The name made the man. And the man made the most of the name.
Over the course of the life of George Walker Bush, his name and all it symbolizes have been defining features.
Time and again, opportunity--inextricably linked with being a Bush--knocked, and the man answered. The name Bush affected virtually all of his life's trajectory: his choice of the elite private schools his father attended; his cushioned exit from the oil business during the industry's collapse; his entry into a baseball management position that made him a multimillionaire; and meteoric success in his bid for the nation's highest office, just six years after becoming Texas governor, the only elective office he has held.
In 1989, at 42, Bush had a resume of little note, including one failed run for the U.S. House of Representatives and an unspectacular career in the oil business. A decade later, he is the leading Republican contender for president and the recipient of more campaign donations than any candidate in history, a testament to his political skills, charisma and the powerful imprimatur of the name Bush. If he succeeds, Bush will become the first son since John Quincy Adams to follow his father into the presidency.
Bush, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has on rare occasion acknowledged the benefits and baggage of bearing the name, a political legacy of a grandfather who was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, and, of course, his father, the nation's 41st president.
In 1989, the son--for perhaps the first time in his adult life--came into his own by taking the helm as part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
"It solved my biggest political problem in Texas," he told the Long Island, N.Y., newspaper, Newsday, at that time. "There's no question about it, and I knew it all along. My problem was, `What's the boy ever done?' "
To another question that has been a refrain throughout most of his life--"How are you different from your father?"--the affable Bush characteristically has responded with a punch line, saying, "He went to Greenwich Country Day School, and I went to San Jacinto Junior High."
Yet in many respects, Bush often has sought, either deliberately or unconsciously, to emulate his father, at times falling short and occasionally exceeding.
In 1961, at age 15, Bush enrolled at his father's alma mater, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., one of the nation's most exclusive prep schools.
"It was cold, and it was lonely, and it was hard. That's what I remember," said Mike Wood, a classmate and friend of Bush who is now a businessman in Washington. "Sort of a depressing place, actually."
Andover was class-conscious and intimidating, even to those, like Wood, whose fathers had gone there.
In a place that tended to quash individuality, Bush displayed a decided irreverence. Though the school's dress code required a coat and tie in the dining room, Bush was one of the mischievous few to tweak the system, wearing a T-shirt.
"I remember particularly one he had," Wood said. "It showed a line, creating a small hill, just a bump. And underneath that it said, `Ski Midland.' "
Midland, a West Texas oil town, is notoriously flat.
"George would wear his `Ski Midland' shirt and some ugly tie and whatever Army fatigue jacket he could get away with," Wood said.
Andover may have been somber, but Bush wasn't. Through Andover and on to college, close friends say Bush, who was the school's head cheerleader, was someone they never recall seeing down.
"What George would do is climb up in a tree when he saw you coming and drop down and tackle you and rub your face in the snow or something," Wood said.
"George," he added, "just lit the place up."
George W. Bush: The son also rises
First came success in business, then state politics. Now the republican faces his biggest test of the benefits and the baggage of bearing his father's name.
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