Richard B. Cheney
"The president of the United States is the president of every single American, of every race and every background. Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests and I will work to earn your respect. I will be guided by President Jefferson's sense of purpose, to stand for principle, to be reasonable in manner, and above all, to do great good for the cause of freedom and harmony. The presidency is more than an honor. It is more than an office. It is a charge to keep, and I will give it my all." -- [Bush Election Acceptance Speech - 13 December 2000]
The first American president to take office in the 21st Century is the
eldest son of the man who has been described as the "last president of the
World War II generation." George Walker Bush was born into a family where
his grandfather, Prescott Bush, would in 1952 be elected to the United States
Senate from Connecticut; and while "George W's" family was one of
some business and political success, in July 1946 neither of the future Bush
presidencies could have been foreseen. What was clear then was that his
parents, George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush, like most other younger Americans of
the day, were eager to move ahead with their peacetime lives following the end
of World War II.In 1948,
and following the elder George Bush's graduation from Yale University, the
young Bush family would "go West" to the oil fields of West Texas.
There "George senior" would seek to find financial success,
independent of the business accomplishments of his father, Prescott Bush. Years
later, George W. would attempt to follow this same path to independence, and in
this and many other ways the story of "George the son" is
dramatically tied to, and somewhat similar to, the story of "George the
Raised for most of his childhood in Midland, Texas, George W. would as an adult continue to identify himself with both the rugged independence and the values of that area of rural Texas. A place where the town motto is "the sky is the limit," and a place where George W. would call home. During George W's August 2000 presidential nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC), he further described Midland as a place where, "[t]here was a restless energy, a basic conviction that, with hard work, anybody could succeed, and everybody deserved a chance." On December 21, 2000, it would be a somewhat teary-eyed President-elect George W. Bush that, as he resigned his position as Governor of Texas and finalized plans for the move to the White House, solidly reconfirmed Texas as his "home." However, following grade school and his family's 1959 move to Houston, George W's family roots would again take him back East, beginning in the tenth grade for prep school and later for college. Like his father before him, George W. would attend the exclusive Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and the prestigious Yale University back in the actual place of his birth, New Haven, Connecticut.
At Phillips Academy, and later at Yale, George W. would gain a reputation as a "fun loving guy," who easily made new friends. He would have his first successful "run for office," president of his college fraternity - Delta Kappa Epsilon. As the Vietnam War began to have a negative affect on much of the America of the mid-1960's, George W, a member of the Class of 1968, would maintain a more traditional college experience removed from the anti-war activities and drug scene. As a senior, he would follow in his father's path by becoming a member of the influential secret society known as the "Skull and Bones." During his time at Yale, there would however be the beginnings of an easiness with alcohol that would lead to experiences that in later life, George W. would describe as "things" that he was "not proud of." Later, as a candidate for public office, when he was pressured to provide details of these activities he would respond, "when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."
In an awakening, that has been widely reported, following his 40th birthday, George W. would later in the mid-1980's give up alcohol completely. He would credit both his wife, Laura and the evangelist Reverend Billy Graham with laying the foundation for his decision to stop drinking. Laura Bush would pose George W. with the possibility of life with "Jack Daniels" but without her, and Reverend Graham would begin George W. on a renewal of his Christian faith. Of Reverend Graham's influence, George W. would, in his 1999 autobiography "A Charge to Keep," write:
"Actually, the seeds of my decision had been planted the year before, by the Reverend Billy Graham. He visited my family for a summer in Maine... (W)e walked at Walker's Point, and I knew I was in the presence of a great man. He was like a magnet; I felt drawn to seek something different. He didn't lecture or admonish; he shared warmth and concern. Billy Graham didn't make you feel guilty he made you feel loved... Over the course of that weekend, Reverend Graham planted a mustard seed in my soul, a seed that grew over the next year. He led me to the path, and I began walking."
Before then however, in 1968 George W. would have a more immediate major life decision to confront - military service during wartime. However, in 1968 wartime service had become to be viewed much differently in America than it had been in the early 1940's when "George senior" volunteered for service as a combat pilot. In "A Charge to Keep," George W. wrote of this time as his graduation from college was nearing:
"The other reality of 1968 was Vietnam. The war became increasingly personal as friends who had graduated the year before went into the military. The war was no longer something that was happening to other people in a distant land, it came home to us... I was well aware of my dad's military service as a Navy fighter pilot in World War II. I had heard the stories and seen the pictures of his dramatic rescue after he was shot down over the Pacific Ocean... I'm sure the fact that my dad had been a fighter pilot influenced my thinking."
being accepted for pilot training, George W. volunteered for service in the
Texas Air National Guard. In December 1969, Congressman George H.W. Bush
had the honor of pinning second lieutenant's bars on his son's shoulders.
Along with a commission, George W. had earned his wings as a pilot of F-102A
Delta Dagger Interceptor fighter jets. His tour of duty with the guard
would place him in the 147th fighter wing at Ellington Air Force Base in
Houston, but did not lead him to Vietnam. Joining him in his guard unit were
the son of Texas Governor John Connally and the son of the future senator and
vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen.
In 1973, George W. headed back East, this time to a destination that his father had not preceded him at, Harvard University Business School. While in search of a master's degree in business administration, the future Governor of Texas, was not looking to establish a permanent home in the East. George W. had already determined that for him, Texas was home, a commitment that he would, in the days before his inauguration as president, strongly restate by formally leaving from Washington, D.C. by way of his boyhood hometown - Midland, Texas. As much as any skill that George W. learned in his time at Harvard, he developed a confidence in his own abilities. Upon leaving Harvard with an MBA, in 1975 George W. would in a sense return to his father's earlier path by heading West to Texas.
However unlike his father, heading to Texas was "heading home to Midland," even if he hoped that he was heading onto his father's path to independence, through success in the oil business. While George W. would put considerable energy into his efforts in wildcat oil drilling, setting up two small companies and making a payroll, he never "hit the big one" in oil. For him, hitting the big one in business would come on a whole different "playing field," professional baseball. In 1988, George W, while short on cash in comparison to his major financial and senior partners, played the key role in purchasing, and then turning around the Texas Rangers baseball team. He would be given the role of "managing partner," and contribute greatly to improving the Rangers both as a business and a winning franchise. In fact Bush's initial investment of $600,000 equaled about a third of Bush's net worth at that time, but only a small faction of the $80 million it would take to purchase the franchise from Eddie Chiles the ailing, longtime previous team owner.
His successful effort to move the Rangers into a first-class new stadium has been viewed by some as his first successful political campaign. Tom Grieve the general manager of the Rangers at the time was among those with high praise for Bush's leadership role in the management of the team.
"He was there every day. He sat next to the dugout. He was on the field before the game. When there were tough decisions to be made, he accepted responsibility for them, and we all always appreciated that. He didn't hide behind anybody. He was there to take the heat."
In the PBS Frontline documentary entitled, The Choice, writer Peter Boyle made the following observation:
"The people of Arlington, Texas, voted to tax themselves for a new stadium. George W. built it, and they came. He had found his calling, working the public to his will and making them love it. On opening day, George W. Bush, now a successful businessman in his own right, watched his father throw out the first ball."
Roland Betts, one of Bush's senior partners with the Rangers, remarked in praise of George W's central role in the building of the new stadium:
"Suddenly, he's George Bush, Texas Ranger owner, entrepreneur, successful businessman, as opposed to George Bush, son of the president of the United States. He's still that, but he's much more now."
W's success with the Texas Rangers is evidenced in the substantial return on
his initial investment he earned when the Rangers were sold in 1998. Bush
would receive $14.9 million from the sale.
But George W's first attempt to win a campaign of his own came before the success he achieved with the Texas Rangers. In that race he would fight hard, come close but lose the 1978 race for election as the U.S. Representative from the 19th Congressional District of Texas. The 19th District's three key cities are - Midland, Odessa and Lubbock, with Lubbock the largest of the three. George W. won the Republican Party's nomination by beating the popular former Mayor of Odessa - who had the endorsement of then presidential contender Ronald Reagan. However, he would lose to his Democratic opponent, State Senator Kent Hance, who painted George W. as a "carpetbagger" from the East. While George W. would carry his "hometown" area around Midland, 14 of the district's 17 counties went to Hance, who beat Bush overall in the vote count 53,917 to 47,497.
"It is during this same time period that George W, an active bachelor, would be introduced to Laura Welch, a Midland native, and a school teacher and librarian. In "A Charge to Keep," Bush would describe this meeting as:
"If it wasn't love at first sight, it happened shortly thereafter. My wife is gorgeous, good-humored, quick to laugh, down-to-earth, and very smart. I recognized those attributes right away, in roughly that order, the night our friends Joey and Jan O'Neill conspired to introduce us at dinner at their house."
over the years, George W. would describe his asking Laura to marry him as "the
best decision I ever made." Having met just three months earlier
in the Summer of 1977, on 5 November 1977 the two were married .
Much more than a connection to the oil industry, government service and the competition for public office is the true Bush family legacy, and George W. eagerly sought to continue in the "family business." In Bill Minutaglio's biography, "First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty," he describes the elder Bush's feeling on his son's first political campaign:
"... the elder Bush was, as he said, pleased that his son was simply competing. And as he reflected on it with a historian, he thought that his son was really doing exactly what the Bushes were supposed to do: 'passing on of the tradition, passing on legacy.' His son's decision to run for Congress was ... all about the encompassing concept of competition that had been inculcated in each of the children and grandchildren by Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker during almost every day ... 'You can't win unless you run.'"
would not be until 1994, after the elder Bush would have been elected twice as Ronald Reagan's vice president, and then served as the 41st
President of the United States, that George W. would make the decision to run
again for public office himself. He would however be an active, behind
the scenes advisor and "loyalty Czar" for his father during both of
the elder Bush's runs for the presidency and during his term of office.
He would learn the lessons of "major league" politics, lessons he
would put into action first in his 1994 campaign for Texas Governor.
The incumbent governor, Ann Richards would greatly underestimate the abilities of the younger Bush, and on many occasions during the campaign refer to her opponent as "shrub," a derisive play on the word for a "small bush." During the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Richards, who was then Texas state treasurer, had made use of this same "cutting tongue" in a keynote address where she insulted the elder Bush, then running for a second term as president: "Poor George... he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." George W. would run a smart, effective campaign, would avoid being provoked into exchanging personal attacks, and in his debate with Richards, overcome low expectations.
In the end, George W. would beat Richards by more than 335,000 votes, garnering 54% of the total vote, and avenging some family honor in the process. Well known for his fierce loyalty to his father, and sharing his mother's reported toughness, George W. most probably took note of the fact that his victory was seen by many as "settling a score" with a highly visible critic of his father's. For both George Bushes, and the rest of the Bush family, the joy of George W's victory in the 1994 race for Texas Governor was tempered only by the loss that same night of another Bush. George's brother Jeb Bush would lose a tight race for Governor of Florida by less than 75,000 votes.
Even before his first campaign for Texas Governor was over, George W. would boldly and aggressively pursue his campaign agenda, in part by reaching out to key Democrats in Texas state political office. Most prominently, the long-serving and highly respected Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock. In his first inaugural address as Texas Governor, George W. expressed a theme that would continue to be central to him during his later run for President, stating:
"For the last thirty years, our culture has steadily replaced personal responsibility with collective guilt. This must end. The new freedom Texas seeks must be matched with renewed personal responsibility."
Together with Pete Laney, the Democratic Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Bullock would prove to be a key factor in Bush's ability to successfully meet his first term goals of education reform, juvenile justice reform and tax reform. Following the end of the 1995 legislative session, the Dallas Morning News headline read: "Governor Views Legislative Session as Personal Victory." Bush, concerned that the headline inaccurately confused the bipartisan nature of the session wrote the following letter to the editor:
"Your headline and front-page story attempting to give me credit for the success of the 1995 legislative session missed the mark. As I have said repeatedly, no one person deserves credit for the success of this legislative session. This session was successful because Democrats and Republicans, representatives of big cities and small rural communities and representatives of the many diverse regions of Texas worked together, in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation. We found common ground and forged consensus based on our conservative philosophy. Much of the credit belongs to two outstanding leaders, Governor Bullock and Speaker Laney, as well as to all 31 members of the Texas House of Representatives. The people of Texas told us they wanted better schools, tougher juvenile and criminal justice laws, a reformed welfare system, and fairer tort laws. The people of Texas can be proud that working together, we delivered."
Election Year 1998 took hold, George W. was solidly positioned to begin a
second run for Governor of Texas. Not only did he have high job approval
ratings in public opinion polling, he also possessed an endorsement that he
took particular pride in. That endorsement came in November 1997 from Lt.
Gov. Bullock, the highest-ranking Democratic officeholder in the state.
What made this endorsement even more incredible was the fact that Bullock was
the godfather to one of the children of the Democratic candidate for Governor,
Garry Mauro, a Texas land commissioner. The ease at which Bush appeared
headed to re-election as Governor fueled increasing speculation that George W.
could be, or would be a candidate for President in Year 2000. By
September 1998, polls showed that 55% of Texans "wouldn't mind" if
George W. ran for president, and he was polling at about 70% in his race for a
second term as governor. Bush would on election day 1998 receive 67% of
the votes from his fellow Texans, and with those votes become the only
Texas Governor in the history of the state to be elected to two consecutive
Fueled in part by an intense Republican desire to sweep President Clinton and his entire administration from office, the newly re-elected George W. Bush quickly became the favored son for the nomination by the remaining establishment of the Republican Party. Bush moved with crisp, steady speed in lining up both the support of his fellow Republican governors from across the country, and the finances necessary to run a modern presidential campaign. Interestingly, the only bump in the road for Bush in gaining the 2000 Republican Party nomination for President was the candidacy of the leading Republican proponent for campaign finance reform, Arizona Senator John McCain. Briefly, the division between the two Republican candidates developed into near warfare, but following the South Carolina primary loss McCain's candidacy began to lose its remaining speed.
By the time of the RNC, with Sen. McCain formally behind Bush, Republicans began to look with confidence toward the fall election. George W. would give the Republican delegates reason for confidence in a speech that exceeded expectations, defined his message of "compassionate conservativism," and continued his theme of "restoring honor and dignity in the White House" - an unmistakable reference to President Clinton and the scandals of his presidency. In part he told the convention and the nation the following:
"For eight years, the Clinton/Gore administration has coasted through prosperity. And the path of least resistance is always downhill. But Americas way is the rising road. This nation is daring and decent and ready for change. Our current president embodied the potential of a generation. So many talents. So much charm. Such great skill. But, in the end, to what end? So much promise, to no great purpose."
"America has a strong economy and a surplus. We have the public resources and the public will even the bipartisan opportunities to strengthen Social Security and repair Medicare. But this administration during eight years of increasing needdid nothing. They had their moment. They have not led. We will."
He continued... "Tonight, in this hall, we resolve to be, not the party of repose, but the party of reform. We will write, not footnotes, but chapters in the American story. We will add the work of our hands to the inheritance of our fathers and mothers and leave this nation greater than we found it."
And in direct reference to both his perceptions of the failings of the Clinton Administration, and the those of the Democratic nominee, Vice President Albert Gore of Tennessee... he stated:
"I believe the presidency the final point of decision in the American government was made for great purposes. It is the office of Lincolns conscience and Teddy Roosevelts energy and Harry Trumans integrity and Ronald Reagan s optimism. For me, gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime, but it IS the opportunity of a lifetime. And I will make the most of it. I believe great decisions are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls. I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind. I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes. When I act, you will know my reasons When I speak, you will know my heart. I believe in tolerance, not in spite of my faith, but because of it. I believe in a God who calls us, not to judge our neighbors, but to love them. I believe in grace, because I have seen it In peace, because I have felt it In forgiveness, because I have needed it. I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division. I will not attack a part of this country, because I want to lead the whole of it. And I believe this will be a tough race, down to the wire. Their war room is up and running but we are ready. Their attacks will be relentless but they will be answered. We are facing something familiar, but they are facing something new. We are now the party of ideas and innovation The party of idealism and inclusion. The party of a simple and powerful hope "
George W's statement that he
believed "this will be a tough race," proved to be more true
than anyone could have imagined. Following the Democratic National
Convention and a powerful speech from their nominee, Vice President Gore, the
Bush lead turned into a Gore lead. George W. would campaign hard, and
following three strong performances in the Presidential Debates that saw Bush
again exceed expectations and Gore provide three completely different sides of
himself, Bush by election day on 7 November 2000 was leading by roughly 3 to 5
percentage points in the national opinion polls. Many political observers
wondered the extent to which third party candidate Ralph Nader would affect the
outcome. While nationally the Nadar vote ultimately did not make the
difference Al Gore would win the popular vote nationally in any case
the approximately 94,000 votes Nadar received in Florida became one of
many seemingly minor things that could have changed the results of the entire
Ultimately, "Election Night 2000" would turn into a 36 day odyssey, beginning with the television networks first declaring Florida for Gore, then undecided, then for Bush. With the electoral votes from Florida, even though V.P. Gore was leading in the national popular vote, the election would go to Bush. As Al Gore was minutes away from publicly conceding, after having called George W. and conceding over the telephone, the networks reversed themselves again, returning Florida to their "too close to call column," and plunging the nation into an analysis of one of the closest elections in U.S. history that would seem almost endless.
By early morning on 8 November 2000, the Gore campaign would be sending a virtual army of lawyers to Florida to press the case for recounts, an election contest and an election protest. The Bush camp would quickly join in the full battle of the lawyers and both sides would for more than a month go into a political war that saw each side led into battle by a former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher for Gore and James Baker III for Bush. After a mandatory "machine" recount of the ballots cast on election night, George W. held onto his slim lead. The Gore camp, in the effort to win the electoral votes from Florida that both camps needed to win the election, was then forced to either quit or press ahead for additional recounts, this time by hand. The scope of this task proved to be incredible and soon turned into an absolute spectacle as "punch card" ballots, with "hanging chads" of paper were driven into the center of the national debate.
The election was no longer in the hands of the voters, but lawyers and the Florida courts, all within a highly charged partisan atmosphere. The Florida State Supreme Court would become viewed by Republicans as attempting to help the Gore forces beyond the rule of law established by the Florida legislature. Democrats would argue that the Florida State Supreme Court and the Gore camp were merely seeking to "count all the votes." Finally, after these issues went twice to both the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on 12 December 2000 that in essence put an end to Vice President Gore's challenges to the election results in Florida, results which had been previously certified under Florida law by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Although, the Bush lead was by the narrowest of margins, throughout the controversy the lead held, and the Bush certified victory in Florida became the margin of victory overall. While the vote total margin in favor of George W. of 537 votes certified on 26 November 2000 was certified 12 days later than was mandated by state statute, due to the intervention of the Florida State Supreme Court, it would apparently stand at: 2,912,790 votes for Bush and 2,912,253 votes for Gore. This despite the fact that these totals included "suspect" recounts that had been ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court as having been unconstitutionally conducted. Even if the vote totals were as they stood after the mandatory machine recount, and most likely including the count of "overseas absentee" ballots, the margin of the George W. lead in Florida would still number only somewhere between 930 and 1700 votes. Enough for victory, but nonetheless amazingly narrow.
In the end, George W. Bush, who would become only the second son of a president to become president, would also become one of only four presidents to be elected despite losing the popular vote. Vice President Gore, in a nationally televised speech to the nation made on 13 December 2000, while strongly disagreeing with the underlying opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court majority, accepted the finality of the decision and eloquently conceded the election. Later that same night, a humble George W. Bush spoke to the nation from the Texas House of Representatives. There, in a forum emblematic of his earlier bipartisan efforts, George W. accepted the Gore concession, and appealed for bipartisanship and national unity, as he looked ahead to his presidency.
On 20 January 2001, with former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter looking on, along with President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the 54th Presidential Inaugural ceremony took place at the U.S. Capitol. There on a cold, rainy winter day, George Bush the father, beaming with pride, watched his son, George W. follow his path to the White House. There George W. Bush set upon the difficult task of leading a divided nation by calling its people to action in a cause greater than political party:
"I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well."
"In all these ways, I will bring the values of our history to the care of our times."
"What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character"
history is prologue to the future, and as America prepared to move forward with
its new president, the history of the George W. Bush presidency was just
Date of Birth
6 July 1946
Age When First
Number of States
Residences After Presidency
Q1: George W's educational
background includes what unique accomplishment as compared to all other presidents? And the answer is...
Q3: Besides his father, what other
American President is George W, distantly related? And the answer is...
Q4: George W's election as Governor of Texas
holds what Presidential distinction? And the answer is...
WWW Links Regarding Our Forty-Third President
Read the Inaugural Addresses of each of our presidents by going to the site maintained by the Bartleby Library.
that President George W. Bush is the most recent past president, the history he helped make
is yet to be fully understood and written, and therefore this page is
still under construction. Please forward any suggested topic areas and links
regarding the President to the Chief
Executive Club. And finally, I hope you did not miss the Fast Facts Table for President Bush or the GWB Quiz. If you did, click on those links and take
Return to the Chief Executive Club Main Page for fast facts and
more about our other presidents.
© 2000, 2002 and 2009 Thomas J. Lemmer
(This page was last edited on 20 January 2009 by Thomas J. Lemmer)