Friday, December 9, 2016

Godspeed, John Glenn

Another marker of the end of an era came yesterday when Mercury Astronaut and 4-term Democratic US Senator from Ohio, John Glenn (1921-2016) died at 95. After Sputnik in October 1957 and Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first-ever orbit of the earth in April 1961, the US desperately needed and wanted first to catch up to - and then to surpass - the Soviets in space. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn flew "Friendship 7" to become the first American astronaut to orbit the earth and immediately was transformed into a national hero, the likes of whom we have scarcely seen since. 

I am sure all of my generation remember that flight well. We remember the words he was sent into space with, "Godspeed, John Glenn," which in a sense became the entire country's words to him then and since. Six days later, the new national hero gave an admirable address to a Joint Session of Congress (see:

John Glenn, the heroic astronaut, was a down-to-earth midwesterner, who married his childhood sweetheart in 1943 and remained happily married for 73 years. He was a kind of poster boy for how America wanted to see itself in the Cold War. For 24 years, as a 4-term Democratic Senator from Ohio, Glenn attempted to apply the values of that "New Frontier" American Dream to the challenges of his day, and in his retirement he promoted Civics Education, something so sadly lacking and sorely needed in America today.

Compared to today's alternative America of polarization, divisive identity politics, and malevolent fake news, John Glenn was the real deal, whom all of us could identify with and admire. He represented the values we have lost because we so carelessly let them go.

Godspeed, John Glenn!

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