George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 6, 1946, to Barbara and George Herbert Walker Bush. His parents moved the family to Texas when George W. was two years old. There his father made a fortune in the oil business. As the eldest of six children, George W. was expected to shine. He was an all-around athlete, a fair student, and an occasional troublemaker in school—he was once punished for painting a mustache on his face during music class. In seventh grade, he ran for class president and won.
While his family lived in Houston, Texas, George W. was sent back east to enroll at Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Massachusetts. Although George W. became actively involved in sports, playing baseball, basketball, and football, his high school academic record was far from exceptional. However, through his family's powerful connections, Bush landed a spot at Yale University in Connecticut, where both his father and grandfather had attended.
At Yale, Bush was a popular student. He became president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and enjoyed socializing, watching and playing football, and dating. Grades were not a high priority, and because of his mischievous behavior, Bush had a few minor run-ins with the law. Despite his background of privilege, Bush became more at ease with all kinds of people in college. "I was never one to feel guilty," he said about his wealth and family connections. "I feel lucky."
Graduating at the height of the Vietnam War, Bush landed a coveted billet in the Texas Air National Guard. Assigned to the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group, he attended flight school for 53 weeks at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. He took an eight-week leave beginning in September of 1968 to work on a Florida Senate campaign, but by Christmas 1969 he was training on F-102 fighters full-time at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. In May of 1972, he moved to Montgomery, Ala., to work on another Republican campaign, moving to Boston the following year to attend Harvard Business School.
By the time Bush enrolled at Harvard Business School, he was 27-years old. He received a business degree from Harvard, and then returned to Midland where he too got into the oil business. In Midland he met and married Laura Welch, a teacher and librarian. They had twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara.
Late in 1988, after returning to Texas, Bush put together a group of seventy investors and bought the Texas Rangers, a struggling professional baseball team. Bush quickly emerged as the leader of the investment group. The team soon became successful, and in 1998 the investment group sold the Rangers, earning Bush more than $14 million. The money would later be used to fund his campaign for president.
When his father lost to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential race, George W. decided to try for political office once again. His status as the most well-known owner of the Rangers and as the son of a former president gave him an advantage as he campaigned for governor of Texas. He won the 1994 election, defeating incumbent governor Aan Richards.
During the early part of the 2000 campaign for the White House, Bush enjoyed a double-digit lead in the polls over his opponent Vice President Al Gore Jr. But the gap closed as the election approached and though Gore finally won the popular vote by 543,895 votes, victory or loss of the presidency hinged on Florida’s electoral votes. That struggle through recounts and lawsuits worked its way to the Supreme Court. In the end Bush won the electoral count 271 to 266. His new administration was focused on “compassionate conservatism,” which embraced excellence in education, tax relief and volunteerism among faith-based and community organizations. When George W. Bush, at the age of 54, became the 43rd president of the United States, it was only the second time in American history that a president’s son went on to the White House.Bush was the first Republican president to enjoy a majority in both houses of Congress since Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s. Taking advantage of his party's strength, Bush proposed a $1.6 trillion tax-cut bill in February 2001.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Bush faced a crisis that would transform his presidency. That morning, four American commercial airplanes were hijacked by Islamist terrorists. Two of the planes were deliberately crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, destroying both towers and collapsing or damaging many surrounding buildings, and a third was used to destroy part of the Pentagon building outside Washington, D.C.; the fourth plane crashed outside Pittsburgh, Pa., after passengers apparently attempted to retake it ( September 11 attacks). The crashes—the worst terrorist incident on U.S. soil—killed some 3,000 people.
The Bush administration accused radical Islamist Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, al-Qaeda (Arabic: “the Base”), of responsibility for the attacks and charged the Taliban government of Afghanistan with harboring bin Laden and his followers (in a videotape in 2004, bin Laden acknowledged that he was responsible). After assembling an international military coalition, Bush ordered a massive bombing campaign against Afghanistan, which began on Oct. 7, 2001. U.S.-led forces quickly toppled the Taliban government and routed al-Qaeda fighters, though bin Laden himself remained elusive. In the wake of the September 11 attacks and during the war in Afghanistan, Bush's public-approval ratings were the highest of his presidency, reaching 90 percent in some polls.
Immediately after the September 11 attacks, domestic security and the threat of terrorism became the chief focus of the Bush administration and the top priority of government at every level. Declaring a global “war on terrorism,” Bush announced that the country would not rest until “every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and eliminated.
Bush was challenged in his re-election bid in 2004 by Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry. The election was a good contest, but Bush’s contention that the invasion of Iraq had made the world more secure against terrorism won the national political debate. Bush was re-elected with 51 percent to 48 percent.
On the inaugural stand, George W. Bush set the theme for his second term: “At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For half a century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet- and then there came a day of fire. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom – tested but not weary… we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.”