Our view: Glenn’s legacy is anything is possible

Published 12:40 pm Friday, December 9, 2016

John Glenn taught America we can truly reach for the stars — and actually get there — at a time our country needed to be inspired.

The former astronaut and first American to orbit Earth died Thursday at the age of 95, reminding all of us not even the sky is the limit for those with dreams, vision, tenacity and character.

An Ohio native who was a decorated hero in World War II and Korea, he went on to become one of the original Mercury 7, astronauts who were larger than life characters in what became known as the “Space Race” against the Soviet Union. The fact the Soviets were perceived to be winning was a huge blow to the American psyche and added an almost palpable and real chill to the Cold War tension.

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But on Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn captured the imagination of a nation that needed something for which to cheer. The few hours he spent in space orbiting our entire planet had an immeasurable impact on our nation.

New York Time reporter John Noble Wilford summed it up perfectly in his recent essay, turning to an expert in the field to articulate what Glenn and his accomplishment meant to our country.

“In his political history of the space age, ‘…The Heavens and the Earth,’ the author Walter A. McDougall described Mr. Glenn’s space mission as a ‘national catharsis unparalleled. … It seemed that he had given Americans back their self-respect,’ Mr. McDougall added, ‘and more than that — it seemed Americans dared again to hope.’”

Glenn went on to be a true public servant with more than two decades in the U.S. Senate. In 1998, at the age of 77, he became the oldest man in space as a member of the shuttle Discovery.

Still, he never strayed far from his conservative Midwestern roots, likely one of the reasons he has remained such an iconic hero for our country.

Even though John Glenn soared to new heights, he always found a way to stay grounded.

That is a lesson that will resonate for generations to come.