Born on June 12, 1924, George H. W. Bush spent much of his childhood at his family's summer home at Walker's Point in Kennebunkport, ME, which his grandfather built in 1902. His close-knit family, Bush says, was fortunate to avoid the hard times of the Great Depression; George attended boarding schools, where he "got good grades but wasn't what you'd call a real scholar." Instead, sports were his thing -- he was captain of the soccer and baseball teams and played basketball. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he became a Naval Aviator at 18, and describes the day of Sept. 2, 1944, when his plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire; ejecting into the sea, he was rescued by sub. After the war, George married Barbara Pierce, whom he'd met at Yale. "We fell in love. Old fashioned, falling in love."
Bush's main concern now became getting a job. Though a decorated veteran and Yale grad, he had little prospects. Following the advice of a family friend, he went to Texas and made a living in off-shore oil drilling. (His company, Zapata Petroleum, was named after the film Viva Zapata!) In Texas, George and Barbara had a son, George Walker, followed by a daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at age three. Recalling Robin's death is emotional for Bush; though they had three more sons and another daughter, he admits he couldn't talk about Robin’s loss for years.
In Texas, despite the fact that the state at the time was overwhelmingly Democratic, Bush decided to run for Senate. Though he lost, he rebounded by running for Congress and won -- in a district that had never elected a Republican. A rising star in Washington (he was named to the prestigious Ways and Means Committee), Bush was appointed envoy to the U.N. to represent the Nixon administration and, later, Chair of the Republican National Committee. Then came Watergate. "I wanted to believe Nixon as long as I possibly could," he notes, but with evidence mounting that the White House lied, he wrote a memo suggesting the president resign. In hindsight he has mixed emotions about Nixon: "On the one hand you can never get over the lie. On the other, in many ways, he was a very good president."
After serving as U.N. Ambassador to China and Director of the CIA (which some had advised was a political dead end), Bush ran for president; though he failed, he ended up being asked by Reagan to be VP. In office, Bush traveled extensively and attended many funerals of foreign statesmen. (Joked James Baker, "You die. He'll fly.") Ascending to the presidency in 1989, Bush admits the responsibility sunk in immediately. His years in office saw many historic events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the protests in Tiananmen Square. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Bush says he knew America would have to act. The invasion was an "overt, crystal clear wrong," and though there was opposition, he felt the war was just, and heartened when Saddam Hussein was driven out of Kuwait.
After losing his bid for re-election (which he believes was cost him by Ross Perot), George and Barbara returned to a "normal" life in Kennebunkport. Today, he still makes public appearances, but has been slowed by Parkinsonism. He calls his beloved Kennebunkport the "anchor to windward." It's where the memories are, where his family comes to visit, where he's been coming his whole life, "And where," he says, "I will remain until my last days."
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