John Glenn is the man. Seriously. There may be other people throughout the history of human existence whose accomplishments rival what the Ohio-born pilot-turned-astronaut-turned-senator achieved, but that doesn’t make anything he did less impressive.
Before he turned 60, Glenn had flown hundreds of combat missions, set the transcontinental speed record, became the first American and the third person to orbit the Earth, got a job as vice president at Royal Crown Cola and was elected to the U.S. Senate.
But Glenn also failed. His first run for senate was marred by lack of organization, a product of his inexperience on the campaign trail. According to Jeffrey W. Thomas, archivist at the Ohio Congressional Archives at The Ohio State University Libraries, who I spoke to for this month’s Uniquely, Glenn thought his name recognition would be enough. His opponent, the incumbent Howard Metzenbaum, knew how to run a campaign and that was enough to get him past Glenn in the primaries.
But Glenn didn’t take the defeat lying down. Honestly, Glenn didn’t take lying down lying down, which was evident after a fall in his home bathroom left Glenn with vertigo so severe that the former test pilot and astronaut was bed ridden with dizziness. While he recovered, Glenn wrote and published, “P.S. I Listened To Your Heartbeat: Letters To John Glenn,” a book derived from the fan mail he had received over the years.
Glenn went to work after the loss to Metzenbaum, touring the state for the next four years shaking hands and giving speeches, paving the way for his victory in 1974, and the first of four terms as senator.
While it may be easy to insinuate that Glenn was somehow born predisposed to greatness, Thomas mentioned more than once how hard Glenn worked to accomplish what he did.
This month we celebrate entrepreneurism through EY’s annual Entrepreneur Of The Year® awards. On their own scale, the stories of these men and women illustrate many of the same values as Glenn’s story, those of hard work, risk, sacrifice and perseverance. While none of them are likely to orbit the Earth, their achievements are certainly something to be celebrated.
Adam Burroughs is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Akron/Canton.