My John Glenn Tribute

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.”

Wait and See

November 25, 2016

I've said many times that it was pointless to argue about potential Trump Cabinet picks before they were officially picked. Well, President-elect Trump has now named Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, so let the arguments begin.

DeVos is a major GOP donor; a strong advocate for voucher programs and charter schools; and the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, an organization that crusades for allowing parents to use public school money to send their kids to private schools of their choice. So you’d expect her selection to draw howls from Democrats who are joined at the hip with public school teachers’ unions. But some conservatives also oppose DeVos because of her previous championing of the controversial Common Core education initiative. She now says she opposes it, but some on the right don’t believe her. To be fair, many Republicans supported Common Core initially as just a basic national standard for education, but turned on it when they saw the heavy-handed way it was being implemented as a federal takeover of schools.

I expect that we will discover her true opinion on Common Core once she’s on the job, and until then, the criticism will have little effect. Congress usually lets a new President have the Cabinet he wants, unless someone is manifestly unqualified. And whether you agree with Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos or not, it’s obvious she could easily ace any standardized test of expertise in America’s education system.

Read more.