1989-1993RepublicanJune 12, 1924, in Milton, MassachusettsNovember 30, 2018 in Houston, Texas
Vice PresidentFirst LadyPrevious OccupationsStates in Union
J. Danforth QuayleBarbara Pierce Bush (Wife)Navy Pilot, Businessman, Public Official50


Bush’s parents were Prescott S. and Dorothy Walker Bush. Bush married Barbara Pierce in 1945. They had six children: George Walker, Robin, John Ellis, Neil Mallon, Marvin Pierce, and Dorothy. Their oldest, George, became the 43rd president, making Mrs. Bush the second woman to have both a husband and son serve as president.


George Herbert Walker Bush became president with one of the most qualified resumes of anyone who had ever been elected. Bush served as a Navy pilot during World War II; gained industry experience managing an oil development company; and also served in the House of Representatives, as the U.S. ambassador to the UN, and as Director of the CIA. Bush also had eight years of on-the-job training as Reagan’s vice president.

Bush’s presidency was consumed with foreign affairs. Bush maintained friendly relations with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev throughout the end of the Cold War. He commented in later years, “I hoped it would end but I wasn’t sure it would end that fast. I wasn’t sure the [Berlin] wall would come down. I wasn’t sure Germany would be unified. I wasn’t sure that the Soviet Union would have dramatically imploded as it did.”

In 1989 Bush ordered troops into Panama to overthrow the corrupt dictator, General Manuel Noriega. Noriega surrendered and was brought to the U.S. to stand trial on charges of cocaine trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. He was convicted in April 1992 and sentenced to 40 years in prison, but that sentence was later reduced to 30 years.

In 1990 the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, invaded the neighboring country of Kuwait and threatened to invade Saudi Arabia as well. Hussein refused to withdraw, and Bush organized an international military coalition to force Iraq out of Kuwait. After six weeks of bombing, the American-led “Operation Desert Storm” successfully rid Kuwait of the Iraqi invaders. Bush’s successful leadership in conducting the Persian Gulf War provided him with the highest approval ratings of any president in the history of the Gallup polls.

On the domestic front, Bush is credited with gaining passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act. He also signed the Earth Pledge, which limited emissions of greenhouse gases and required environmentally friendly development. However, the U.S. economy slumped into recession and Bush was forced to renege on his campaign promise of “no new taxes.” Despite his considerable achievements internationally, Bush was not elected to a second term.


Regarding his upbringing, Bush has stated, “People say I was a man of privilege and by that they mean money, but I was privileged in the question of values––a mother and father who were determined to help their kids be good people.”

Bush committed not to raise taxes as he accepted the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention: “The Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again and I’ll say to them, read my lips, no new taxes.” (August 18, 1988)

“Make no mistake, a new breeze is blowing across the steps and the cities of the Soviet Union. Why not, then, let this spirit of openness grow, let more barriers come down.” (May 12, 1989)

“Our objectives in the Persian Gulf are clear, our goals defined and familiar: Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait completely, immediately, and without condition. Kuwait’s legitimate government must be restored. The security and stability of the Persian Gulf must be assured. And American citizens abroad must be protected.” (September 11, 1990)

At This Time

1989: Bush introduces his bail-out plan for troubled savings and loans banks • The Bush administration, at the urging of federal drug czar William Bennett, announces a temporary ban on the importation of semi-automatic rifles • In the worst oil spill on American territory, the Exxon Valdez supertanker runs aground in southeastern Alaska, dumping 240,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding waters • Bush offers a program of special assistance for Poland, whose Communist government has agreed to negotiations with the opposition Solidarity party, which produces a plan for free elections • Elections are held in August, ending single-party rule in Poland • In June the People’s Liberation Army, the military arm of the Chinese government, uses tanks and armored cars to suppress a burgeoning pro-democracy movement that had encamped in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square • Estimates on the number of demonstrators killed vary between 700 and 2,700 • In the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacres, Bush announces a number of reprisals, including the suspension of the sale of American weapons to China • Bush signs into law the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, a compromise with Congress on the bail-out of savings and loans • In November the Berlin Wall falls, marking the symbolic end of Communist rule in Eastern Europe • Bush signs the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1989, which by April 1991 would raise the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour, which is less than the $4.55 sought by Democrats • Bush signs a new anti-drug law that provides more than $3 billion for expanded anti-drug programs, including treatment facilities, federal prison expansion, education, and law enforcement • In December Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev hold their first meeting in the harbor of Valetta, Malta, to discuss nuclear disarmament and the strengthening of Soviet-American trade relations • Both leaders announce that the Cold War is effectively over • American armed forces invade Panama to capture Manuel Noriega, the country’s military dictator • Noriega surrenders January 3 and is convicted on drug charges April 9, 1992, and sent to prison • Architect I.M. Pei designs and constructs a controversial glass pyramid outside the Louvre Museum in Paris • 1990: At a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., Bush and Gorbachev sign the broadest arms reduction agreement in two decades • Bush, in a written statement released to the press, reneges on his “no new taxes” pledge from the 1988 presidential campaign by stating that in order to solve the deficit problem, tax increases might be necessary for the 1991 fiscal year • Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act, which affects over 43 million Americans and forbids discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and transportation • In August Iraq invades Kuwait • Bush strongly condemns Iraq’s actions, setting the stage for an American response • On October 3, seven months after East Germans overwhelmingly approved reunification, the two German states are formally reunited • Bush signs a budget law intended to reduce the federal budget by almost $500 billion over the next five years • The law includes $140 billion dollars in new taxes • Bush signs the Clean Air Act of 1990, which tightens air pollution standards and seeks to reduce urban smog, cut acid rain pollution by one-half, and eliminate industrial emissions of toxic chemicals by the end of the 20th century • The U.S., Canada, and twenty other European nations sign the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which limits NATO and Warsaw Pact weapons holdings and caps the American troop presence in Central Europe at 195,000 • Bush signs the Immigration Act of 1990, which allows for the admission of 700,000 aliens each year • Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli creates Good Defeats Evil, a statue of St. George slaying the dragon, which he created from fragments of American and Soviet missiles • The statue is erected outside the U.N. in New York • English and French engineers meet under the sea as the English Channel tunnel is linked • 1991: The Persian Gulf War, code-named Operation Desert Storm, begins with a massive, American-led air attack on Iraq on January 17 • After liberating Kuwait, coalition troops advance rapidly into Iraqi territory, encountering no resistance • Bush, deciding that the war’s objectives had been met, calls off the ground offensive • In July Bush lifts most American sanctions against the Republic of South Africa, saying that the movement to end apartheid is now “irreversible” • Bush and Gorbachev meet in Moscow to sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which calls for both nations to make significant reductions in the number of nuclear warheads in their respective arsenals • Clarence Thomas is confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court despite charges of sexual harassment made by Anita F. Hill, a law professor and former colleague of Thomas • Bush signs the Civil Rights Act of 1991, making it easier for employees to sue employers on grounds of discrimination • On December 31 the constituent republics of the Soviet Union dissolve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics • 1992: The Labor Department announces that unemployment rose to 7.1% in December 1991, the highest mark in over five years • Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin meet at Camp David to discuss U.S.-Russian relations and officially declare the end of the Cold War • In April Bush announces an aid plan of $24 billion to spur democratic and free-market reforms in the former Soviet Union • The U.S. signs agreements with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, ensuring the continued participation of these nations in the nuclear arms reduction treaties signed by the U.S.S.R. before its collapse in late 1991 • Bush and President Yeltsin announce an agreement by which the U.S. and Russia plan to reduce their nuclear warheads to between 3,000 and 3,500 by the year 2003 • Bush signs a supplemental appropriations act that provides aid to inner cities, specifically Los Angeles, which is trying to recover from the Rodney King riots of April 1992 • Bush signs the Unemployment Compensation Amendments of 1992, extending coverage to the unemployed for 26 weeks, following their initial 26 weeks of benefits • The previous day, the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate had reached 7.8%, its highest level since 1984 • In December American troops land in Somalia as part of the UN-sponsored “Operation Restore Hope” • The humanitarian mission’s first goal was to ensure the distribution of food and medical aid and supplies to suffering Somalis • Somalia had been wracked by starvation, drought, and violence

Did You Know?

Bush was the first vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren.

Following his graduation from prep school, Bush joined the Navy and became the youngest pilot to fly in World War II. He flew more than 50 combat missions, and on September 2, 1944, his plane was shot down. Bush was the sole survivor and was almost captured before being rescued by an American submarine. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery.

Learn More

  • Bush41.org
    Presidential archives, photos, biographies and information about the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas
  • MillerCenter.org/president/bush
    Biographical information, essays, and access to Bush’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Field Trips for George H. W. Bush

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
College Station, Texas

The Bush library is an academic research institution and is part of the Texas A&M Campus. The museum has extensive exhibits devoted to Bush’s life of public service and his presidency.

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