Jenna Bush Engaged!
09/03/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT
They looked, says an observer, like a young couple in love. Leaving the Inn at Bay Ledge Aug. 16 after an overnight stay at the secluded hotel on a cliff overlooking a private beach in Bar Harbor, Maine, the President's daughter Jenna, accompanied by boyfriend Henry Hager, paused to sign the guest book: "It was an amazingly beautiful inn," she wrote, "and we had such a wonderful, memorable time."
No wonder the two were in such good spirits. Later that same day the White House announced that Jenna Bush, 25, and Hager, 29, had become engaged. Though no date has been set and both sides are keeping mum about details—including the possibility of a White House wedding—the father of the groom told PEOPLE the announcement was not exactly a surprise. "I was kind of expecting it. Henry has been in love with Jenna for quite some time," says John Hager, 71, a former assistant secretary in the Department of Education who is now chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. "We know the Bushes," he adds. "We're happy, they're happy."
Friends and colleagues report that the couple met during George Bush's 2004 reelection campaign when Hager, now in business school at the University of Virginia, worked for presidential advisor Karl Rove while Jenna was volunteering for the campaign. "Henry's very smart, very sweet—a really good guy," says Jenna's cousin, model Lauren Bush. Adds one of Hager's former coworkers: "They're both very fun and outdoorsy. You can tell they enjoy each other's company."
No matter what the setting: The couple have been spotted at a presidential inaugural ball in 2005, the White House dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla later that year, Georgetown's Smith Point bar (after dinner, when the door policy is guests only), and a 10K race in Virginia, which they ran with Jenna's twin sister, Barbara, last year. "Jenna's like her dad and can be all-consumed with whatever she's working on," says a family insider. "And Henry has a way of keeping perspective. He helps balance her."
Growing up in Richmond, Va., Hager "was the epitome of the all-American boy," says Paul Galanti, who knows the Hagers. An Eagle Scout, Henry is the younger son of Maggie Hager, 66, an advocate for the disabled, and John, a former tobacco executive who has used a wheelchair since 1973, when he contracted polio from a defective oral vaccine given to his other son Jack (who was not infected). After graduating from Wake Forest University in '00, Henry was hired as a White House intern in 2003. "The guy was composed for his age, very mature, very astute," says a former White House colleague. "He stood out."
Good thing, says a friend of Hager's: "Jenna is the biggest catch in Washington—you've got to be head and shoulders above the rest. She's crazy about him." This fall Bush will publish her first book, Ana's Story, an account she wrote for young adults about a 17-year-old mother with AIDS whom she met in Latin America last year during an eight-month internship with UNICEF. After earning a degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004, Bush—who speaks Spanish—worked as an elementary school teacher at D.C.'s bilingual Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School. She plans a tour of schools around the country this fall to promote her book, which includes an acknowledgment to, among others, "my patient Henry."
So will Jenna be the first daughter of a president to tie the knot in the White House since Tricia Nixon Cox in 1971? "Unlikely," opines one person close to the family, who says Jenna has always felt more at home in Texas. Others insist it's possible. Wherever it begins, this latest chapter for Bush, who caused her dad some public relations ripples during her high-spirited youth, is "part of her evolution," says Noelia Rodriguez, First Lady Laura Bush's former press secretary. "It's a treat to see her transition into someone who is serious about education and children. This relationship is part of that."