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Children of the Struggle

The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement provided an additional hurdle for the generation that followed

1/23/2014, midnight
The parent-child dynamic is an essential building block for all the interpersonal relationships that follow. Aside from its being a ...

The parent-child dynamic is an essential building block for all the interpersonal relationships that follow. Aside from its being a precursor for any social interactions during the course of a lifetime, there is also an inherent tension resulting from the parental responsibility of launching an offspring into a successful adulthood.

These issues are intensified when the parent is in the public eye, which might explain the intolerable behaviors exhibited by these progeny (and their forbearers) in the media. The stress of “measuring up” might be experienced by the spawn of anyone of significant achievement regardless of the arena of success.

A prime example of this was the first son and namesake of Jackie Robinson, who broke the baseball color line and contributed to the Civil Rights Movement. Jackie Robinson Jr. endured a childhood with emotional problems, while the pressures of having an accomplished, famous father discouraged any athletic ambitions the younger Robinson might have had. A stint in the Vietnam Conflict left him saddled with a heroin addiction, a dependence he eventually conquered before his premature death in a car accident at the age of 24 in 1971.

Regardless of race or sociological background, adolescent rebellion has been part and parcel of human evolution since Cain and Abel. In the last century, clinicians have narrowed down the causes to the quest for acceptance (from peers), attention (from everyone), control (especially in this transitional period between childhood and adulthood), freedom (from the constraints of childhood), and identity (apart from the example set by their parents).

A different sort of pressure may be experienced by the children of notables outside the frivolous realm of entertainment, especially when the parent is regarded as one who has bettered the condition of mankind, leaving a legacy with the expectation that the next generation should at least equal, if not surpass.

Achieving maturity under the limelight of celebrity only intensifies the growth process. The spotlight is especially harsh for the offspring of those who select public service, particularly those who rise to head of state.

One would think that having the leader of the free world as a father would draw all the attention anyone could want, but the daughters of the 43rd President of the United States of America apparently desired notoriety of a different sort.

President George W. Bush came to office with a set of nineteen-year-old (fraternal) twins, the first in the history of the American Presidency. Twins Barbara and Jenna are remembered for their diligent efforts to undermine the Secret Service detail charged with their safety. Jenna in particular would leave social events without informing her handlers, and often attempted to evade Secret Service “trail cars” by running red lights. Other frivolous behavior involved under-aged drinking, the use of fake I.D.s, and other typical teenage nonsense.

These high jinks were covered in 2009’s “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect” by Ronald Kessler, but reports of the wayward girls behavior had been documented as far back as 2001 in mainstream publications like People Magazine. Jenna’s wild nature was matched by her then fiancée (and present husband) Henry Hager, whose bouts of binge drinking led to his being hospitalized at Georgetown University Hospital on Halloween night in 2005. On another separate occasion, an intoxicated Hager came close to initiating a bar fight before the Secret Service intervened.