Jenna Bush, like president, skips graduation ceremony

Sunday, May 23, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas -- President Bush wasn't the only one who skipped the pomp and circumstance of his daughter's graduation from the University of Texas on Saturday. Jenna Bush did not participate either.

Despite her name being listed on the commencement program, Bush was not among the more than 150 English majors receiving degrees Saturday afternoon at the Austin campus. Attendance at the event is not required to graduate from the university.

Aides have said President Bush and first lady Laura Bush decided to skip their 22-year-old twin daughters' graduations because their presence and that of White House security would be disruptive.

Jenna's sister, Barbara, will pick up a degree in humanities Monday from Yale, her father's alma mater. The family will celebrate with private dinners.

Jenna Bush simply "decided she didn't want to go to the ceremony. No other reason," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Laura Bush.

He added that it is fairly common for students at large universities to skip commencement. For Saturday night's university-wide ceremony, which includes general recognition of the school's entire graduating class of 8,061, only about 3,000 students sought tickets.

At Saturday's convocation for English majors, graduate Jaclyn Trantham said Jenna Bush "probably didn't want the attention and the Secret Service and everything."

There is some family precedent. The first lady skipped the ceremonies when she earned her master's degree in library science at the University of Texas in 1973.

The university is the largest campus in the country and several thousand students were scheduled to graduate this weekend. English majors graduated in one of several smaller ceremonies on campus.

Giving a commencement speech at Louisiana State University on Friday, the president said it feels "really good" to be writing the last tuition check. But he added: "It also feels like the last 20 years or so went by awfully fast."

The sisters have mostly stayed out of the limelight while in college, except for a highly publicized incident in May 2001, when authorities accused the then-19-year-old sisters of having drinks at a Mexican restaurant in Austin.

Barbara pleaded no contest to underage possession of alcohol and was ordered to perform eight hours of community service and attend alcohol-awareness class.

Jenna was fined $600 for trying to use a false ID, her second alcohol-related offense. She lost her driver's license for 30 days, had to do more community service and attend an alcohol-awareness class.

After graduation, the sisters plan to travel with friends, then help with their father's re-election campaign, said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Laura Bush.

A visit to Africa has inspired Barbara to work with AIDS sufferers, he said, while Jenna is interested in following her mother's career in education.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: