My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bushby Doro Bush Koch
As president, he oversaw the end of the Cold War and helped liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's forces. As the U.S. Liaison to China, he held tenure during communist rule under Mao, and as Ambassador to the United Nations, he forged relations around the world. From his days as a young Texas congressman to witnessing his son become the current president, George H. W. Bush has played a major role on the world stage for decades and continues to as elder statesman. Now, using events from his life, the former president's only daughter examines how her father confronted challenges, how he responded to crises, and how he kept his humor and personality through it all.
About the Author: DORO BUSH KOCH lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and children.
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My Father, My President
By Doro Bush Koch
Copyright © 2006
Dorothy Bush Koch
All right reserved.
THE END DEPENDS UPON THE BEGINNING
"His mother was greatly responsible for much of Poppy's athletic
success. He thoroughly enjoyed the battle and was always a true
sportsman. Never a showboat nor a glad-hander-in victory or defeat.
His joy was in playing aggressively within the rules."
-Dad's Andover schoolmate and lifelong friend
Frank "Junie" O'Brien
My name is Doro Bush Koch. My parents named me Dorothy Walker Bush,
after my father's mother. No one knows exactly when I got the
nickname Doro, but I've been called that as long as anyone can
remember. And as long as anyone can remember, my father, George
Herbert Walker Bush, has lived his life by certain standards, by a
certain set of rules, and with a certain way of doing things that go
a long way toward explaining the man he is today. As I set out to
tell this story about him, and our family life together, it only
seems fitting to start with the person who had the most influence on
him: his mother and my namesake, Dorothy Walker Bush. My brothers
and I called her Ganny.
Ganny was born in 1901, the daughter of George Herbert Walker, a
successful St. Louis businessman and community leader who, among
other things, helped organize the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. The
Walkers valued faith, family,and friends, but they also believed in
the old adage about public service, "To whom much is given, much is
expected." In fact, it might surprise you to know that a century ago
Dad's namesake was considered to be the power behind the Democratic
Party in St. Louis, Missouri.
Ganny married my grandfather Prescott Bush on August 6, 1921, at the
church of St. Ann's by the Sea in Kennebunkport, Maine; two years
later, they moved from St. Louis to Columbus, Ohio, where my
grandfather worked for the Hupp Products Company. He left a few
months later, in November 1923, to become president of sales for
Stedman Products of South Braintree, Massachusetts-and seven months
later, on June 12, 1924, Dad was born.
Dorothy and Prescott Bush raised their five children in Greenwich,
Connecticut-Prescott Jr. (Uncle Pres), Dad, Nancy (Nan), Jonathan
(Johnny), and William (Bucky)-with a strict set of rules. Dad's
youngest brother, my Uncle Bucky, put it this way: "Mother was very
hands-on, quite strict, but in a loving way. She got involved, and
she participated. She wanted to make sure that you didn't sit around
much. So if you weren't studying, you better be doing something
physical or running around the house, because she didn't like idle
My father and his mother had a special bond, and to read many of his
letters home to her during World War II is to glimpse what his
brother Johnny calls a relationship where "a lot of it was laughter,
a lot of it was just joy." Still, she never made any of her children
feel inferior in any way-she loved them all the same.
"She made me feel like I was her favorite daughter-in-law," my
mother said to me once. "Of course, I know I wasn't. But she made me
feel that way."
To give you a better idea of what my grandmother was like, let me
share a letter that Dad wrote about her for a school project in 1996
for my daughter Ellie:
I am thrilled you are doing a paper on your great-grandmother. She
was the most loving, kind person in the whole wide world. She never
hurt anyone's feelings. She always tried to see the other guy's
point of view.
So, first, her qualities of character were the best. She loved my
Dad with a passion and she gave all five of us, her own kids, far
more attention and love than we'd ever deserve.
She'd always go to games, and she loved to participate in the
She was the pitcher and Captain of the mother's baseball team that
played us when we were in Greenwich Country Day. She was a great
athlete-the best of all her friends. She would always hit a home run
in those games. Then, too, she was the fastest runner-she'd win the
mothers' race every year.
Her best sport was tennis. At age 17 she was the runner up in the
National Girl's singles tournament being held at the Merion Cricket
Club in Philadelphia. But she never bragged about that.
Once in the 30's her brother, my Uncle Louis, brought a very famous
woman player up here to Maine. Uncle Lou set up the match for Mother
to play her. Mother played her and beat her. At the end of the match
Mum's feet were literally bleeding. She won all kinds of Club tennis
championships at the Greenwich Field Club, the Kennebunk River Club,
and others too.
She taught us all about sportsmanship-some by bawling us out when we
were bad sports, and some by example. She never complained or found
excuses when she lost.
She was a fine golfer, too. A really good golfer-with a great short
game, and a competitive spirit to match.
Once, when she was little, she tied her brother, Herbie, to the
stone posts out here at Walker's Point, for she didn't want him to
follow her downtown.
She crewed for her father, your Great-Great-Grandfather G. H. Walker
(Bert) on his 21' sailing boat, the "Giggle On." He'd make her get
way up on the bow as ballast when the sea got rough during a race.
She loved it.
Once she swam from the pier here at the Point all the way around to
the boat club. Her Uncle Joe Wear followed her in a row boat just to
be sure she didn't get a cramp and have to stop. She made it easily.
One time my friend Bill Truesdale, way back about 1935, said
something to me I'll never forget-he said, "I wish my mother was
like yours!" Isn't that something, Ellie? All my friends loved my
mother and respected her too. She was so kind to them.
Once I used an ax-Mum had told me not to do it. I cut myself on the
leg-a deep cut. I lied to her about what happened. But she knew I
was lying. She didn't spank me and she got me to admit, on my own,
that I had not told the truth and that I had used the ax when she
told me not to. She explained to me about never lying. Now I am 72.
Then I was 6 or 7. I have never forgotten.
Mum was always trim-a fairly small woman, always in great shape
though. And oh how she loved my Dad.
Oh, yes, when she was around 18 she was presented [as debutante] at
the Court of St. James in London. A lot of girls did that in the old
days. She had to curtsy to the king.
She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and her family came to Maine
Mum was religious, not pious-but a Christian that knew her Bible and
was lifted by her faith. She'd read to us the Lesson of the Day
before our meals. She went to church without fail on Sundays. But
more than that she lived her faith-teaching not just family but so
many friends, too, by her example, by the way she lived her own
life. Once Billy Graham, near the end of Mum's life, went over to
the Bungalow [in Kennebunkport] to have breakfast. They read the
Bible together. She told me afterwards that those 45 minutes were
about the "most glorious time" in her life. She admired Billy's
commitment to Jesus and to God, and she loved his message.
Oh yes, she played the piano pretty well, too.
I saw my Mum a few hours before she died. I was President then. I
flew up to Greenwich to see her one last time. She was breathing
with great difficulty-fighting "the good fight with all her might."
But, Ellie, I knew for sure that she would go to heaven; and I also
knew that she looked upon death not with fear but with joy. She told
me over and over again that she knew she would be with my Dad in
heaven. During that last visit she was struggling to breathe,
struggling for life; but I knelt by her bed and literally prayed
that God would take her to heaven right then.
I hope your presentation goes well, for you will be telling your
classmates about one of God's truly special people.
I love you, Ellie.
As I read this, it's remarkable how alike Dad and his mother
were-both were captain of the baseball team, played tennis, and were
religious but not pious. There was, however, one exception. While
everyone in his family has been musically inclined, Dad can't play
the piano or carry a tune. He claims that there was a "genetic power
outage" in his case when it came to music. To this day, however, he
still talks about his days singing in the "double octet" in grammar
school-usually comprised of sixteen voices. "Often we were
undermanned," Dad once noted with great pride, but no one really
believes that he sang.
"If he did, he mouthed it," Bucky confided recently, "and that was
before his voice changed."
Dad's father, Prescott, was a successful businessman who later
served as U.S. senator from Connecticut from 1953 to 1963. My
grandfather, of course, was also an important influence on Dad, who
describes his father this way: "Big. Strong. Principled. Respected
by all who knew him. A leader. Wonderful sense of humor. Once, a guy
told a dirty joke in the locker room at the club and Dad walked out
on him. He loved my mother very much. He was a great example to
everyone in the family, all Ganny's brothers particularly. He was a
great golfer-scratch handicap. Champion. Played tennis well. Had his
own quartet until he died, almost. Singer in the Silver Dollar
Quartet. He was just a wonderful warm guy. Now, he wasn't cozy like
Mother. We felt close to him, but not in the same way. He was more
the discipline guy."
Years later, Dad recalled, "Mother had gotten a call from a neighbor
two miles away. I remember it well. The phone call came in, and
Mother said, 'Did you boys do this?' We said, 'Yes.' She told my
brother and me, 'Well, your father is going to have to handle this.'
We walked into our den in Grove Lane, and he picked up a squash
racket, and I thought, 'Oh God, this is it. We've had it.' And he
threatened us with it, and said, 'Now, you go over to the Williams'
house, you go over and apologize.' So we got out of there, scared to
death. Ran as we started, then the closer to the Williams' house we
got, we became very terrified and slowed down. We had to knock on
the door and say that we were very sorry that we had paid their
beautiful daughter ten cents to run naked across the floor. We got
out with our lives on that one, but we were sixth graders at the
time-natural hormonal urges you get, I guess."
After graduating from Yale, my grandfather served as a field
artillery captain in World War I before returning home to enter the
business world. As a partner in the Brown Brothers Harriman firm on
Wall Street, he took the train every day from his home in Greenwich
to his office in Manhattan. During the 1930s, Dad remembers, his
father would forgo drinks in the club car of the train with his
contemporaries and, instead, go into town and serve as moderator of
the Greenwich town meetings. Dad was a teenager by then, and seeing
his father serve as unofficial mayor of Greenwich made a big
"He led by example," Dad said. "He ran the meetings, and in
everything he did he was the leader. He wasn't a power-hungry guy,
it was just leadership. Because of his leadership, things gravitated
to him-people would ask, 'How will Prescott Bush feel about this?
What'll he vote for?'"
Betsy Heminway, who grew up with my father in Greenwich, remembers
my grandfather as "the most extraordinary man. If I ever thought of
someone that looked like a statesman, it was Prescott Bush. He would
walk in a room and there was a presence."
Dorothy, Prescott, and their five children lived in a big Victorian
house on Grove Lane. Upstairs, there was a Singer sewing machine
which Ganny used to mend the children's clothes, and a radio as
well. There my Aunt Nan and Ganny would listen to the New York
Philharmonic on Sunday afternoons, while the boys would play outside
and my grandfather would nap. During the week, they'd also listen to
Edward R. Murrow before dinner.
Dad's Greenwich years were filled with sports. A Ping-Pong table sat
in the front hall, and a tiddlywinks game had a permanent home in
the living room. The Bush children tobogganed and skied on the hilly
front lawn in the winter, and in the summer they played catch and
touch football in the backyard. For team games such as football and
baseball, they'd squeeze through the hedge to the neighbor's bigger
One Christmas, my Uncle Bucky received a labyrinth game-a wooden box
with a maze and holes on top, and handles on the sides to maneuver
the marble. Because he was so young, however, Bucky had to stop
playing with it that first night and go to bed at 7:00. Dad, who was
fourteen years older than Uncle Bucky, came down to breakfast the
next morning and spied the game.
"What's this?" Dad asked his younger brother, wanting to know how it
worked. Bucky put the marble on top and proceeded to drop it twice
through the first or second hole.
"Well, I've never seen anything like that before," said Dad.
"Want to try it, Poppy?" asked Bucky. (Dad was called "Poppy"
because he reminded everyone of his maternal grandfather, George,
who was known simply as "Pop.")
Sure enough, Dad ran the marble all the way to the end and won.
Amazed, Bucky asked him to do it again. Dad even bet him a dollar he
could do it again, and did. Later, Bucky told his older brother
Johnny, "You know, I can't believe it-the guy had never seen this
"Bucky," said Johnny, "he'd been up practicing all night!"
Dad's father attended Yale with a man named Neil Mallon, who went on
to be a very successful businessman in the oil industry and whom the
Bush children all called Uncle Neil. Mom said Mr. Mallon "was like
Santa Claus" to my father and his siblings. To them, she said, "he
was a big man" despite his small build.
One day when he was young, Dad and Uncle Neil were playing catch in
the yard-"no great athlete, Uncle Neil," Mom added-when Dad
accidentally threw the ball through the windshield of his father's
new car. Uncle Neil turned to Dad and said, "Poppy, let's go tell
Dad was scared, and when it came time to confess to the crime, Uncle
Neil spoke up first: "Prescott, I made a very bad throw and smashed
your windshield." Dad remembered it clearly, and said to me nearly
seven decades later, "He was perhaps the nicest man I ever met."
Later, when Dad went into the oil business, Uncle Neil would come to
have almost as much influence on Dad as his own parents.
When he was thirteen, Dad joined his older brother Pres at Phillips
Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Located on a hilltop twenty-one
miles north of Boston, the academy was founded in 1778, making it
one of the nation's oldest boarding schools.
My Uncle Johnny told me of a time at Andover when a few of the
senior boys were ordering the "preps," or new boys, around. They
started picking on a smaller boy named Bruce Gelb, ordering him to
carry a heavy chair up the stairs to someone's room.
"So Bruce is struggling to carry this chair, and they're laughing at
him, and your father just walks across the place and says, 'Look,
I'll take this side, and you take that side ...'" Dad helped him
carry the chair, and Bruce never forgot it.
Years later, after he became president of Clairol, Inc., head of
USIA, and ambassador to Belgium, Bruce Gelb told a reporter, "They
say there are no heroes for young teenagers in our society. But I
can tell you, at age fourteen and a half, I had my own personal
hero, a guy that hated bullies, and it was George Bush."
Andover "was a huge influence in my life," Dad told an interviewer
years later, "more so than college." Frank "Junie" O'Brien, one of
Dad's schoolmates at both Andover and Yale, agrees. He thinks that
the faculty at Andover taught, advised, coached, and socialized with
the impressionable high school age boys, while students at Yale were
older, more independent, and had less interaction with their
teachers. Junie O'Brien was so influenced by it he became a high
school teacher himself, serving on the faculty at Groton School for
When he was fourteen years old, Dad was confirmed at Andover and his
mother gave him a small blue Bible as a confirmation gift. She wrote
the words to an old hymn inside for him:
I would be true, for there are those who trust me,
I would be pure, for there are those who care,
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer,
I would be brave, for there is much to dare;
I would be friend to all, the foe, the friendless,
I would be giving and forget the gift.
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up, and laugh and love and lift.
Andover's school mottoes were Finis origine pendet, "The end depends
on the beginning," and Non sibi, "Not for self." Those philosophies
fit with my grandparents' emphasis on honesty, loyalty, generosity,
modesty, sportsmanship, and becoming what the students there called
Excerpted from My Father, My President
by Doro Bush Koch
Copyright © 2006 by Dorothy Bush Koch.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Doro Bush Koch is the sixth child and only surviving daughter of George H. W. and Barbara Bush. She lives in Maryland, with her husband and four children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I was always a huge fan of President Bush as I served under him as a member of the armed forces and he always took good care of us even as we became more active than 1975. I always had the sense that he was as decent a person as he was a President and the book confirmed my feelings. This is a book about a man who I love deeply and is highly recommended.
THIS IS A VERY FASINATING BOOK AND IT IS WRITTION BY DORO BUSH KOCH(THE DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE HW BUSH)WHAT MAKES IT SO INTRESTING TO ME IS THIS FAMILY MEMBER HAS GATHERED TOGETHER ALOT OF THE HISTORICAL PEOPLE THAT WERE APART OF THIS GREAT PRESIDENTS LIFE(FROM HIS EARLY CAMPAIGN TO HIS PRESIDENIAL YEARS THROUGH THE KUWAIT FREEDOM YEARS. THERE ARE SOME INTRESTING PHOTOS AND I DIDNT KNOW ALOT ABOUT PRESIDENT GEORGE HW BUSH AND HIS EARLY YEARS AND I FOUND THIS BOOK NOT ONLY INTRESTING BUT SO MANY HISTORICAL FIGURES THAT SHARED THEIR THOUGHTS ARE AVALIBLE AND A DAUGHTER WAS ABLE TO SEE SO MUCH HISTORY AND PUT IT DOWN IN A SPECIAL BOOK.
Greetings from Saskatchewan,Canada! Doro Koch Bush has written an absolutely wonderful book about her father former President George H.W. Bush -- My Father,My President. George H.W. Bush is in my opinion a genuine American hero and statesman. He is a good and decent man who brought honor and integrity to the White House. I admire President George H. W. Bush very much. That is why I really enoyed reading 'My Father,My President' by Doro Koch Bush. George H.W. Bush emerges from the pages of 'My Father,My President' as a great American. A man worthy of admiration. It is my heartfelt hope that this wonderful book about former President Bush will do well in the bookstores because now more than ever America needs genuine heroes -- and the USA is blessed to have such a great elder statesman in former President Bush. God bless former President Bush and America.