George H.W. Bush is born in Milton, Massachusetts. His mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, wants to name her son after her father, George Herbert Walker, but can not choose between George Herbert Bush and George Walker Bush, so she decides not to choose, and names him George Herbert Walker Bush. He is the second of five children.
George Bush, known as "Poppy," attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In 1940 he contracts a staph infection that puts him in the hospital. He repeats a year at Andover. His sister, Nancy Bush Ellis, refers to 1940 as "the making of George Bush."
The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Bush hears news of the attack while walking across campus and has what he calls "the typical American reaction that we had better do something about this." A few weeks later at a Christmas dance, he meets Barbara Pierce.
Bush enlists in the Navy on his 18th birthday, which also happens to be the day he graduates from Andover. On June 9, 1943, he becomes the youngest commissioned pilot in the naval air service when he is presented with ensign's bars and gold wings. That December, the Navy assigns Bush to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. San Jacinto in the Pacific. As a member of the torpedo squadron VT-51, Bush flies an Avenger bomber on which he inscribes the name "Barbara."
Bush is shot down over a Japanese island, Chichi Jima. Bush radioes his two crewmen, Ted White and John Delaney, telling them to "hit the silk," or bail out. Only one of the two crewmen bails out, and that man's parachute never opens. Bush then bails out himself. He is rescued by the submarine U.S.S. Finback and spends a month on the sub before being dropped off in Midway to return to his squadron aboard the San Jacinto.
George H.W. Bush marries Barbara Pierce while on leave in 1945. The war ends before he returns to duty, and he is honorably discharged on September 18, 1945. In total, he has flown 58 missions, logged 1,228 hours of flying time and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions over Chichi Jima.
George and Barbara's first son, George Walker Bush, is born in New Haven, Connecticut, while Bush is a student at Yale. Bush graduates in two and a half years with honors, is captain of the baseball team, and is admitted to the elite secret society Skull and Bones.
Upon graduating from Yale, Bush takes a job in the oil industry with Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of Ideco, and moves his family to West Texas. Later, Barbara Bush will recall, "we wanted to get out from under the parental gaze, be on our own!"
George and Barbara's second child, Pauline Robinson Bush, who will be called Robin, is born in Compton, California, where Bush's job has taken the family. They will live in Whittier, Huntington Park, Bakersfield and Compton before transferring back to Midland, Texas, in 1950.
Bush co-founds Zapata Petroleum. In 1950 he had formed an oil development company in Midland, Texas, with a neighbor, John Overbey. In 1952 Overbey and Bush join together with William and Hugh Liedtke to form Zapata Petroleum. Zapata soon hits it big with an oil field in Coke County, Jameson Field.
Bush's father, Prescott Bush, is elected to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. His father will serve as Bush's model for public service.
John Ellis Bush is born. Known as "Jeb," his name is derived from his initials. A few weeks after Jeb is born, his three-year-old sister Robin is diagnosed with leukemia.
George and Barbara's daughter Robin dies of leukemia. The Bushes hold a small memorial ceremony in New York, where she received treatment, before returning to their young sons in Texas.
Neil Mallon Bush, the Bushes' fourth child, is born in Midland, Texas.
Marvin Pierce Bush, the Bushes' fifth child and youngest son, is born.
Dorothy "Doro" Bush is born. Soon after her birth, the family moves to Houston.
Bush becomes Chairman of the Harris County Republican Committee. His father retires from the U.S. Senate the same year, citing poor health.
Bush runs against liberal Ralph Yarborough for the U.S. Senate seat from Texas. The political landscape leading up to the 1964 election indicates that Bush might win based on Texas' new conservative bent. The administration of John F. Kennedy had divided the Democratic Party, especially in Texas. However,Kennedy's assassination unites the party behind the new president and native Texan, Lyndon Johnson and squashing Bush's chances of defeating Yarborough.
Bush wins a seat in the U.S. Congress. The Republican Party in Texas revises their 1964 strategy of fielding as many Republican candidates as possible, and decides instead to only let a certain number of candidates run, in order to focus party attention on winning those few races. As a new congressman, Bush does not make much of a mark, but with his father's help, he becomes the first freshman in 63 years to be offered a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Bush gives up his congressional seat to again challenge Ralph Yarborough for the U.S. Senate. Bush plans to position himself as the conservative alternative to Yarborough, but his plan is thwarted when Lloyd Bentsen defeats Yarborough in the Democratic Primary. Bentsen is seen as at least as conservative as Bush and defeats Bush in November. Bush writes to a friend that the loss "sent me to the depths."
Keeping a promise to find Bush a job if his bid for U.S. Senate failed, Richard Nixon announces his appointment of Bush as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nixon had offered Bush a role as a Special Assistant to the President, but Bush argued for the U.N. appointment.
Prescott Bush dies of lung cancer at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York.
Bush leaves the United Nations to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. A month later, the Senate Watergate Committee is established to investigate the administration's involvement in the Watergate break-in.
In a cabinet meeting on August 6, 1974, Bush tells President Nixon that Watergate is sapping public confidence. The next day, he sends a letter to the president suggesting that he resign. President Nixon announces his resignation on August 8, 1974.
Bush waits at Kennebunkport to find out who President Gerald Ford has chosen as vice president. Bush is the first choice among party leaders. Ford calls Bush just before walking out to announce Nelson Rockefeller as his choice. A reporter with Bush in Kennebunkport says, "Mr. Bush, you don't seem to be too upset about this." Bush replies, "Yes, but you can't see what's on the inside."
President Ford offers Bush an ambassadorship in the country of his choosing. Bush chooses China and becomes the U.S. Liaison in Beijing (then Peking). (The U.S. does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1974 and therefore has a liaison office rather than a full embassy.)
While in China, Bush receives a cable from President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asking him to return to Washington to become the Director of Central Intelligence. Bush's confirmation is held up on the grounds that he is too political for the C.I.A. post. To get Bush through the confirmation process, Ford writes a letter promising that if Bush is confirmed by the Senate, "I will not consider him as my vice-presidential running mate" in 1976. It is this promise that gains Bush the approval of both the Armed Services Committee and the full Senate. Bush acts as Director of Central Intelligence until 1977, when newly-elected Democrat Jimmy Carter chooses to replace Bush.
Bush announces his candidacy for president at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Bush wins a surprise victory over Republican front-runner California governor Ronald Reagan in the Iowa caucus. In his victory speech, Bush declares that he has "Big Mo" (momentum) on his side. "Big Mo" is seen as preppy and childish and is the type of phrase that will contribute to his image problem in both the 1980 and later campaigns.
Governor Reagan roars back to life in a debate in Nashua, N.H. Governor Reagan and Ambassador Bush are invited to a two-person debate by the Nashua Telegraph. National campaign rules, however, dictate that no third party can sponsor a debate that excludes other Republican primary candidates. To preserve the two-person debate format, the Reagan and Bush campaigns are asked to pay for the event themselves. Bush turns down the offer -- Reagan agrees to pay the cost of the event. When in response to criticism for excluding the other candidates, Reagan decides to change the rules, Bush sides with the debate moderator in refusing to include the candidates. When the moderator asks for Reagan's microphone to be turned off as Reagan is laying out his case for including the other candidates, Reagan responds with a line from a movie: "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green." Never mind that the moderator's name is Breen, Reagan wins the debate in that moment and goes on to win the New Hampshire primary.
Bush officially pulls out of the race for the Republican nomination.
At the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Bush receives a phone call in his hotel room from Ronald Reagan, asking him to be the vice presidential nominee. Bush accepts the nomination and Reagan's platform. In a joint press conference the following day, Bush says "I won't permit myself to get bogged down in trying to find or accentuate -- or permit you to make me accentuate -- differences that I had with the governor during the campaign because they had been minimal." To George Bush this is a statement of loyalty to Reagan. To Bush detractors, this statement signals a lack of firm convictions.
Reagan-Bush defeats Carter-Mondale by a wide margin. The Reagan-Bush ticket captures 44 states to Carter's six states and the District of Columbia.
George Bush is sworn in as the nation's 41st vice president. As vice president, he travels 1.3 million miles, visiting 50 states and 65 countries. He represents the United States at so many state funerals that his friend James Baker quips that his motto should be "You die, I fly."
President Reagan is shot outside the Washington (D.C.) Hilton Hotel. Vice President Bush's reaction to the assassination attempt, especially his restraint, demonstrated in even small gestures like not sitting in the president's chair in cabinet meetings, cements the relationship between Reagan and Bush. His restraint also assuages doubts left over from the bruising primary campaign among Reagan's closest advisors about Bush's loyalty to President Reagan.
In his first public statement about the Iran-Contra affair, Vice President Bush admits that "mistakes were made." He continues, "I was aware of our Iran initiative, and I support the president's decision. And I was not aware of and I oppose any diversion of funds, any ransom payments, or any circumvention of the will of the Congress or the laws of the United States of America. And as the various investigations proceed, I have this to say: let the chips fall where they may. We want the truth. The president wants it. I want it. And the American people have a fundamental right to it. And if the truth hurts, so be it." This speech draws praise but does not keep Bush from being suspected of knowing more than he let on. Doubts about Bush's involvement will linger through his 1992 presidential campaign.
George Bush announces his presidential candidacy for the second time. The week he announces, aNewsweek magazine hits the stands with a cover photo of Bush with the headline, "Fighting the Wimp Factor."
Bush accepts the Republican nomination at the convention in New Orleans. His acceptance speech will be widely cited as the best speech of his entire political career.
Bush-Quayle defeats Dukakis-Bentsen, capturing 40 states and 53 percent of the popular vote.
George H.W. Bush is inaugurated as the 41st President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he reiterates his call for a "kinder, gentler America," which many see as a subtle departure from the Reagan agenda.
The Chinese government brutally suppresses an uprising in Tiananmen Square. Bush's reaction is criticized for not being tough enough. This event is an example of Bush's proclivity to choose personal diplomacy over public pronouncements. Rather than publicly condemn the actions of the Chinese government, as many think he should, Bush writes a letter to the Chinese leadership laying out his thoughts and grave concerns about the event.
The Berlin Wall falls. Bush famously says he will not dance on the wall. Critics charge he should take part in the celebrations of the symbolic end of the Cold War. Bush is concerned that celebrations of victory by the American president will provoke a backlash in the Soviet Union.
In response to the murder of a U.S. Navy seaman and the beating of two American witnesses by members of the Panamanian Defense Force, the United States invades Panama and captures Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to bring him to trial on drug trafficking charges in the U.S. Though it takes two weeks to find Noriega after the invasion, the administration celebrates a military action largely seen as a success.
Bush breaks his "no new taxes" pledge when he agrees to put taxes on the table in negotiating a budget deal with congressional Democrats.
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invades neighboring Kuwait in a dispute over oil fields. George Bush, who came of age during World War II, sees Hussein in terms of Adolf Hitler and resolves from the start to eject Iraq from Kuwait entirely, regardless of whether or not force is required.
Bush and the bipartisan budget committee announce their budget agreement in a Rose Garden ceremony. Newt Gingrich, the House minority whip and a member of the bipartisan committee, refuses to attend the announcement ceremony and leads a Republican revolt against Bush's budget agreement.
Bush signs the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The New York Times refers to the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 as the single most distinguished policy achievement of the Bush administration.
Going to war over Kuwait proves a hard sell on the U.S. Congress. Many Congressional leaders feel that the administration has not given enough time for economic sanctions imposed on Iraq to take effect and force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. After a November U.N. vote backing the use of "all means necessary" to eject Hussein's army, Congress passes a war resolution of its own, though support is far from overwhelming. The Senate passes the resolution by a narrow margin, 52-47.
Operation Desert Storm begins. The first phase of the war is an air assault. The ground offensive begins five weeks later and will last only 100 hours before the decision is made to end the war.
A ceasefire is declared in the Persian Gulf War. On March 3, Iraqi and coalition military leaders meet to dictate the terms.
Lee Atwater, Bush's tough-knuckled 1988 campaign manager and political advisor, dies of brain cancer.
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My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?