Annie Glenn, wife of John Glenn, passed away earlier this week. Her husband was an American icon but she, too, was formidable in her own right and a passionate advocate on speech disorder issues. I asked someone who knew her to reflect on her and that aspect of her work.
Here’s former Glenn aide and White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry on Annie Glenn:
Annie Glenn was profoundly original, always aware of her connections to a “great hero,” but not ever wanting to claim that title herself, though she deserved it. She and her husband were remarkable partners, and I tell my wife to this day that we want to be like John and Annie Glenn.
One short story: After the 1984 presidential campaign which did not end well for Senator Glenn, I was still on the staff and we were going to fly back to Ohio from the old National Airport to shore up support for the Senator’s re-election (which he easily won, of course).
We sat in the Senator’s Beech Baron for what to me seemed like a long time, and I finally said “Shouldn’t we get going?” Annie turned back from the co-pilot seat and said, “John is doing his checklist.” Which he was. And so was she since she was a qualified pilot as well. She could have flown that plane as well as John Glenn. I actually remember that at some point he told Annie to take the controls so he could relax and chat with those of us in the back.
He was not the greatest of politicians, but he and Annie were wonderful human beings.
And by the time of the 1984 campaign, she was good at public speaking and did public events that were remarkable. She would say: “Sometimes I have difficulty with my words, but I hope you hear me out.” With humility and grace always. Her advocacy for those with speech impediments was always genuine and heartfelt.
I remember that she came out to a John Kerry event in Ohio during the 2004 campaign with the Senator and Kerry embraced her so warmly and gave the Senator a proper “bro” embrace. But she was the star.
I hope their College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University gets a big infusion of love and support in memory of a truly lovely person.
Mike McCurry is of counsel at PSW, where he provides counsel on communications strategies and management to corporate and nonprofit clients. He is also a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., concentrating on the intersections of faith, politics and public affairs.