December 9, 2016

A genuine American hero, former astronaut and Senator John Glenn, has passed away in Ohio at 95. While he was most famous as the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, he lived a life filled with remarkable accomplishments. They included his time as a Marine pilot, when he broke the transcontinental speed record, and becoming the oldest man in space at 77 as a crew member aboard the space shuttle Discovery. He also continued flying his own plane until he was 90.

In an era of “snowflake” young adults who need a safe space with puppies and Play-Doh when they hear a word they disagree with, the bravery of the early test pilots and astronauts makes them seem as towering and outsized as gods from ancient mythology (the name “Apollo” gets more apt with each passing year). But John Glenn was more than just a great hero, he was also a superlative human being.

He and his wife Annie, who survives him, were married for 73 years. While he served in the Senate as a Democrat, he was nonpartisan and worked and was friends with many Republicans. He also devoted his life to truly selfless public service, particularly for the University of Ohio, which now houses the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Let’s hope the graduates of that school who go into public service use its namesake as a role model.

I could go on writing about him (and my own youthful admiration of Glenn and his NASA comrades), but instead, I’ll link to this obituary from his hometown paper in Columbus. It’s fascinating and thorough. Read it and you’ll see why Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, rightly adopted the motto, “First In Flight.”

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