George H.W. Bush Biography
President George H.W. Bush was elected the 41st president of the United States in 1988, defeating Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis. Foreign policy dominated his term, which ran from 1989 to 1993. During that time, the Cold War ended, the threat of nuclear war drastically declined, the Berlin Wall fell, Germany was reunified with Eastern Europe, and Bush put together an unprecedented coalition of 32 nations to liberate Kuwait.
President Bush signed into effect the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ushered in greatly expanded civil rights, and extensive environmental legislation through the Clean Air Act. He also successfully fought for and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Bush was born June 12, 1924, in Massachusetts. Motivated by the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the United States Navy, where the 18-year-old—the youngest naval aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time—flew torpedo bombers. In 1944, he was shot down over the island of Chichi-jima, but completed his bombing mission despite a severely damaged plane. For his courageous service in the Pacific Theater, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.
His political career began in 1963 when he was elected chairman of the Harris County (Texas) Republican party. Bush later served in the House of Representatives and as the director of Central Intelligence Agency under President Gerald Ford. As vice president for President Ronald Reagan, he headed administrative task forces on deregulation and fought to prevent drug abuse. He was the last U.S. president to also have been a World War II veteran and to have fought a war before being elected.