John Glenn’s Birthday Reminds Us of American Exceptionalism

Posted on July 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

This week former U.S. Senator and forever American hero, John Glenn, celebrated his 90th birthday (Life also celebrated with an online photo gallery). Ironically, Glenn’s birthday is being celebrated during the same week that the NASA space shuttle program comes to an end after three decades of service. The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis is heading back to Earth from the International Space Station for the final time and is scheduled to touchdown early Thursday morning.

Amid the bipartisan rancor about the debt limit, deficit reduction and slashing federal spending, NASA, like most federal agencies is facing the budget axe. The proposed cut to the agency of $1.6 billion means that many of the nation’s space science programs could be curtailed or drastically reduced in scope.

If you listen to the talk on Capitol Hill, America no longer has the capacity to care for its young, its unemployed, or its elderly. It can’t afford to send its students to college, or provide decent housing to the poor, or health care to the sick, or explore space. One can’t help but to wonder what has happened to the America of boundless vision?

It was 50 years ago, in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy went before a special joint session of Congress and set the audacious goal of sending an American to the moon—“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

He made that bold statement despite the fact that U.S. hadn’t yet sent a man into orbit around the Earth, something the Soviet Union had already accomplished.

Less than a year later, on Feb. 20, 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth aboard Friendship 7. Glenn circled the Earth three times on that day during a flight that lasted all of five hours. His stay in the U.S. Senate representing Ohio was just a bit longer—from 1974 until 1999.

So Happy Belated Birthday Sen. Glenn, we’re sorely missing your brand of “Right Stuff” on the Hill.

And by the way, two American astronauts did land on the moon 42 years ago today—July 20, 1969.

That’s the America I believe in.


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