Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of a Commission to Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr.

October 27, 1964

Colonel Glenn, Secretary Nitze, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a very unusual and very peculiar pleasure for me this morning to have with us one of our most distinguished Americans and his family. I would not have this privilege if we had followed Colonel Glenn's wishes, because he felt an unselfishness that is all too rare among all of us and particularly among people in the Federal Government.

Colonel Glenn felt that his promotion would take from another worthy American a reward that he did not want to see him deprived of. And rather than do that, he would be willing to forego it himself. There are few people who reason that way.

I first got to know Colonel Glenn real well when I met him early one morning at the culmination of a very exciting adventure at the Grand Turk Island. As you know, he was the first American in outer space. The thing that impressed me deeply was that Colonel Glenn did not just see the potentialities of space. He did not just see outer space. Colonel Glenn had a very penetrating look into the future. And in seeing space, he was seeing the future of all mankind.

Another thing that impressed me greatly was that each of the astronauts was given the reward, I guess I should say the privilege, of naming his own ship. Characteristically of his patriotism, his vision, and his love of his fellow man, Colonel Glenn named his capsule "Friendship."

So this morning I insisted that he come here to the first house of the land to receive from his Commander in Chief an honor that he did not seek and one that he did not desire--a promotion in rank. Now I went to the Congress with this matter. It was individual. And we were all unanimous that it was wonderful for him to feel that he should not take this promotion from another man, but that by adding one he would not do it, and we should not be deprived of doing what we knew was right.

And so I have just signed his commission as a full colonel in one of the greatest organizations ever known to man, and I have proudly done so. But even the President promoting Colonel Glenn does not equal the high rank that he has already received from all the American people.

He is the kind of man that you would want your boy to be. He is the kind of man that we want all Americans to emulate. And he is the kind of fellow that I like to call my friend.

NOTE: The ceremony was held at 1:20 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The President's opening words referred to Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr., and Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze.

A White House statement released September 29 announced the President's nomination of Colonel Glenn for promotion to the grade of full colonel. The release stated that Colonel Glenn had not been chosen for promotion by the annual selection board because he had written to the Commandant of the Marine Corps requesting that his name not be considered in order that another officer might be selected. In his letter he stated that it was his intention to retire from the Corps as soon as his health would permit. At that time Colonel Glenn was recuperating from a head injury he had received in a fall in his home.

The President's reference to the Grand Turk Island meeting with Colonel Glenn was to the trip he made as Vice President in order to accompany Colonel Glenn back to the United States after his orbital flight.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of a Commission to Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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