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Bush daughter delivers message of hope
First daughter in Naperville to promote book, raise awareness of HIV, AIDS
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff

Natalie McKee gets a high five from Jenna Bush after getting her book signed at Naperville City Hall.


Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

Jenna Bush talks to the crowd at Naperville City Hall Thursday night.


Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/26/2007 12:14 AM

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The recently engaged Jenna Bush's "something new" almost became her something misplaced.

However, a domestic crisis was averted when she was reminded that she had left the key to the city she received Thursday from Naperville Mayor George Pradel on the city council chamber podium.

"Do we have it?" she asked her handlers after being quizzed about her plans for the memento. "Oh my gosh! We almost left it. I don't know what I'll do with it. I'll find a place for it, though. This is the first one I've ever received."

Bush, who is best known in most circles as the president's daughter, was in Naperville for most of the day signing copies of her recently published account of the life of a 17-year-old Panamanian peasant girl stricken with HIV, whom she befriended working for UNICEF.

A crowd of nearly 350 made up mostly of middle-aged women sat in rapt attention as Bush talked about her book and the work UNICEF does internationally.

"I had already read the book before tonight, so I was really excited to meet her," said Katie Searing, a freshman at North Central College in Naperville who is studying education. "She's a teacher, and I would love to be able to do what she did."

Before the evening book signing, Bush visited students at Neuqua Valley High School to speak to them about the importance of volunteerism and education about HIV and AIDS. She delivered a similar message at city hall about the need for young Americans to get involved with charitable organizations and promoted the work of UNICEF.

Bush spent several months as an intern with the international relief organization, working in various countries in South and Latin America.

"The children we met live hard lives and in dangerous situations," she said. "But all the kids we met are living with such great hope."

Her encounter with one young girl inspired her to write a book about the girl's life. Along with her friend and photographer, Mia Baxter, Bush interviewed the 17-year-old Ana who would become the title character of "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope."

The book details Ana's birth to HIV-positive parents, the deaths of most of her loved ones, shuttling between orphanages, the girl's own struggles with the affliction and birth of Ana's daughter, Beatriz.

Baxter shot all the pictures that appear in the book. A self-described portrait photographer, Baxter said it became easier to photograph her subjects even though they couldn't show their faces because of the stigma attached to being HIV-positive in Latin America.

"At times it was challenging, but I liked to use their surroundings a lot," the photographer said. "Ana's environment was so compelling. There's one picture I loved of the two of them in silhouette among the yellow grass and the sea in the background."

Baxter said she was often inspired by Bush's writings.

"She would write something and I'd read it and just think of how to best capture that mood and go try to take a photo to go with her words," she said.

Bush read the first four chapters of the book, which she admitted are some of the saddest.

"I like to read them because I think it gives you a sense of the difficulty in Ana's life," she said. "I promise this is not the most depressing book you'll ever read, it's very positive. So keep reading and know there's so much hope in the story."

Hope: Bush tells students to volunteer, get involved