John Glenn

Who Mentored John Glenn?

Interview  Watch the video of John Glenn.

Watch a public service announcement featuring John Glenn in support of National Mentoring Month.


Former astronaut and senator John Glenn made history as the first American to orbit the earth, circling the globe three times in 1962. After his retirement from the space program, he served in the U.S. Senate for four consecutive terms. In 1998, Glenn, at 77 years old, became the oldest person ever to fly in space. Glenn helped found the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at Ohio State University [OSU] in 1998 to encourage public service. In 2006, the institute merged with OSU’s School of Public Policy and Management to become the John Glenn School of Public Affairs where Glenn held an adjunct professorship. Then, in 2015, the school became the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

I’ve been very curious about things all my life. My dad was curious. And he liked to take trips — he used to look into all sorts of things. He used to tell me his objective in life was to give me as many experiences as I could as a young person.


I had a high school teacher who was particularly good at teaching. He taught civics, the study of government and politics. And he just made it come alive. And I used to look forward to his classes, and I was curious about what I might be able to do some time. Never thought I’d be able to be in high public office or anything like that. But that curiosity that he imbued in me led me into some directions coming out of the space program, and I was in the Senate for 24 years.


Well, when I was in space the second time, I was 77 when I went up. When I came back though, I think I heard from every old folks’ organization in the United States. And most of them were just congratulatory things, but some of them wanted advice on things. And my best advice I could give out of my own experience is, I think you do better when you wake up every morning with something you’re looking forward to for that day, something productive. And it can be anything. It can be church work, it can be working with a civic organization, it can be mentoring young people, helping them get a good start in life.

You know, older adults sometimes just sit and do nothing, and I think that’s the worst thing they can do. They’ve had a lifetime of experience, they’ve had education, they’ve had on-the-job training, they’ve been business executives, they’ve been farmers, they’ve been whatever. They spend a lifetime learning how to do these things. It’s a shame that that has to end with them. I don’t think it has to. At the least we can have people who take these experiences and use them to help mentor young people into their own lives. Advise and counseling them so that maybe they don’t have to make some of the same mistakes we made in getting through our own lives.

I think a mentor gets a lot of satisfaction in a couple of ways. They’re doing something constructive, so they feel good about that. And when they see the results of this, with the young people they’re working with, it’s very, very rewarding. And also, they have a feeling that their own experiences aren’t just ending because they’re old. They’re able to sort of provide a new base through their own experience, they provide a new base for a young person to start from themselves. And that gives you a great deal of satisfaction to do that.