During his single term in the Oval Office, President George Herbert Walker Bush and his family took the time to travel to East Tennessee on multiple occasions.
His wife, Barbara Bush, campaigned for Bush in 1988 as he defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis. Mrs. Bush knew the color to connect with the locals.
"I have orange roses, not red," said Barbara Bush as she held a large bouquet of flowers that matched the school colors of the University of Tennessee.
President Bush returned to Knoxville in February 1990 to speak at the University of Tennessee. The invitation to speak came from Lamar Alexander, then the president of the University of Tennessee. President Bush spoke about an education initiative to boost the nation's standing in math and science while also discussing a desire to continue traditional values.
"I hope that you'll continue to give voice to this state's frontier virtues of hard work, loyalty, love of faith, family, and the Volunteer State," said President Bush on Feb. 2, 1990.
Later that year, President Bush invited Alexander to come to D.C. as the nation's new secretary of education.
"Lamar, if you'll remember, was at the forefront of the movement to restructure our nation's schools," said President Bush in December 1990.
On Feb. 19, 1992, the president returned to Tennessee for a tour of the labs in Oak Ridge and a speech at Knoxville's Civic Coliseum. During his address in Oak Ridge, President Bush spoke about the city's shifting role from the nuclear arms race of the Cold War to the technological advancements that create new businesses.
"We will transform the arsenal of democracy into the engine of economic growth," said President Bush in Oak Ridge.
During his speech at the Civic Coliseum, President Bush focused on the economy as the nation struggled to emerge from a recession that would ultimately harm his chances of re-election. The president also spoke humbly of the honor of holding the nation's highest elected office.
"I am fortunate, very fortunate, to be the President of the United States at an exciting time in our country's marvelous history. The world still looks to this great country for leadership and we have so much to be grateful for. And I'm very proud to serve as your president. May God bless you and bless the United States of America," said President Bush in Knoxville.
President Bush made his last trip to East Tennessee as Commander in Chief on Sep. 29, 1992, during his losing bid for re-election. The president spoke at McGhee Tyson Airport and only referred to his Democratic opponents as "the Clinton ticket." He avoided any mention of Bill Clinton's vice-presidential running mate Al Gore, the U.S. Senator from Tennessee who was very popular in the state.
Tennessee was politically important to both President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. Neither won a national election without winning Tennessee. President George H.W. Bush lost Tennessee when he was defeated in 1992 by Bill Clinton. In 2000, George W. Bush would not have become president had he failed to win the home state of opponent Al Gore. Bush defeated Gore in Tennessee by 3.8 percent.