President George H. W. “Poppy” Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts. He was raised in a privileged family in suburban Connecticut. The Bush family had a long tradition of business acumen and public service. His grandfather, George Herbert Walker, Sr., founded the private Wall Street banking firm, G.H. Walker and Company. His father, Prescott Sheldon Bush was also a successful businessman who later became a senator from Connecticut. His mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, had a lifelong influence on him. When George H.W. was President he quipped that she was still instructing him in the White House. George H.W. credits his parents with passing on to him his core values: “Tell the truth, be honest, work hard, try to see the other guy’s point of view while sticking to your own principles.

George Herbert Walker’s core values were affirmed attending the Phillips Academy in Andover, a private school. On his 18th birthday he enlisted in the armed forces. He was the youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings. George HW flew 58 combat missions during World War II. On one mission over the Pacific as a torpedo bomber pilot he was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and was rescued from the sea by a US submarine. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action. George H W would later credit his Navy experience for leaving a deep imprint on him. It forced him, he said, to count his blessings. While running for President he said, “I can tell you this: If I’m ever in a position to call the shots, I’m not going to rush to send somebody else’s kids into a war.”

George H W next turned his energies toward completing his education. He attended Yale University and excelled both in sports and his studies. He was captain of the baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1945, while still attending Yale, he married Barbara Pierce, daughter of McCall’s publishing empire chairman Marvin Pierce. Together they had six children: George, Pauline “Robin”, Dorothy, Marvin, John “Jeb”, and Neil. In 1948 George H W graduated from Yale with a degree in economics.

Following graduation George H W and Barbara moved to Texas planning to make his fortune in the oil business. Tragedy soon struck their lives in Texas. Their second born, Robin, died at four years old of leukemia. Once again George H W credited their tragedy for strengthening his character and principles.

George H W Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was a member of the board of directors of Dresser Industries, a Dallas-based oil drilling equipment supply company. George H W met with Henry Neil Mallon, the President of Dresser. Mallon offered George HW his first job at one of their subsidiaries in Odessa, Texas. In 1953, George H.W. got money from Brown Brothers Harriman and, together with partners Hugh and Bill Liedtke, formed Zapata Petroleum. By the late 1950s they were all millionaires. George H W bought subsidiary Zapata Off-Shore from his partners and went into business on his own in 1954. By 1958 his new company was drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

In the mid-sixties George H W grew increasingly interested in politics. His father was then Senator of Connecticut, which increased his desire to be in elective politics. In 1966, he won a seat in the US Congress and served two terms. Over the next two decades international affairs became his main focus in life. George HW served as Ambassador to the United Nations, Special Envoy to China, Republican National Chairman, and as President Ford’s Director of Central Intelligence. He was the first CIA “outsider” to hold the agency’s top position. “The UN was fabulously important in terms of contacts, knowing people around the world,” he once recalled. “The CIA, equally as important in terms of issues.”

In 1979, shortly after leaving the CIA, George H W Bush went home to Texas and felt his first ambition to run for President. He ran for the Republican nomination. Ronald Reagan won the nomination and chose Bush as his running mate. He served as President Reagan’s Vice President for two terms. Bush had responsibility in several domestic areas, including Federal de-regulation and anti-drug programs. Vice-President Bush visited scores of foreign countries.

In 1988 George Herbert Walker Bush won the Presidency of the United States. He brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values and a determination to direct them toward making the United States “a kinder and gentler nation.” But President Bush faced a dramatically changing world. The Cold War had ended after 40 bitter years. The Communist empire had broken up. The Soviet Union ceased to exist. Russia’s President Gorbachev, whom President Bush supported, resigned. Then President Bush had to send American troops into Panama to overthrow the corrupt regime of General Manuel Noriega. Noriega was brought to the US for trial as a drug trafficker.

President George H. W. Bush’s greatest test came when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait. Hussein then threatened to move into Saudi Arabia. President Bush vowed to free Kuwait. Working from his years of experience in the UN and in foreign diplomacy he rallied the United Nations, the US people and Congress and sent 425,000 American troops to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait at their request. American troops were joined by 118,000 coalition troops from allied nations. After weeks of air and missile bombardment, the 100-hour land battle dubbed Desert Storm ran Iraq’s million-man army from Kuwait. President G H W Bush’s belief that he would “be a better president because I was in combat” was his moral guide in Desert Storm’s political and military successes.