WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today applauded the news that former Ohio senator John Glenn will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The ceremony will take place at a date to be determined this spring. In June 2011, Brown spoke to President Obama and personally handed him a letter nominating Glenn for the award.
“Now 90 years old—and having served as a Marine aviator, an astronaut, a United States Senator, and a noted educator—John Glenn has received quite a few recognitions and awards. But whether he was flying a fighter jet or floating in space, he has always remained grounded in his New Concord roots,” Brown said. “Those of us fortunate to know him well know that there is so much to his life: his devotion for his wife Annie; his fierce advocacy of science, technology, and NASA; and finally, his deep patriotism and love for his country. He is a worthy recipient for the Presidential Medal of Freedom and it is a privilege to congratulate him on this tremendous honor.”
Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. Born in Cambridge, Ohio and raised in New Concord, Ohio, Glenn is a veteran of World War II and served as Ohio’s senator for 24 years. The text of Brown’s recommendation can be found below.
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20501
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to request that former Marine aviator, astronaut, and United States Senator John Herschel Glenn, Jr. be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In February, when you bestowed our nation’s highest civilian honor to fifteen extraordinary men and women, you referred to President Kennedy’s tribute to Robert Frost by saying, “our nation reveals itself not by the men and women it produces, but by the men and women we remember…..it says something about who we are as a people.” President Kennedy signed the executive order elevating our nation’s highest civilian award as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He would also ask a decorated Marine aviator from Cambridge, Ohio to be the first American to orbit the Earth and inspire confidence and pride in the American spirit of scientific discovery. You have said, clearly and convincingly, that our nation’s competitiveness depends on our investments in science, engineering, and innovation. What better way to once again instill a confidence and pride for a new era of American space pioneers than bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom to John Glenn, whose contributions to the national interests are clear, and whose public and private endeavors remain firmly planted in a deep patriotism and love for his country.
July 18, 2011 marks John Glenn’s 90th birthday. Born in Cambridge, Ohio, 150 miles east of Dayton where the Wright Brothers took humankind into flight, he attended public school and became an Eagle Scout in New Concord, where he would meet his childhood sweetheart and future wife, Annie. By 1941, he studied mathematics at nearby Muskingum College and earned his pilot’s license. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he dropped out of college to enlist in the U.S. Navy, and after two years of advanced aviator training, was reassigned to the U.S. Marine Corps. John Glenn flew 59 combat missions with the Marines in World War II, and 90 combat missions with both the Marines and Air Force in Korea. He was awarded numerous commendations and citations for his heroic military service.
In 1959, the decorated war hero was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, and in 1962 became the first American to orbit the Earth, which he did three times, observing three sunrises and three sunsets and the wonder of the universe in just under five hours. More than 35 years later, Glenn was asked by another president, Bill Clinton, to fly into space for a second time, as a Mission Specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery. At the age of 77, he became the oldest human to fly in space, conducting a series of scientific investigations into the physiology of the human aging process and exploring the effects of space flight and aging.
By the 1960s, Glenn’s service to his country continued into a career in politics. He was with Bobby Kennedy that fateful day in California and would serve as a pall bearer in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1974, Glenn was elected U.S. Senator from his home state of Ohio, serving four consecutive terms until his retirement in 1999. As Senator, he served as chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, and was the chief author of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Act of 1978. And through the years, he continually championed the advancement of science, technology, and especially NASA – so much so that in 1999, the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio was officially renamed the John H. Glenn Research Center.
After his retirement from the Senate, he and Annie founded the John Glenn Institute for Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, saying, “If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this 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.”
He is a decorated veteran and distinguished astronaut, a former Senator and noted educator. And with Annie by his side for nearly his entire life, he remains a devoted family man. The 90 years of John Glenn’s life tells our nation’s story in the 20th Century, our triumphs and turbulence, and how our nation’s spirit of discovery could be found in the humility of a hometown hero from Cambridge, Ohio.
On the occasion of his 90th birthday, I urge you to honor a national treasure, John Glenn, by bestowing upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has sacrificed for our national security, worked toward world peace, and helped define the cultural identity of our country.
And in celebrating his remarkable American life, we reveal and remember the greatness of our people.