Here in Columbus our office overlooks the Ohio Statehouse and today, even with the frigid effects of the record-breaking polar vortex, the turnout to pay respect to Ohio’s own Honorable Senator John Glenn is a steady stream, expected to reach the thousands before the evening is over. AARP Ohio joins the nation and especially our great state of Ohio, as we celebrate the extraordinary life of Senator Glenn.
“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.”
Among his many accomplishments and contributions runs a thread of service. He was a decorated Veteran who served his country in two wars, split between the Navy and the Marine Corps and his military career spanned over two decades. He represented the citizens of Ohio as a U.S. Senator for twenty-five years, served as a church elder and most-notably was the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, at the height of the “Cold War Space Race”. He continued his passion for science with two decades on the National Board of Governors for the National Space Society and established the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at The Ohio State University in 1998 to encourage public service.
By all measure, in 1998 at the age of 77 he had lived a full and accomplished life—an American hero with a recognized name, a father and a grandfather. Even without his acclaim and contributions, no one would have been surprised if he had decided to pare down his obligations or public and community participation at this point in his life. But what he did instead will forever change the way we view ourselves as we get older.
“Just because I’m 77 doesn’t mean I don’t have a dream.”
Returning to space for nine-days on the Discovery space shuttle as the oldest person to fly in space empowered all of us to move past outdated ideas of aging as declining to embracing our later years as a time of continuous growth. He inspires us to view our own aging in a more positive light and to see ourselves as integral parts of society as we navigate life’s transitions.
Part of our work here at AARP Ohio is to help build a society where all people are valued for who they are and not judged by how old they are. And our founding principle is “To serve, not to be served.” We can’t think of a better example of those concepts than the Honorable Senator John Glenn.