U.S. Sen. John Glenn announced his retirement Thursday in a 45-minute speech so filled with his passion for service that it sounded like he might be doing the opposite until the very end.
“Because I believe these things,” Glenn said as the speech climaxed, “because I am deeply proud of the 8,894 votes I have cast on behalf of the people of Ohio; because I believe we stand at a crossroads in a very rapidly changing world … there is nothing I might wish for more fervently than to declare my candidacy for a fifth term in the United States Senate.”
But then, Glenn simply said he couldn’t, and the call to service turned at the very last moment into an unadorned declaration that it’s time for the generations to change hands.
“Although my health remains excellent, and my passion for the job burns as brightly as ever, another term in the Senate would take me to the age of 83,” Glenn said. “For that reason - and that reason alone - I have decided that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the Senate in 1998.”
Glenn will surrender a Democratic seat at just the time when a hungry Republican is poised to claim it, and the party count in the Senate could sift further to the right. Ohio Gov. George Voinovich has staked his interest in Glenn’s seat and has over $1 million already in the bank to mount a campaign any other challengers seem likely to have to chase.
Voinovich, the man regarded as having the surest shot of capturing Glenn’s seat for his party, issued a statement saying Glenn was a “true American hero.”
He has made plans to seek the Senate nomination but is not yet a formal candidate.
Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said Glenn had “put his service to America before anything else. (He is) truly a modern American pioneer.”