All the president's children: What have the offspring of US presidents been getting up to?

As Donald Trump’s offspring feel the glare of world attention, Andrea Mara looks at the fortunes of the other progeny of previous White House occupants

That US president Donald Trump would continue to make headlines after his election was never in doubt, and indeed the same could be said about each of his five children, all of whom have grown up in the public eye.

His elder daughter Ivanka (35) is regularly in the headlines, unsurprising given her proximity to the president — she now has an office in the White House for her (unpaid) role as advisor to her father. The businesswoman has handed over day-to-day control of her company, and her Instagram feed which once featured pictures of her handbag and jewellery lines now shows her sitting in meetings with Angela Merkel.

In contrast, her brothers Donald Jr (39) and Eric (33) (right) are said to have very little direct contact with their father since he became president, as they have taken over running the Trump Organisation in his absence.

Recently they’ve been the subject of a Saturday Night Live sketch in which “Donald Jr” reiterates over and over that “dad” is definitely not involved in running the business.

Tiffany, the president’s younger daughter is steering clear of business and politics for now — at 23, she has tried her hand at singing and modelling to date. And the youngest child, Barron (10) is still living in Trump Tower with his mother Melania.

But what of their predecessors — the “first children” who have come and gone through the White House doors — what did they do in their time and where are they now?

Lynda Bird Johnson Robb

The oldest surviving “first child” is Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Now aged 73, she was 19 when her father became president — after the assassination of John F Kennedy.

At the time, she graced the gossip columns when she dated actor George Hamilton, but in 1967 she married future Governor of Virginia, Chuck Robb. During her post-White House years, she was best known for her work with literary organisation Reading Is Fundamental, and as contributing editor to Ladies Home Journal magazine. Incidentally, in case you’re wondering where Lynda’s mother Lady Bird got her name, it was a nickname given to her by a nanny, and it stuck for life.

Tricia Nixon

Tricia, the elder daughter of Richard Nixon, also once dated a famous George; in this case it was George W. Bush, back in the late 1960s, long before he became president. According to Bush (in his biography of his father) the date was a disaster — he spilled the wine, then lit a cigarette but was asked by Tricia not to smoke. They did not date again. Tricia married law student Edward Cox in the Rose Garden of the White House, and went on to live a relatively private life in New York. She’s now 71.

Patti Davis

Someone who has not shied away from the spotlight is Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s daughter Patti. She was known for her liberal views, contrasting with those of her famously conservative parents, and was an activist in the anti-nuclear movement. She was also a TV actress in a soap opera called Rituals and wrote a screenplay for made-for-TV film Sacrifices of the Heart. She posed for Playboy, and wrote numerous books, including A House of Secrets, about a liberal writer with a passive father and a control freak mother.

Ron Reagan

Patti’s younger brother Ron has also continued to spend his post White House years in the public eye, working as an actor, journalist, and radio show host. He too was known for his liberal politics, and at the age of 12, he declared himself atheist.

In the late 1970s, he dropped out of Yale to join a ballet troupe, and went on to become a radio presenter. He made headlines in 2011 when his memoir about Ronald Reagan, My Father at 100, seemed to speculate that the former president may have been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s while still in office.

Speaking in an interview with The Atlantic, Ron pointed out that because Alzheimer’s unfolds over many years, long before it shows symptoms, this was a logical conclusion. Nevertheless, it did cause controversy and drew heavy criticism from his half-brother Michael.

Susan Ford

Now aged 59, Susan Ford was the first and only person who ever hosted a high-school prom in the White House. Back in 1975, she and her classmates fund-raised to cover the cost of the dance, according to Vanity Fair, hiring two bands and dining on Swedish meatballs and quiche. Her parents, Gerald and Betty Ford couldn’t attend, so the partygoers were chaperoned by teachers, and Susan’s aunt Janet. Susan became a photojournalist and author, writing two books about a president’s daughter who solves mysteries while living in the White House. She also served on the board of the Betty Ford Center, was founded by her mother.

Steven Ford

Susan’s older brother Steven was 18 when his father took office, and studying range management in college, but he went on to become an actor, known mostly for his role as PI Andy Richards in long-running soap The Young and the Restless. He also had small roles in Transformer, Black Hawk Down, and When Harry Met Sally. In recent years, he has moved away from acting to support the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

Jenna Bush-Hager

Jenna Bush-Hager is one of the more high-profile children of the White House, working as a correspondent for NBC’s Today show. She’s been in the public eye for most of her life — visiting the White House for the first time aged seven, when her grandfather George Bush took office. When her father was president, the then 19-year-old made headlines after being cited for holding a bottle of beer in an Austin night club, and trying to use a fake ID in a restaurant. Today, the 35-year-old teacher and mother is also an author and editor.

Barbara Bush

Jenna’s twin sister Barbara is seen as the quieter of the two, although she was present for the fake ID incident when the sisters were 19. She studied at Yale and subsequently worked with Aids patients in South Africa. On her return, she and friends founded Global Health Corps, whose mission statement says they “mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for health equity”. She’s known for her liberal views, and has supported a same-sex marriage campaign in New York where she lives.

Chelsea Clinton

Like the Bush children, Chelsea (above) has spent most of her life in the public glare, entering the White House at just 12, when her father Bill Clinton took office. She was 18 when media coverage was amplified after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but managed to stay out of the limelight for the most part during her college years, and her work in the private sector. She was back in the public eye recently while campaigning for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, and is a board member of her family’s philanthropic organisation, the Clinton Foundation. She has become more outspoken recently on social media about healthcare, equality, racism, and the new president.

Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy was one of the youngest “first children” to move into the White House — she was just three years old when her father John F Kennedy became president. She was known at the time for riding her pony around the White House grounds, and many years later, singer Neil Diamond revealed that the song ‘Sweet Caroline’ was inspired by her. After her father was assassinated, her mother Jackie moved the family to New York, and Caroline went on to become an author and editor. Most recently, she has spent three years as the first female US ambassador to Japan.


© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

More in this Section

Bea Johnson: Queen of Zero Waste

Remembering Easter Rising hero Thomas Ashe 100 years on

Online Lives: Erika Fox

Ray Foley commutes from Dublin to Cork to join Jason Coughlan on air


Lifestyle

Cork Folk Festival headliner Andy Irvine on the road again

Remembering Easter Rising hero Thomas Ashe 100 years on

Bea Johnson: Queen of Zero Waste

Inishturk island: Home to 60 people, several B&Bs and a lively summer seisiún

More From The Irish Examiner