Bush 41 on the White House Tennis Court: “Unleash Chang!” “Vic Damone!”

In 1990, when George H.W. Bush was President, I went to a George Plimpton speech in DC and Plimpton described what it was like to play tennis with President Bush at the White House. He said President Bush liked to shout out self-motivating or celebratory phrases while playing.

When he wanted to motivate himself or his partner, he would shout “Unleash Chang!”

When something good happened, President Bush liked to shout “Vic Damone!” which meant victory. (Vic Damone was a popular big band singer and television entertainer.)

What did “Unleash Chang!” mean?

In a 1989 Washington Post article on the politics of tennis, former President George Bush was quoted as threatening to “unleash Chang” as a means of intimidating other players. The saying was apparently quite popular with Gov. Bush’s father, and referred to a legendary warrior named Chang who was called upon to settle political disputes in Chinese dynasties of yore.

But it’s also been suggested that President Bush wasn’t going to “unleash Chang,” he was going to “unleash Chiang,” who wasn’t an ancient Chinese warrior but Chiang Kai-shek, the former president of China who was exiled to Taiwan after the Chinese communists took over the country in 1946.

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