If you were to interview Christopher Columbus and John Glenn, what differences and similarities would you expect to find between them?
by Mary Colene Burns
The 2002 essay contest winner was a junior at Hayden High School in Warrior, Alabama. Her participation was sponsored by the Warriors River Chapter, NSDAR.
Webster’s New Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language defines an interview as “a meeting of persons face to face, especially for a formal discussion.”. If I had the opportunity to interview Christopher Columbus and John Glenn, I would expect the find differences and similarities between their careers and personal lives. Most of the information that is known about Columbus comes from his personal manuscripts and the diligent work of historians. Glenn recently published his autobiography.
In interviewing Columbus and Glenn, I would find both men eager to share the exciting stories of their adventurous lives. Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Born in Genoa, Italy in 1451, Columbus was the son of a wool weaver and tavern-keeper. With dreams of sailing west to India, Columbus set out in 1492 with three ships eventually reaching the Americas. He made three more voyages to the Americas.
John Glenn was the first American to achieve orbital flight in outer space. Born in Cambridge, Ohio in 1921, Glenn was the son of a plumber. With dreams of flying, Glenn joined the Navy to become a pilot. He eventually became an astronaut and politician.
One obvious difference between the two pioneers is the time periods in which they lived. Columbus lived from 1451 to 1506. Today, Glenn enjoys an active life, oddly enough, in Columbus, Ohio. Despite the time difference, both men found their niche in the world. Columbus conquered the water by “sailing the ocean blue,” while Glenn conquered the air by blasting off into space.
Columbus had no political aspirations and, sadly, was unfairly imprisoned at one point in his life. Glenn became an Ohio senator and in 1984 ran as a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
Despite a few obvious differences, I would find that their lives were very similar. From their humble beginnings, both Columbus and Glenn started to follow their adventurous dreams. Columbus made expeditionary trips down the cost of Africa before sailing to the America’s. Glenn flew fighter airplanes for the U.S. in World War II.
Columbus and Glenn would enjoy telling me about their families.
Columbus had two sons, Diego and Fernando. Glenn married his childhood sweetheart, Annie Castor. They had two children, John David and Carolyn Ann.
Both men would talk excitedly about the day they made history. Columbus would tell me that on October 12, 1492, his ship, the Santa Maria landed in the present day Bahamas. Columbus said, “These islands are so lovely that I do not know where to go first.” Glenn would narrate his story about “riding fire” through the heavens in his space capsule, the Friendship 7, on February 20, 1962. As he spotted the Earth he said, “Oh! This view is tremendous!”
Both Columbus and Glenn had to promote themselves and their desires in order to accomplish their dreams. Columbus had to lobby for years in the Portuguese and Spanish royal courts before Spain’s monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, agreed to fund his voyage in search of a western route to Asia. At age seventy-five, Glenn presented a request to NASA to return to space. After two years, his request was granted and on October 29, 1998, he become the oldest man to fly in space.
The goals of Columbus and Glenn were not self-centered. Columbus stated that he wanted to spread Christianity through his voyages. Glenn journeyed into space in 1998 to conduct experiments on aging. Upon returning from their historic trips, Columbus and Glenn were greeted with banquets and parties. Columbus dined with the queen and king of Spain. Glenn received heavy news coverage and addressed a joint session of Congress.
Perhaps the most striking similarity between Columbus and Glenn is their adventurous spirit of bravery and the fact that they refused to yield to difficulty and discouragement. They were willing to risk their lives for their dreams.
At the conclusion of my interview, I would fully understand the impact that Christopher Columbus and John Glenn had upon our world. Columbus’s discovery sparked the beginning of continuous contact between the “Old World” and the “New World”. In the same way, Glenn’s voyage began the conquest of another “New World”, the vast world of space. The fulfillment of Columbus’s dream made Glenn=s dream a reality. The fulfillment of Glenn’s dream will make other dreams a reality. Columbus and Glenn are two men whose dreams will live on as an inspiration to the pioneer spirit in all of us.
2006 – Catharine Magdalene Wingfield Clayton
2005 – Irtefa Anwara Bibte-Farid