The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Remarks at the Presentation of NASA's Distinguished Service Medal to Dr. Robert R. Gilruth and Col. John H. Glenn, Jr.
February 23, 1962

Mr. Vice President:

As Lieutenant Shepard and Major Grissom have learned, and as Colonel Glenn is now learning, the hazards of space flight only begin when the trip is over. And now that Colonel Glenn has been launched into public orbit, we are proud of him--as we are of all the astronauts and those who are connected with this great effort.

Two weeks ago, when Colonel Glenn came by the White House, I asked him how he enjoyed the public attention, and he said that he wished that they were paying more attention to the scientific part of the voyage rather than to his wife's hair. My own feeling is that both are equally important, in the sense that we are proud of this trip because of its scientific achievement and we are also proud of it because of the men and women that are involved in it. Our boosters may not be as large as some others, but the men and women are.

So it is my great pleasure to speak on behalf of all of our fellow Americans in expressing our pride and satisfaction to those so intimately involved in this effort. All of us remember a few dates in this century, and those of us who were very young remember Colonel Lindbergh's flight, and Pearl Harbor, and the end of the war--and we remember the flight of Alan Shepard and Major Grissom, and we remember the flight of Colonel Glenn.

I want to first express our thanks to Dr. Gilruth who headed the team which is represented by all of you here today, who led the Mercury project, who has been intimately connected with it, who represents the kind of American genius for organization, particularly in the scientific field, upon which we put so much of our hopes.

So, Doctor, if you will step forward, I would like to present you an award which is highly merited and which comes from us all. It says:

"The President of the United States takes pleasure in awarding the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Service Medal to Robert R. Gilruth for services as set forth in the following Citation: for his distinguished leadership of the team of scientists and engineers that carried Project Mercury, the United States' initial manned space flight program, from its inception to the successful accomplishment of manned flight in orbit about the earth. The achievements of this Project have considerably enhanced the prestige of the United States and reflect the greatest credit on him and upon his country."

It is signed by Mr. Webb and it is given to you by all of us here and around the country.

Now, Colonel Glenn, will you step forward. Seventeen years ago today, a group of Marines put the American flag on Mount Suribachi, so it is very appropriate that today we decorate Colonel Glenn of the United States Marine Corps, and also realize that in the not too distant future a Marine or a Naval man or an Air force man will put the American flag on the moon.
I present this citation:

"The President of the United States takes pleasure in awarding the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Service Medal to Lieutenant Colonel john H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, for services set forth in the following: for exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as the first American Astronaut to perform orbital flight. Lieutenant Colonel Glenn's orbital flight on February 20, 1962, made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human knowledge of space technology and in demonstration of man's capabilities in space flight.

"His 'performance was marked by his great professional knowledge, his skill as a test pilot, his unflinching courage, and his extraordinary ability to perform most difficult tasks under conditions of great physical stress and personal danger. His performance in fulfillment of this most dangerous assignment reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States."

Colonel, we appreciate what you have done!

We have Mr. and Mrs. Glenn, who launched Colonel Glenn originally--they are right here in the front row--and also Mrs. Glenn and David and Lynn.

And we would like to have you say a word to everybody.
[Colonel Glenn expressed his appreciation for the award. He stressed the team effort in Project Mercury and said that the accomplishment of the orbital flight represented the combined efforts of many thousands of people all over the country.]

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks at the Presentation of NASA's Distinguished Service Medal to Dr. Robert R. Gilruth and Col. John H. Glenn, Jr.", February 23, 1962. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9073.
 
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