As George W. Bush's communications director during his tenure as the governor of Texas and then as counselor to the President when he went to Washington, Karen Hughes became an expert at tackling complicated issues.
But on a recent Sunday morning at her church in Austin, Texas, Karen—who some newspapers described as "the most powerful woman ever to serve in the White House"—found herself stumped. And the question came from a two-year-old.
"Where is Jesus?" the little girl asked Karen, who now teaches Sunday school to toddlers as part of the new life she's shaped for herself since leaving her high-profile job in Washington, D.C. two years ago.
"She wanted to see him," Karen says with a laugh, "because she'd heard he was at church."
Despite her focused, "always on message" persona, Karen says she loves working with children. Yet for the first 18 months of President Bush's administration, she barely had time to attend church, much less teach a Sunday school class. Karen, 47, helped the President write major speeches, shaped and communicated his policy initiatives, co-authored his autobiography, and traveled with him to meet with international leaders.
But even though working in Washington, D.C. was the dream of a lifetime, Karen soon found herself torn between her job's never-ending demands and her desire to live a balanced life. She wanted to teach Sunday school, join a women's Bible study, and most importantly, spend time with her family—husband, Jerry; grown stepdaughter, Leigh; granddaughter, Lauren; and her now 17-year-old son, Robert. It was Robert's misery as a teenager in D.C. that led Karen to step away from her prestigious position and move her family back to Texas. She still advises President Bush from home and has been active with his reelection campaign while she focuses on speaking engagements these days.1