“Lead by love and not fear.”
“Have compassion by actions.”
Those were some of the closing statements from Jenna Bush Hager when she spoke in Springfield late last month during Missouri State University’s Public Affairs Conference.
Sitting among the crowd in the packed Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, her speech felt like a breath of fresh air – a brief reprieve from an oppressive political and cultural climate.
For one, Hager is the third generation of a political dynasty. She’s the daughter and granddaughter of former Republican presidents and the niece of a former governor and presidential candidate, but she doesn’t sound like today’s loudest voices from the right. And for two, she’s an NBC journalist who in the age of “fake news” received a standing ovation.
She didn’t get political, but she did speak freely about the ideals for the country she learned from her parents and grandparents.
When asked by MSU President Clif Smart if it was weird to go from a political family to the press, she said her father didn’t consider the fourth estate as the enemy.
“My dad believed in a free press,” she said. “It’s part of what keeps our country a democracy.”
She quipped that her dad’s favorite joke is that “Jenna is just extending the longstanding Bush relationship with the press.”
Earlier in the day, her mother Laura lovingly reminded an audience at the Bush Presidential Library in Texas that Hager had gone from sticking out her tongue at a photographer in 2004 to being a part of the press five years later.
Hager, thinking aloud in her speech in Springfield, asked why she had brought that up again. The audience laughed along with her as many, I suspect, Googled the photo.
Joking aside, she shared how lucky she is to tell important stories from around the country, like the man who opened a camp for kids whose parents died in the attacks on Sept. 11 and the powerful interview she conducted with poet Maya Angelou a year before her death.
Smart asked Hager to remark on President Donald Trump’s comments earlier that day in his address to the United Nations. He mentioned Trump’s reference to the end of globalism, and she said that made her sad.
You could see it on her face.
“I was raised by people who said, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’ and we have a lot in this country,” she said to an applauding crowd.
She reminded the group of her father’s creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Since PEPFAR was launched in 2003 to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, “Twelve million lives have been saved … and nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free to infected mothers,” George W. Bush penned last year in a Washington Post op-ed plea to keep the program funded.
Hager also spoke of her late grandmother Barbara Bush’s moment of humanity at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the states.
It was 1989 and Bush, then first lady, held a sick baby at Grandma’s House, a residential care home in Washington, D.C., for children with HIV or AIDS. Hager said her grandmother wanted the press to be there to capture compassion around an issue that was severely lacking it.
For me, someone whose aunt died from complications related to AIDS in 1988, that photo is really meaningful, and I found myself moved to tears as Hager reminisced about that act.
That’s the power of compassion and unity.
In her own right as a teacher in a poor community in Baltimore, Hager said the plights of her students taught her about the power of compassion.
“No class could have taught me what to say to a child who witnessed a stabbing on their way to school,” she said.
From the outside, it’s easy to put people in a box, but it’s not so easy face-to-face.
Unity in Community was this year’s Public Affairs Conference theme. This topic seems as far away – and as important – as ever. Hager’s speech was a challenge to all of us to show how true compassion is a key to bringing us together.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have conversations with compassion for people who don’t think like us?” she said. “Find your sisters and your brothers in your community here, and make them feel like they are enough.”
Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at email@example.com.
Arctic Food Equipment hits quarter-century mark of service to restaurant industry.
“We have to be very creative — it’s not as simple as just saying, ‘Hey, we need money and would you like to give us some?’ It becomes very specific and helping an individual or a business …
“You buy it Monday and it’s outdated Tuesday. We’re looking at lighting grids for our facility and some of the first LED technology that was so hot a year ago is now obsolete, so what do you …
“When you finally find that balance, you definitely don’t want to go back the other direction,” says Will Carter, Marketing Officer for Central Trust Company. Carter says he learned that taking …
Terry Bloodworth, owner and operator of Springfield Hot Glass Studio, says it’s an absolute necessity for entrepreneurs to be educated in business. Bloodworth says he has a good business manager, …
Are you looking for reasons why you aren’t achieving your business goals? Sherry Coker, Executive Director at the OTC Center for Workforce Development, says to make sure you’re addressing …
“A lot of times I would just assume that they would know what I expected of them, or what I had in mind,” says Lauren Brown, Co-owner of Neighbor’s Mill Bakery and Cafe. Brown says she …
“It’s a big deal and it’s working, but it’s because we’re all working together and collaborating through all the different elements,” says Heather Hardinger, Director of Workforce …
Jason Gage, City Manager for the City of Springfield, says there is much to be learned by listening to others. This allows you to learn facts, perspectives, and use them to make the best decision. …
Abbie Brown, owner of Brown Abbey Gourmet, wowed Catherine and Thor Bersted when she made her Greek salad dressing for Lavender Falls Farm. They encouraged her to start her own company selling her …
The oldest members of GenZ are college age, so their impact on the business world remains to be seen. “They’re very, very young, so the jury is still out on how they will fully behave,” says …