This year is nearly over, or may be just beginning, depending upon when you are reading this. A lot happened in 2016 — wars and hostility, political drama and elections, and conflicts both external and internal to our nation. We collectively celebrated some things and mourned others.
One such occurrence was the passing of U.S. Senator John Glenn in December. He lived to the age of 95, married for 73 years to his sweetheart, Annie. Annie and John had two children, John and Carolyn. They were married during World War II, during which John served as a fighter pilot, flying an astonishing 149 missions. Then he also served during the Korean War.
After that, John entered the astronaut program and was the first to orbit our globe. Three turns around the earth while the rest of us watched, if we were able, on a small 16-inch black and white television screen, awed by what we were seeing. (Some claimed that it was a big hoax, and tried to discredit this achievement, though I suspect these are the same noodle heads that think the Holocaust didn’t happen.)
Nevertheless, Mr. Glenn, already a hero, became a hero once again. He set the stage for Neil Armstrong’s later stroll on the moon’s surface, as well as many other explorations into our universe.
In 1974, Mr. Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate, and stayed a senator for 25 years, representing the great state of Ohio. In those 25 years, he demonstrated consistent honesty and integrity, only once having a brush with scandal — and in that instance, he was exonerated. I suspect that he was the only Democrat my father ever voted for, but that’s another story.
In 1988, at age 77, he returned to space on the Discovery, as the oldest person to enter space on a space shuttle. The mission was to study the effects of space travel and aging. He retired from Congress the following year, so perhaps one effect was to appreciate leisure!
I mourned with the nation the loss of someone so brave, smart, loyal, humble and so dedicated to his family, state, and country. It boggled my mind to learn that he ran for Senate twice and was defeated before being elected in 1974, but that serves as a model for perseverance and dedication to goals.
I am struggling these days to find people to admire in positions of leadership. I wish there were more people like John Glenn, but they don’t seem in good supply. I suppose that’s the reason his passing has affected me so deeply.
He once said, “If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on the planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest.” These are words worth taking into the new year.
I wish each of you a happy and healthy 2017, and hope it provides each of us an opportunity to devote ourselves to something bigger and more profound than ourselves.
Email me at email@example.com.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.