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Thursday, June 20, 2024

First Daughter Jenna Bush speaks in Gainesville

First Daughter Jenna Bush encouraged a local audience Thursday night to change the world through small acts of kindness.

Before signing copies of her book, "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope," Bush spoke in Gainesville to the 500-person audience about the book's main character, her work with UNICEF and the importance of making a difference. The speech, sponsored by Barnes & Noble, was at Grace United Methodist Church.

Bush met Ana, then 17, during an eight-month internship with UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Ana changed my life," she said.

The teenage mother was HIV-positive, abused and shuffled through the system, Bush said.

She invited the audience to follow along as she read aloud the first four chapters of the book, which outlined Ana's tragic early life.

"I want you to know this isn't the most depressing book you'll ever read," she said when she finished.

More importantly, she said, Ana's life isn't depressing - she's full of hope.

Ana's real name is not used in the book and her face is not shown in the photographs because the stigma of HIV could get her kicked out of school, Bush said.

A short film narrated by Bush outlined some of the work UNICEF does to help children.

"We can all do so much. You don't have to move far away or spend lots of money," she said.

Bush also recognized Jessica Feagle, 16, and Natasha Williams, 15, both of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, as winners of the essay contest "How I Can Make a Difference."

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Feagle said her essay was about how small actions can change the world and was based on a homeless boy she met and spoke with one night in Micanopy.

Williams said her essay was on preventing disease in Sudan.

Both girls spoke to Bush before the speech and received free copies of "Ana's Story."

Kristin Russell, a UF sophomore, and Rebekah Sellers, a UF public relations junior, said they were impressed by Bush's talk.

"I thought it was really touching," Russell said. "I didn't know much about UNICEF and what they did."

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