, I mean, we made mistakes. But that’s, that’s, you got to make me. Which is so, that’s the part of it, you know, and I think we made mistakes, because we all including a think my parents thought we could be, you know, normal, because we had sort of lived this normalcy. And we really probably couldn’t have, but thank God, they allowed us that. Because I do like, when I think now about not just my kids, but society as a whole and all of these teenagers who are not yeah, well, many are experiencing I mean, the statistics on teenage girl, and depression rates, anxiety rates are really scary to me. And obviously, the pandemic has contributed but again, I’m not a scientist, I haven’t studied this. But what I’m afraid of is that we have told our kids for now, 10 years, don’t post that you’ll ruin your life. Don’t do this, you’ll ruin your life. And I feel like putting that type of pressure on young people who need to make mistakes in order to become fully formed and need to be able to fail. It’s like if you’re telling somebody you can’t fail, then how are they supposed to react to that? You know, I want to allow my kids the opportunity to make mistakes. And I’m worried that as a society, we’re putting so much pressure on kids to be perfect. When there is no such thing.


Kate Bowler  37:51

Yeah, I totally agree. That’s so stressful. I also really related to your description of your last year, you’re just your dad’s mom, describing her very free opinions. firmly held.


Jenna Bush Hager  38:11



Kate Bowler  38:11

And, intensity protection of you at the same time, come in, right. I have a gravel like that. And I would rather be corrected by somebody who really loves me, even though they a little bit.


Jenna Bush Hager  38:23



Jenna Bush Hager  38:26

Yeah, I just I liked every story you told. About the like, fierceness of that love. Because that in like in the social media world, I would want like, I don’t want the world correcting my kid I want, like that, I want the like, the feeling that the people who really love you, even if you disagree with them, are gonna be the ones that tell ya.


Jenna Bush Hager  38:47

What’s I mean the thing about her too, is that she loved debate. She loved to debate and I feel like, like I worry a little bit about our society that there’s like, just a one tone debate now is right that there’s not much listening going on and she loves to debate with us but with others, I mean, with other people from political, different political parties from you know, she loved a really interesting conversation, and it didn’t end with like door slamming, and somebody getting up and leaving the table. So it’s like that yes, she was fiercely protective and she could say whatever she wanted about us, but if somebody else said something about any of her lack of lines, she they would go by. She was she was wildly opinionated and she wasn’t afraid to use her voice, which, frankly, you know, as a woman who was born in the early 1900s, or 19, I would want to say like 1919 that’s really amazing. You know, she was and I think it’s so funny because I definitely think just by the way she looked, and sort of how she dressed. People thought Oliver’s probably not as modern as she was. But she I mean, she disagreed with my grandfather about big political issues, which even now are very polarizing. I mean, she was pro choice when her husband was the Republican president and was outwardly so she. So, you know, I think it’s like the fact that she wasn’t scared to speak her opinion, was something that I watched and listen, like, I hope to be slightly gentler. But that’s to me, that’s also, you know, both of my grandmother’s use their voices in very different ways. But I think it like goes back to kind of what we were saying about living about being in it about sharing your opinions, but also listening and growing and evolving. And not doing it in a way where it’s like, you’re wrong I’m right. She was in a marriage where they could have two different opinions on something that’s very political and personal and, they deeply loved and admired each other like, that’s okay.


Jenna Bush Hager  41:08

I love that dinner table Debate Club feeling, I really do, my it is the cutest thing to me in the whole entire world that every night over Skype, my son sits down with his my dad, who is also a historian. And they either go through just weird, random stories about history, or I can hear their adorable little arguments. And like, arguments done in love as a, like, that’s a that’s a deep kind of comfort we can find?


Jenna Bush Hager  41:37

Well, it definitely is and I think it’s like, it doesn’t even I feel like the word argument is even like, more intense than it has to be it’s like, I mean, debate is probably too high school lead to high school debate. But like, what is the word where like you said it exactly right like where it’s like grounded in love and empathy, and openness and love to where it’s not just like, I mean, I feel like we have a hard time as a society right now having conversations that are difficult. And listening, I feel like there’s a lot of sort of closed off. I know you, so why would I even listen, I know what you believe what we’re is, your, your heart isn’t even open enough to even listen to what the person’s having to say, that worries me a little.


Jenna Bush Hager  42:25

Yeah you write really beautifully about faith as a source of encouragement. And a sense of like, kind of it sounds like deep peace when you write it, we’re like, there will be there will be troubles and yet I know that I’m loved I know that but yeah, faith sounds like a language of real comfort.


Jenna Bush Hager  42:46

Yeah, you know, I mean, I was raised in a house where both of my parents had strong faith, but and my dad’s definitely was, he spoke about it more. But both of them didn’t push us. They sort of wanted us and by the way, an all veins not only in faith, but politically to are sort of, you know, we were allowed to question things. And I thought that I think surprises people too, because I think they think like, oh, if your dad’s a doctor, then you know, you’re going to be a doctor, or whatever, you know, whatever I need, it’s like, they allowed us to like, I mean, if this is the braver way, and sort of the more of a pain to parent, we would like be in eighth grade and talk about the death penalty and be like, totally go in on my dad who was you know, like making real decisions and we were just like middle school students, but he would allow it and not only allow it he would sort of encourage it. I mean, I think he wanted and I want this to I mean as as a mom, but I was a teacher, I want my kids to be curious and independent. Like I don’t need them to think the exact same way I think because it for my ego. Like that’s they can have their own feelings. And I think my parents, I mean, we definitely were the type of house that went to church every Sunday and faith was a really important part of my dad’s life he’s still very disciplined and reads the Bible every single day and is, but and enjoys discussing it, you know, just enjoys reading different books we all read a different devotional every single year and send littles scriptures every morning that’s how I wake up every day. But there was not it was not a judgmental house. There was not judgment put upon us like if we didn’t want to go to church, there was no forcing it. My mom I remember would always just say Just have faith in something. Which is like the simplest yet sort of all encompassing freedom to learn for yourself.


Kate Bowler  44:49

And braver ways.


Jenna Bush Hager  44:50

I kind of feel like my friends that have complicated relationships with their faith are the ones that were I have complicated relationships with anything. I Um, are the ones that were pushed really hard? Like the friends that have complicated relationships with food were meant to eat every bed off their plate or, you know, watch the mom who drinks them but you know what I mean? It’s like, I found, at least in my life, I don’t know any different. That allowing sort of freedom, yeah, the freedom but also to model what love looks like as opposed to, you know, we all know that people that sort of read the Bible verse, but then in their day to day in life, don’t show love to those that need it, you know.


Jenna Bush Hager  45:38

Your love and compassion and the way that you like are so present in other people’s lives is such a gift and I’ve had the best.


Jenna Bush Hager  45:47

Well me too, thank you for this was like a wonderful therapy session, I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.


Jenna Bush Hager  46:07

There’s something about love that makes us brave, isn’t there? I used to have this friend who did unbelievably dumb, dumb, brave things like just dumb, brave things. And when she did, for some reason, we got into the habit of me yelling, I will be a witness to your life. I will be a witness to your life. Because I thought the funniest thing to say is you see someone like leaping off a dumpster into what they hope will be like a soft pile of garbage. And it makes me laugh every single time I think about it. Like because the truth is when someone says I will be a witness to your life, we get that surge, that feeling like if you see me what what can I do. Jenna speaks about it so beautifully when she describes the way her sister and her have championed one another how her parents loved her enough to let her make her own mistakes and how her grandmother loved her enough to always let her know when she was completely wrong. It’s that sticky feeling of love or the kind when someone looks at you and says, I will let you jump off that dumpster. So look love, this is the kind of feeling this surge, and I wish it for you. So let’s bless it, shall we? Bless it are we when love makes us brave, be it our friends or teachers, or mentors or partners, siblings, parents, or grandparents, from the littles who remind us to get in the game, even if there really actually is something more pressing to do in that moment. To the parents who remind us how quickly it all goes. Who’s wild ungrounded belief in us gives us courage to try something new, to make a big leap, to take a chance on love, to risk to fail. And to try again, this is the kind of love that sticks. So last all of us in our great big web of love.


Kate Bowler  48:33

This is the part of the episode where I get to thank everyone who makes this work possible. Like our generous partners. This whole thing started because amazing people at the Lilly Endowment and the Duke Endowment wanted to support storytelling about faith and life. And I love love love them for it. Thank you also to my academic home Duke Divinity School and our new podcast network Lemonada where their slogan is when life gives you lemons, listen to Lemonada so yeah, our kind of people. And of course a huge shout out to my incredible team who makes all the behind the scenes work happen. Jessica Ricci, Harriet Putman, Keith Weston, Gwen Higginbotham, Brenda Thompson, hope Anderson, Kristen Bowser, Jeb Burt, and Catherine Smith. We also just have really fun things coming this fall and I don’t want you to miss a thing. So if you go over to Kate You can sign up for my free weekly email and it’s full of all kinds of insider information, video clips from the episodes, Discussion Questions must read books free printables all kinds of things and pay. Lovely would you do the most helpful thing in the whole world for me? Could you leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify? It only takes a few minutes but it makes a huge difference to our podcast and And while you’re there, be sure you’re subscribed to our feed so you don’t miss any new episodes that will air every Tuesday. We love hearing your voice so if you want just leave us a voicemail. We might even use it on the show. Call us at 919-322-8731 Okay lovelies, I will talk to you next week where I’m going to be talking to if you can even believe it. Rob Delaney you’re not gonna want to miss this one. But in the meantime, come find me online at Kasey bowler. This is Everything Happens with me Kate Bowler.

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