George W. Bush

George Walker Bush, the nation's 43rd president, was born in New Haven, Conn., on July 6, 1946. He is the eldest of six children born to the 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his wife, Barbara.

The young Bush spent the bulk of his childhood in Midland, Texas, where the family moved when his father went to work in the oil business.

He followed in his father's footsteps to Andover, an exclusive New England prep school, and on to Yale University, where he was an average student. Speaking at a 2001 Yale commencement, he said, "To the C students, I say, 'You too can be president of the United States.'"

When Bush graduated in 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. He secured a place in the Air National Guard, which allowed him to do his military service at home.

Bush settled in Houston, where he lived a life he described as "rootless" — full of alcohol abuse and womanizing. In 1976, he was arrested for drunken driving.

Eventually, Bush gained admittance to Harvard Business School, and like his father, went into the oil business.

Transformation Begins

In 1977, Bush married librarian Laura Welch and ended what he calls the "nomadic" stage of his life. In 1981, they became the parents of twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.

Bush soon started a political career. His father served as President Ronald Reagan's vice president for two terms, starting in 1980, and became president himself in 1988.

In 1989, the younger Bush began his own path to the White House when he used his family connections to help a group of wealthy businessmen buy the Texas Rangers, a major league baseball team.

In 1994, he challenged Texas' popular Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and won handily. Four years later, he cruised to re-election in a landslide.

From that victory, Bush became a candidate in the 2000 presidential race. He faced Al Gore, the sitting vice president in a time of unprecedented prosperity.

But he ran an effective campaign. The race was one of the closest in U.S. history. Bush won only after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against a recount in Florida.

He entered office without a clear mandate.

But nine months later, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, would give his administration purpose.

Fighting Terror

Bush kicked off his "War of Terror" by mobilizing an international coalition against Afghanistan, the domain sheltering the man the United States held responsible for the attacks, Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan's Taliban rulers were routed, and bin Laden went on the run.

Bush also lobbied for domestic reforms, including the controversial Patriot Act, which allowed for enhanced surveillance of citizens. Although supporters said it was necessary to protect the country against terror attacks, detractors said it was an affront to civil liberties. He also pressed for education reform in the No Child Left Behind Act, and for federal funding for faith-based groups dedicated to helping the needy.

Bush also pushed through a series of tax cuts that overwhelmingly favored the rich. He said the tax cuts would spur consumers to spend more, thus boosting the overall economy.

In March 2003, after months of intense lobbying, and in the face of opposition from many nations, Bush began a war to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In a little more than a month, he declared that major combat operations were over.

However, U.S. troop losses continued to grow as an insurgency gained strength. The U.S. officially handed over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi governing council in June 2004, but maintained its military presence in the country.