- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Jenna Bush and Barbara Bush, now graduated from college and all grown up, took care of the youth constituency last night by hosting a concert at the D.C. Armory.

The event, part of the week’s inauguration festivities, was titled “America’s Future Rocks Today,” and featured a lengthy lineup of pop stars, including Hilary Duff and JoJo, along with athletes and other speakers.

The 10,000 youths in attendance heard numerous messages about volunteerism and community involvement from celebrities and teenagers alike.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrived at the end of the two-hour program and urged the youths to participate in service and community involvement, as they did at a similar event for his first inauguration four years ago.

The Bush twins, now both 23, did not appear on stage, instead watching from box seats above the stage.

The two-hour event sometimes veered close to being a rock concert, such as when Carl Bell, lead singer for the rock band Fuel, forgot where he was.

“Welcome to the best [expletive] country in the world,” he yelled to the crowd, before falling silent for a moment.

After a brief pause, Mr. Bell said, “I wasn’t supposed to use that word. I apologize.”

There was also one crowd-surfer spotted. Most of the night, however, took on the feel of a showcase for young teens, with the 14-year old JoJo and Miss Duff book-ending pop-rockers 3 Doors Down.

During the first song of 3 Doors Down’s set, “When I’m Gone,” video screens flashed images of American soldiers saying goodbye to their families as they were deployed overseas.

Several teens who initiated public service programs gave video testimonials and then spoke to the crowd.

Becca Robinson, 13, from Layton, Utah, founded Astrotots, a space camp for girls ages 4 to 10 to get them interested in science.

Amy Poklar, a teen from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, founded Shoes for Afghanistan. She collected 850 pairs of shoes from car dealerships in the Cleveland area and sent them to her cousin to distribute to the needy in Afghanistan.

The crowd was enthused for Miss Duff and a few other artists, but cheered the loudest for Mr. Bush and the first lady, who wore a green suit.

“I’m particularly thrilled to be standing on the stage with some of America’s soldiers in the army of compassion,” Mr. Bush said after Miss Duff’s performance.

Backstage before the show, 10-year-old Jordan Millard of Woodbridge got to meet Miss Duff, the 17-year-old actress-singer best known for the role of Lizzie McGuire.

“I feel excited and scared,” said Jordan, whose father is stationed at Fort Belvoir. She and more than a dozen other military children met Miss Duff through the Armed Forces Foundation.

Concertgoers Meghan Lowry and Abbee Thevenot, both 16 and from New Orleans, paid $2,000 to come to Washington for a week to learn about government and politics. Both supported Mr. Bush.

“I agree with most of his views. I think he’s a good leader,” Meghan said.

Abbee liked the president for a different reason though.

“He’s hot,” she said.

The two girls stood in front of a long catwalk that extended from the massive main stage, where, between acts, large video screens flashed quotes about community service from Abraham Lincoln, Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and former first lady Barbara Bush.

Claire Palada and Matthew Szeto, both 17 and from San Francisco, came with Closeup, the same group as Meghan and Abbee. They had hoped that Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, would win the 2004 election, but were excited to see the president anyway.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Matthew said.

“I’m supportive of him anyway because he’s the president,” Claire said.

Meghan and Abbee said the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, were “so beautiful,” but Matthew added that they were “a little on the wild side for me.”

But he said, “we wouldn’t mind partying with them.”

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