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Published: July 30th 2010
George H. W. Bush
My most vivid presidential memory was the first election that I was old enough to vote. George Bush was running against Michael Dukakis - in one of the ugliest political campaigns in history. The defeat by the Democrats was astounding and it really did feel like the country had signed up for another four years of Ronald Reagan. I have appreciated immensely the "suspension of judgement" and getting to know this particular president at a much more mature age.
The two leaders couldn't have been more dissimilar: Reagan was the "great communicator" and Bush was self-admittedly missing "the vision thing". Reagan was fairly laissez faire when it came to the inner workings of government and Bush had a very hands-on approach to leadership
. His inability to communicate a larger vision would plague him.
"Some see leadership as high drama and the sound of trumps calling. And sometimes it is that. But I see history as a book with many pages - and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning
Bush was born in Massachusetts to a very wealthy
family; one dedicated to public service. His father served as a senator. He joined the military during World War II and returned to enroll in Yale University. Upon his graduation, he moved his young family to Texas to begin a very lucrative career in the oil industry.
Bush served in political and public service in multiple roles: US Congress, US Ambassador of the UN, chair of the Republican National Committee (during Watergate) and as the Director of the CIA. He was VP under Reagan, even though he publicly criticized Reagan's ecumenic policy as "voodoo economics".
As VP, Bush was a dynamic leader
, traveling widely and expanding his extensive network
of foreign leaders and dignitaries. He cultivated a reputation that he was force in the administration - one that would haunt him when accusations of impropriety followed the Iran-contra affair.
Bush was best in foreign policy and much less for domestic concerns. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed during his administration. He had a very detailed command
of foreign policy and continues to exert that influence to this day.
Bush was president when
the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union fell apart. This segment of that barrier was presented to the George Bush Presidential Library on behalf of the people of the reunited city of Berlin. Interestingly, Bush was known for being highly suspicious of political change, even when it was for the better (Jack Matlock, Ambassador to the Soviet Union). His strength was in "managing the present and avoiding the mistakes of the past
"The quest for freedom is stronger than steel, more permanent than concrete
George Bush, November 11, 1989
He sent troops into Kuwait to help fight Iraq in the First Persian Gulf War. The military action was named operation Desert Storm and rallied our nation with renewed patriotic fervor. I remember t-shirts with the american flag were very popular and to criticize the war was met with accusations of being unpatriotic. Some things change, some stay exactly the same. The coalition forces were a perfect example of Bush's skill in building a diverse and extensive coalition of support
Throughout his political life, Bush was skilled in selecting and motivating able advisors
. However, his skills seemed
more tactical than strategic.
Bush made a campaign promise, "Read my lips: No new taxes
", and this broken campaign pledge led directly to his failed campaign for reelection.
"His presidency may have lacked monumental achievements, but it was free of character-based calamity
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