John Glenn died today at 95. He comes from an era of heroes to little kids who grew up to blog for a living and also enjoyed looking up at the sky and wondering what it would be like to fly.
I wrote the following in a post over the summer and it seems, for many reasons, like a good time to take another look at it with some updates included.
Godspeed, John Glenn.
(Originally published July 18, 2016)
John Glenn is 95 years old today. He was, you may have heard, the first American to orbit the earth, willingly climbing atop a bomb to go try something no American had tried before.
No surprise. He didn’t see himself as a hero but said in an interview on PBS NewsHour a few years ago that it’d be OK with him if his story got more kids interested in science (video below).
“I see the things that built this country, education and basic research, I see those being equally important now to what they’ve ever been in the past, and the nations of the world that lead in those areas will be the nation that leads the world 50 or 75 years from now.”
The country was enamored with the original seven astronauts — the Mercury 7, they were called — who represented a new age of youthful possibility, the same idea that swept a young man into the presidency a year after the Mercury 7 were introduced.
And now, they’re all gone.
He flew 63 combat missions in Korea (his wingman was Ted Williams), and then was a test pilot for the Navy.
He won election to the U.S. Senate in 1974, was a candidate for vice president in 1976, authored the nuclear non-proliferation act of 1978 and then ran for president in 1984 (losing out to Walter Mondale), got caught up in the savings and loan scandal in 1992, became the oldest person in space when he flew in 1998 at age 77, and then retired from the Senate in 1999, $3 million in campaign debt.
He could’ve been picked for VP three other times — 1984, 1988, and 1992– and was passed over all three times.
This morning, CBS This Morning showed a focus group from Frank Luntz, the GOP operative, in which a person declared that he was stunned that the nation had gotten itself into a position this year in which the choice is between two people “so unqualified to lead” the nation.
That’s when I thought of John Glenn’s career and wondered whether the nation really knows what it takes to run the nation if it couldn’t let Glenn within a heartbeat of the presidency.
Glenn is now the oldest living person to have served in the U.S. Senate, and, of course, the oldest living former astronaut.
Former space shuttle astronaut Michael J. Massimino says Glenn embodied what the country wanted to be like.
He had a war record, looks, was a national hero, had experience, and was still married to his high school sweetheart.
By all accounts, he was the perfect candidate, and just what voters say they want. But voters fib. What they say they want isn’t what they’ll vote for.