Former President George H.W. Bush to Speak at University of Arkansas

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
George Herbert Walker Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, will visit the University of Arkansas on Monday, April 6, as part of the university’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He will speak at 8 p.m. in Barnhill Arena. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required and seating is on a first come, first-seated basis.

President Bush has been an active participant in the key events of American and world history for the last half of the 20th century and his influence is still felt today.

During World War II, he was the youngest fighter pilot in the Navy, flew 58 combat missions, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war he graduated from Yale University in three years, with a degree in economics. He moved to Texas to work in the oil industry and was part of the American business boom of the 1950s, eventually forming his own company. He entered politics in Texas and in 1966 was elected to the first of two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1971 he was named U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; in 1973 he became chairman of the Republican National Committee; in 1974 he was appointed as the first U.S. envoy to the People’s Republic China. He then served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1977.

Bush was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, losing to Ronald Reagan. However, Reagan picked him to be his vice-presidential running mate. Bush was elected president himself in 1988.

The defining event of his term as president was the first Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. He organized a coalition of U.S. and United Nations forces after Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The coalition forces liberated Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm.

President Bush enjoyed domestic policy successes as well, successfully pushing for the Americans with Disabilities Act and presiding over the bailout of the troubled savings and loan industry. A split within the Republican Party and the conservative community about economic policies weakened him politically, however. In 1992 independent candidate Ross Perot gained enough conservative votes to prevent Bush from winning re-election.

Since leaving office, Bush has been involved in relief efforts for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. He has also seen two of his sons go on to successful political careers of their own: Jeb Bush, as governor of Florida, and George W. Bush, first as governor of Texas and then as a two-term president of the United States.

George H.W. Bush is the first former U.S. president to speak as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. The April 6 event will be his second visit to the University of Arkansas: He accompanied President Richard Nixon to the “Big Shootout” between Arkansas and Texas at Razorback Stadium in 1969. He has made two significant visits to northwest Arkansas as well, first bringing his primary campaign to the region in 1980, and then as president in 1992, when he travelled to Bentonville to present the Medal of Freedom to Sam Walton.

Speakers for the Distinguished Lecture Series are chosen by student and faculty members of the Distinguished Lecture Series committee. The series is funded by student activity fees, with support from the Associated Student Government and the University of Arkansas. Past lecturers have included Benazir Bhutto, Ehud Barak, Robert Redford, Anderson Cooper, and, most recently, Ervin “Magic” Johnson.

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