In Memory of John Glenn, an American Democratic Hero

John Glenn, thank you for your service to the nation and for being a Democrat, not only in party, but in dedication! And thank government investment in solid science for so many advancements. This is a legitimate role of government.

I’m of the generation that knew the names of ALL the original Mercury 7 astronauts: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Walter Schirra, Gordon Cooper, Deke Slayton, and Scott Carpenter. John Glenn was the last surviving one. Although he died a little over two months ago, at age 95, I wanted to take time here to remember him and to remember what our country can do when we all pull together, just as we also did during World War II under F.D.R. To relive this era and the segregation of that period see “Hidden Figures,” a terrific movie based on real people and real heroes, including John Glenn. One of the few movies around where you feel good as you walk out, although you’ll get pretty mad early on and wonder how we could all have been so stupid and blind.

“In just five hours on Feb. 20, 1962, Mr. Glenn joined a select roster of Americans whose feats have seized the country’s imagination and come to embody a moment in its history, figures like Lewis and Clark, the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh.  To the America of the 1960s, Mr. Glenn was a clean-cut, good-natured, well-grounded Midwesterner, raised in Presbyterian rectitude, nurtured in patriotism and tested in war, who stepped forward to risk the unknown and succeeded spectacularly, lifting his country’s morale and restoring its self-confidence. It was an anxious nation that watched and listened that February morning, as Mr. Glenn, 40 years old, a Marine Corps test pilot and one of the seven original American astronauts, climbed into Friendship 7, the tiny Mercury capsule atop an Atlas rocket rising from the concrete flats of Cape Canaveral in Florida.” [Quoted from the NY Times obituary, www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/john-glenn-dies.html?_r=0]

John Glenn, Astronaut and Democrat.

Only Deke Slayton didn’t make a Mercury flight, but he did go on to fly in space as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project crew. Grissom, Schirra, and Cooper were part of the Gemini program, and three were part of Apollo missions, with Shepard setting foot on the moon. And we will never forget the landing on the moon with Neil Armstrong, Commander, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot, and the famous words first: “The Eagle has landed” then “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

I have no idea how many astronauts there have been any more, although I do remember the tragedies and near tragedies. They were a national uniting experience as were the successes. I suppose we have the Cold War to thank for that, although I would like to attribute it to scientific knowledge, much like Darwin’s sail on the S/V Beagle.

 

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