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John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born February 11, 1953) is an American politician and was the 43rd Governor of Florida. He is a prominent member of the Bush family: the younger brother of President George W. Bush the older brother of Neil Bush, Marvin Bush and Dorothy Bush Koch; and the second son of former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Bush enrolled at Phillips Andover, a private boarding school in Massachusetts, already attended by his brother, George. Bush made the honor roll in his first semester.
When Bush was 17, he went to León, Guanajuato, in Mexico, as part of his school's student exchange program. He spent his time there teaching English, and it was there that he met his future wife, Columba Garnica Gallo.
Bush attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor's degree in Latin American Studies in 1973, taking only two and a half years to complete his work, and obtaining generally excellent grades. He had considered a career in Hollywood, but decided instead to pursue politics. He registered for the draft, but the Vietnam War ended before his number came up.
After his early graduation, Bush married Columba Garnica Gallo, on February 23, 1974. Their three children are George P. Bush, Noelle Bush and John Ellis Bush, Jr. Their eldest son, George Prescott Bush (born April 24, 1976 in Texas), went to Gulliver Preparatory School, studied at Rice University, and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas. Noelle Lucila Bush (born July 26, 1977 in Texas), their daughter and second child, studied at Tallahassee Community College, graduating in 2000. John Ellis "Jebby" Bush, Jr. (born December 13, 1983 in Miami, Florida), their youngest child, attended The Bolles School, a private boarding and day school in Jacksonville, and then the University of Texas.
John Ellis Bush, Jr., Bush's youngest son, works for a Miami commercial real estate firm. In October 2007, he endorsed Rudy Giuliani for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination, and supported the effort as chairman of "Florida Young Professionals for Rudy".
Noelle Lucila Bush graduated from Tallahassee Community College in 2000. On January 29, 2002, according to a police report made public via The Smoking Gun, she attempted to “fraudulently obtain a prescription” at a Walgreens Drug Store located in Tallahassee, Florida. The attending officers, Bob Bascom and Mark E. Dent of the Tallahassee Police Department, ascertained that Bush had telephoned the pharmacy using the name “Noelle Scidmore” in an attempt to obtain Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat anxiety disorders. As a result of her arrest, Bush was ordered by a judge to attend a rehabilitation program at the Center for Drug-Free Living in Orlando, Florida. During her time at the facility, Bush was found in contempt of court after being found in possession of two grams of cocaine, and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. In August 2003, Jeb Bush and his wife Columba attended their daughter's final court appearance. Upon completion of her rehabilitation program, the governor's press office released a statement on his behalf. “Columba and I are pleased that our daughter Noelle has completed this step, and grateful for the treatment she's received ... . She has worked hard to get here. We are proud of her efforts and love her very much.” Regarding her treatment, Noelle Bush herself told the court “It's been quite a challenge, and I'm grateful.”
Bush went to work in an entry level position in the international division of Texas Commerce Bank, a job he received through James Baker, a long time family friend and chairman of the board of Texas Commerce Bank. Bush assisted in drafting communications for the company's chairman, Ben Love.
In November 1977, he was sent to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to open a new operation for the bank. Bush spent about two years there, working in international finance. He eventually worked for the bank's executive program.
Bush returned to the United States to work without salary on his father's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, explaining:
"I wasn't motivated for politics, I wasn't motivated because of ideology or anything. My dad's the greatest man I've ever met or will meet; I can predict that fairly confidently. It was payback time, simple as that."
His father ultimately lost the Republican nomination for President that year, but was chosen to be Ronald Reagan's running mate. That fall, George H.W. Bush was elected Vice President of the United States, and won reelection in 1984. In 1988, the elder Bush won both the Republican Party's presidential nomination and the election, becoming the nation's 41st president.
Following the 1980 presidential election, Bush and his family moved to Miami-Dade County, Florida. He took a job in real estate with Armando Codina, a 32-year-old Cuban immigrant and self-made American millionaire. Codina had made a fortune in a computer business, and then formed a new company, IntrAmerica Investments Inc., to pursue opportunities in real estate.
In 1981, his first year with Codina's new real estate venture, Bush earned $41,508. He soon became a valuable real estate salesman for Codina and helped him build a very successful property business in Florida.
During Bush's years in Miami, he was involved in many different entrepreneurial pursuits, including working for a mobile phone company, serving on the board of a Norwegian-owned company that sold fire equipment to the Alaska oil pipeline, becoming a minority owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, buying a shoe company that sold footwear in Panama, and getting involved in a scheme to sell water pumps in Nigeria.
Codina eventually made Bush his partner in a new development business, which quickly became one of South Florida's leading real estate development firms. As a partner, Bush received 40% of the firm's profits.
Bush was also on the payroll of Cuban exile Miguel Recarey, who had earlier assisted the CIA in attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Recarey, who ran International Medical Centres (IMC), employed Bush as a real estate consultant and paid him a $75,000 fee for finding the company a new location, although the move never took place. Bush did, however, lobby the Reagan/Bush administration vigorously and successfully on behalf of Recarey and IMC. "I want to be very wealthy," Jeb Bush told the Miami News when questioned during that period.
After narrowly losing a 1994 election for Governor of Florida against Lawton Chiles, Bush pursued policy and charitable interests. He started a non-profit organization called The Foundation For Florida’s Future, a think tank that stated as its mission influencing public policy at the grassroots level. Jeb met with Noel Serrano, a member of the Latin Chamber of Commerce in 1991. Noel states, "Jeb was always a dedicated Public Servant long before he became Governor" He also "volunteered time to assist the Miami Children's Hospital, the United Way of Dade County and the Dade County Homeless Trust".
Jeb Bush has also worked with The James Madison Institute, a free market public policy think tank based in Tallahassee, FL. He helped the institute in numerous ways and still has his think tank working in conjunction with it. In June 2008, Jeb's institute, the Foundation for Excellence in Education,partnered with JMI to hold a summit called "Excellence in Action: A National Summit on Education Reform".
In 1996, The Foundation For Florida’s Future published a book that Bush had co-written, Profiles in Character (ISBN 0-9650912-0-1), a clear parallel to John F. Kennedy's 1955 book Profiles in Courage. The foundation also published and distributed policy papers, such as "A New Lease on Learning: Florida's First Charter School", which Bush co-wrote. Bush subsequently wrote the foreword to another book, published by the conservative Heritage Foundation and written by Nina Shokraii Rees, School Choice 2000: What’s Happening in the States (ISBN 0-89195-089-3).
Bush co-founded the first charter school in the State of Florida: Liberty City Charter School, a grades K-6 elementary school. The school is situated in Liberty City, a Miami neighborhood that was the site, in 1980, of the first major race riot since the Civil Rights era. The school's co-founder, working alongside Bush, was T. Williard Fair, a well-known local black activist and head of the Greater Miami Urban League. The Liberty City Charter School still operates today as a charter school.
Additionally, Bush is an active rock climber, and a strong advocate for climber's rights.
In addition to his business, civic and charitable activities, the Episcopalian Bush converted to Catholicism (1995). He and his wife belonged to the Epiphany Catholic Church in Miami for many years.
Bush got his start in Florida politics as the Chairman of the Dade County Republican Party. Dade County played an important role in the 1986 election of Bob Martinez to the Governor's office. In return, Martinez appointed Bush as Florida's Secretary of Commerce. He served in that role in 1987 and 1988, before resigning once again to work on his father's presidential campaign. In 1989 he served as the campaign manager of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American to serve in Congress. He launched an unsuccessful bid for the Governor's office in 1994 against incumbent Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles. Bush lost the election by only 63,940 votes out of 4,206,076 that were cast for the major party candidates (2,135,008; 50.8% to 2,071,068; 49.2%).
Governor of Florida
In 1998, Bush defeated the Democratic opponent Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay by over 418,000 votes (2,191,105; 55.3% to 1,773,054; 44.7%) to become Governor of Florida, after courting the state's moderate voters and Hispanics. Simultaneously, his brother, George W. Bush won a landslide re-election victory for a second term as Governor of Texas, and the Bush brothers became the first siblings to govern two states at the same time since Nelson and Winthrop Rockefeller governed New York and Arkansas from 1967 to 1971. Bush is the first Republican governor of Florida to have served two full four-year terms.