President George H.W. Bush and Jobs for America's Graduates

As we pause to remember our 41st President, I thought it might be helpful to give you a quick report on President Bush’s commitment to Jobs for America's Graduates, since most of you were not there “at the beginning.” 

I remember well the day that Governor du Pont and I went to the White House for breakfast with then-Vice President George Bush, shortly after President Reagan was re-elected.  We were there to brief the Vice President on Jobs for America's Graduates and seek his support.  He was very inquisitive about the program, the early results in Arizona, Tennessee and Ohio, the idea of replicating the program in other states, and JAG’s focus on the most challenged and at-risk young people.   

Vice President Bush then agreed to serve as a founding member of the JAG Board of Directors, as did former Vice President Walter Mondale, establishing the bipartisanship that has characterized JAG’s leadership over the years.  In fact, the Vice President offered to host the first meeting of the Board of Directors in one of the large, ornate meeting rooms in the old Executive Office Building – and an offer we quickly accepted, of course. 

Attached is one of the rare photos from our archives, showing that first Board meeting.  As you can see, it was quite an interesting gathering of individuals, including:

  • Vice President Bush
  • Former Vice President Mondale
  • Chuck Robb (then Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, who later became our second Chair as Governor of Virginia)
  • James Robinson (Chairman and CEO of American Express)
  • Lane Kirkland (President and CEO of the AFL-CIO)
  • Ben Hooks (President and CEO of the NAACP)
  • Carolyn Warner, another of our founding Board members (then State Superintendent of Education in Arizona)
  • A number of other remarkable leaders. 

At the time, we had a very small program that was just beginning to demonstrate results in three states (Arizona, Tennessee and Ohio) as we held the first Board meeting. Such enormous early creditability for JAG.

Another “first” for us was when then-President George H.W. Bush spoke at our first-ever National Leadership Awards event in December of 1990 (photo showing him with our Chair then, Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. of Maine).  At the time, he had a raging fever and a bad case of flu.  However, because he was so enthusiastic about supporting the program, he was kind enough to join us, address the group, and meet with many of our young people, Board members and funders.  To this day, he is the only President who has ever joined us for an event. 

Also note the photo of the President with a number of JAG students at yet another event.

In my interactions with George H.W. Bush while he served as Vice President and then President, he was exactly as you have heard and seen in so many of the commentaries: always very open, interested in things that could help those who were at‑risk and disadvantaged, and willing to share his reputation and use his visibility to support good programs doing good things.  As so many have said in their tributes to him, his was a life clearly well lived – and one that benefitted JAG greatly. 

All the best,