George Herbert Walker Bush, World War II naval aviator, Texas oil pioneer, and 41st President of the United States of America, died November 30, 2018. He was 94 years old and is survived by five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two siblings. He was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara; his second child, Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush; and his brothers Prescott and “Bucky”.
Mr. Bush was elected president on November 8, 1988, sworn in on January 20, 1989, and served until January 20, 1993. During his term in office, a revolution of human liberty swept the globe, emancipating tens of millions of people and unleashing a series of transformative events: freedom prevailed in the Cold War as the Soviet Union imploded; the Berlin Wall “fell” and Germany united within NATO following 45 years of postwar division; and from Eastern Europe to the Baltic states to Latin America to the former Soviet republics, many liberal democracies supplanted totalitarian regimes. During this “historic period of cooperation” as he called it, President Bush worked with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and other key global figures to end the Cold War peacefully and usher in a new geopolitical era marked by political selfdetermination, the spread of market capitalism, and the opening of closed economies.
In August of 1990, after Iraqi troops under dictator Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait, President Bush forged a coalition of 32 disparate nations to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty and uphold international law. He subsequently used the political capital gained from that decisive victory to convene the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, bringing Israel and its Arab neighbors together in face-to-face discussions for the first time.
President Bush also drastically reduced the threat of nuclear attack by signing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START) in 1991 and 1993, and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992 that President Clinton later signed into law. He ordered military operations in Panama in December of 1989 to restore democracy and bring an international drug trafficker to justice; and in Somalia in December of 1992 to re-open food supply lines shut by feuding warlords that had precipitated a famine.
Mr. Bush was the first sitting vice president elected to the presidency since Martin van Buren in 1837, and only the second American president elected to serve a full term without Party control in either chamber of Congress. Nevertheless, on July 26, 1990, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, which among other accomplishments eliminated the barriers to employment, public accommodations, and transportation services for some 43 million citizens with disabilities. Later that same year, he signed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which guided America’s environmental policy for more than two decades. The education summit Mr. Bush hosted in 1989 with all 50 U.S. governors at the University of Virginia helped to spur a national reform movement. The 1990 budget agreement he signed codified into law real caps on discretionary spending by Congress while cutting the deficit by historic levels.
As president, Mr. Bush launched his “Points of Light” initiative to promote volunteerism and community service across America, and during his term in office he named 1,020 Daily Points of Light hailing from all 50 states. Long before he entered the political arena, however, he demonstrated his belief that “there could be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others.” While at Yale, for example, he helped lead an annual charity fund drive that benefited the United Negro College Fund. In 1953, he helped establish the YMCA in Midland, Texas and served as chairman of the founding board. The Bushes also started the Bright Star Foundation to support cancer research following the death of their three year-old daughter, Robin, from leukemia on October 12, 1953.
After leaving the White House, President Bush chaired the Board of Visitors at the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center from 2001 to 2003, as well as the National Constitution Center from 2006 to 2008. Together with his wife, Barbara, Mr. Bush served as honorary cochair of C-Change – a collaborative group of key cancer leaders from government, business, and nonprofit sectors who are committed to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem. He also served as honorary chair of the Points of Light Foundation and the World Golf Foundation’s First Tee program from 1997 to 2011.
Of special note was his partnership with his successor, President Bill Clinton, to spearhead public awareness and financial relief efforts for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. In 2005, President Bush accepted an appointment from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as Special Envoy or the South Asian Earthquake Disaster following a devastating earthquake in Pakistan that claimed nearly 75,000 lives. He also teamed up with former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to launch the One America Appeal that raised over $41 million in relief funds after the 2017 hurricane season devastated large swaths of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On September 1, 1997, the George Bush School of Government and Public Service opened on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, followed two months later – on November 6, 1997 – by the adjoining George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Both institutions thrived with the active involvement of President and Mrs. Bush, who kept an apartment on campus and were regular fixtures at “Aggie” athletic events. Outside his family, President Bush considered the Bush School, which educates and prepares principled leaders for public service, his most important legacy.
In 1998, President Bush and his former national security advisor, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, coauthored A World Transformed about the four major foreign policy challenges confronting Bush administration: the Tiananmen Square uprising in China; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the reunification of Germany; and the liberation of Kuwait. In 1999 and again in 2013, President Bush released All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings, a collection of letters written throughout his life. In 2008, scholar Jeffrey Engel published President Bush’s diary written during his time in China under the title, The China Diary of George H.W. Bush — The Making of a Global President. Mr. Bush and his family also cooperated fully with his daughter, Doro Bush Koch, on her book My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bush. Finally, then-Vice President Bush published his autobiography, Looking Forward, in 1987 and dedicated it “To my mother and father, whose values lit the way.”
President Bush received numerous honorary degrees and, after leaving the presidency, was awarded high honors from such nations as Kuwait, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, Nicaragua, Poland, the Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia. The Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in northern Virginia, Intercontinental Airport in Houston, and several elementary and high schools in Texas were named for the former president. The USS George H. W. Bush, which is the tenth and last of the Navy’s Nimitz-class supercarriers, was commissioned on January 10, 2009 at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia and has deployed around the world in support of America’s foreign policy objectives. Finally, on February 15, 2011, President Bush accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony.