Honorary Degree Recipient Talksrecording...
Transcription by Lissa Minkel '07 · John Glenn's speech. Includes Q & A.
Well, good afternoon. Welcome to Amherst. My name is Tony Marx and it is my privilege and pleasure today to introduce John Glenn, who needs no introduction. Born in Ohio, Senator Glenn left college to join the military in the second World War, became a Marine pilot, and flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific, and then 63 combat missions during the Korean War, many of them with as his wing man, Ted Williams. It's really quite amazing.
In 1957, as a Marine test pilot, Glenn set a transcontinental speed record for the first flight to average supersonic speeds, from Los Angeles to New York. I can only imagine the boom across the country. In 1962, the entire country and beyond cheered when he became the first American to orbit the Earth successfully, as part of the NASA Mercury project. The flight, during which almost everything that could go wrong did, but obviously not everything, orbited Earth three times and splashed down, without incident, near the Bahamas.
John Glenn subsequently went into business with Royal Crown Cola, and then engaged in early environmental protection efforts in Ohio, campaigned for his friend Robert Kennedy in 1968 in Kennedy's bid for the presidential nomination. In 1974, John Glenn won a landslide election of the U.S. Senate and became the first four term senator from Ohio, retiring 1998, but not yet retired because, at the age of 77, in 1998, John Glenn joined the space shuttle Discovery mission, as a payload specialist. Spending nine days on board, undergoing various experiments to study links between human aging and the negative symptoms of weightlessness.
There are two other things I would like to add. First, in honor of having Senator Glenn here, the Amherst flag, which flies here, has come out of the archives. This particular flag was carried into space by an alum of the College, Jeffery Hoffman, who followed John Glenn as an astronaut.
And lastly I want to just make an announcement. John has a grandson, Daniel, who's here at the College and graduating--or thought he was graduating. And it has been my particular pleasure in my time at Amherst to have John and Annie fly up to see Daniel, and I've gotten the benefit from that from some amazing conversations in my office about politics and the world and beyond the world. And I'm not ready to give up that privilege. So, Daniel, you're staying. John and Annie, you come anytime and we'll continue the conversation. But in the meantime, we all get to enjoy a conversation with Senator John Glenn. Please join me in welcoming him.
Thank you, Tony. Thank you very much, and thank you ladies and gentlemen. Difficult to respond to a nice introduction like that. It's a little like a dinner that Annie and I attended back home in Ohio not long ago. And the person introducing me got all carried away and gave accolades and accomplishments I never dreamed of having in this life and the next. And finished up this overgenerous introduction by finally saying, "There are few truly great men in this world!" And then he introduced me. Now that's rather heady. And so I guess I was still thinking about that when I was riding home, we were driving home that night and I said, "Annie, you know, if you think about it, there aren't very many, really, truly great men in this world." And took her about two seconds to say, "Let me tell you something, there's sure one less than you think there is."
I want to introduce Annie. Annie stand up.
I also want to make sure everybody understood there's no truth to the rumor that NASA would not let me go out on a space walk because they were afraid at my age I might wander off someplace. It's also not true that I was the oldest male to every leave Florida in something other than a Winnebago, also. Some of the age-related stories going around on the internet are good these days, though, and I won't belabor these things too long, but I got a kick out of one I saw the other day. Three old pilots out walking across the ramp. Quite aged. And one of them says, "It's windy." The second one looks at him and says, "No, it's Thursday." And the third one said, "Me too. Let's go get a beer."
Another one I heard too where one where--this has nothing to do with what we came here for, does it? Another one I heard, the elderly...I'm going to be another Bob Hope. The other one I heard too was the elderly gentleman leaves to go downtown, he's gone about ten minutes, gets a call on the car phone. His wife says, "Oh Fred, please be careful. I just saw on TV. where there's a man driving the wrong way on the freeway." And he says, "Dear, there's not one, there're hundreds of them!"
But the one that I get a kick out of more than any other one, this thing of aging came to me in an actual letter, here it is, it's, I did this on the xerox, but it's a copy of a letter from a boy in Illinois, I won't use his name here, or his school, but, "Hi, I'm so and so, I'm nine years old, in the third grade at such and such a school. I wish you could come. Just recently I had to do a biography report and I picked you because I wanted to learn about the first American to orbit Earth. I loved reading about your life. When I had to do my presentation I made a poster and dressed up like an astronaut. P.S." A couple questions, and then he finishes with this, which I think just says it all. "I'm glad you're still alive, because a lot of my classmates' biography choices are already dead. I hope you write back."
That letter got the fastest response out of my office. Well, some good ones going around these days. We didn't come to tell jokes all day here. We don't--we have sort of limited time today, and we want to get to the conversation part of this as fast as we can here. I can make some remarks here. It was asked that I make some remarks about space, maybe a couple of items that you haven't really heard about from space. And then talk about some things that do concern me about this country and where we're going. Long-term, some long-term aspects of where we're going, and some of the short-term things that bother me too. And then we can get in conversation and question and answer, back and forth, and someone else can state their views and so on.
Space experience, to start off with that format, space experience does give you a very different view on things. I guess it can be broken down--some are personal, the ways things look and the way you have to act up there, and the way you live. And the other's on basic research. It is different to be up there to be doing 17,500 miles an hour. That's about 4.8 miles each second, if you can think about traveling at that kind of speed. And it means that sunsets and sunrises occur at about 18 times their normal speed. And they look very differently up there. Here on Earth, you see the reds and oranges and yellows in a sunset or a sunrise, and you see that glowing luminous color, you don't see the other end of the spectrum, you just see that one end of the spectrum. Red, orange, yellow, getting over to the green a little bit but not quite there yet.
But in space, the Earth's atmosphere, when the light comes through from the sun, through the Earth's atmosphere and back out to you in the spacecraft, it acts just like a prism. It breaks out all the colors of the rainbow, red orange yellow green blue indigo violet, right across the spectrum. And you see that whole spectrum just in, with the same luminous glowing color, that you see what Scott Carpenter once described, like looking into a campfire. It's unique. You can't capture that on film. So that's a very different experience.
Another thing too is how you get a great appreciation with how short or how thin the Earth's atmosphere really is. We don't live in a huge layer of atmosphere that can take anything like it showed up in the high school books when you're studying that. It's not just something that can take an unlimited amount of pollution, and let me illustrate. If I held my hand up here like this, and this would be about 80 inches to the floor approximately, if we had a globe like this of 80 inches, think of that. Now, most of you have flown at a jet airplane probably, at 40,000 feet going cross-country, or close to 40,000 feet. At 40,000 feet, we are above 80% of the Earth's atmosphere. At 40,000. Now put that 80% of the Earth's atmosphere on the same scale as this 80 inch globe here we have. It's less than 1/10 of an inch. Think of that. An 80 inch globe, and 80% of our atmosphere fits in an area around that under 1/10 of an inch. We don't live in a huge layer of air here. We live in a tiny little film of air. And if we foul it up so badly, that's all support for life here on Earth. And I don't see how any--I know that every single person, I think, whose been into space comes back as an ardent environmentalist because they're concerned about this when you've been out there and have had a chance to see that.
Well, one little example there. Another, how you operate in space is rather interesting, I think, too. I used as an example not too long ago a thing--if you were in space right now, how many of you take eye drops, Refresh Plus or something like that? A number of you? My eyes get dry--yeah, a number of you. My eyes get dry and I use that too. Alright, let's say we're in space, we're going to put eye drops in. So you take your little thing here and you put your eye up here and you get up here, you squeeze, nothing comes out. Well it turns out that in space, there wasn't any gravity that pulls the liquid down to the end so you can use it. So you have to shake it, and pull it down like that. Well, then when you squeeze it very carefully, here you are, and the drop comes out, and it just floats there. And may float off someplace, as the air goes around here. And it will carry that drop right away. So what you have to do is figure out a way to do this, so you either run that little capsule towards your eye, and get the fluid in that end and then squirt it into you eye, or you pull it, and do it very carefully, so that there's a little drop on the end, and very very carefully move that little drop in and place it on your eye. So you have to think of things like that, and how you--just exactly how you're going to live in space.
You're floating--of course that makes it difficult for food. You don't take bread up there in space, you take tortillas, because they don't have crumbs. And so I had a number of tortilla peanut butter and jelly rolled-up sandwiches while I was up there, instead of peanut butter and jelly on regular bread. You sleep up there in a sleeping bag that you can take little bungee cords off each corner, and you're just as comfortable plastering it up against the wall and sleeping in that, as you are, or you can put it on the ceiling. And it's a little unusual to go floating by and look up and see somebody up there sleeping on the ceiling. So you have to get used to things like that a little bit.
Anyway, the main purpose is not just to have personal experiences like that. The main reason you're up there is to do the very basic research. And on the Discovery flight that I was on in 1998, we had 83 different research projects on that one flight. I wish we had time to go through all those today because some of them are very very interesting. We don't have time to do that now. But the reason I was up there was to do research on some of the things that happen to the people in space that are very similar to what happen normally to just the normal processes of aging right here on Earth. Osteoporosis sets in, cardiovascular changes, replacement of protein in the muscle becomes changed up there from what it is right here on Earth. We're trying to figure out ways of determining these things so you can get a clue from within the human body by comparing the younger people with my reaction, so that maybe some day we can permit younger astronauts to fly a longer space flight without having harmful experiences from it, and maybe cut out some of the frailties of old age right here on Earth. And that really was exciting to be a part of that.
The tests prior, during, post-flight, the International Space Station's coming up next. 16 nations, of course, cooperating as soon as we get the shuttle going again. Well, enough on space, except for this. That leads into something else here. I wish we time today to open this up for everybody to just say, to get everybody's opinion on what do you think made this country fall ahead of other countries around this world in a tiny, tiny little time frame in history? We're a very very young nation yet, compared to most places around this world. There are a few people, and I will not ask for a show of hands on this, a few people here today who may be over 75. You will have lived, if you're over 75, you will have lived already through 1/3 of the whole history of the United States. Hard to believe that in a tiny little time-frame, we led the whole world in just that tiny time frame.
What caused that to happen? Well some people I'm sure would say we had great resources in this country, and we did, there wasn't any doubt about that. But it goes far beyond that, I think. There were many places in the world that had great resources, and they did not develop in the same way we did here. I would submit there are two very basic reasons why we went ahead, and there're these areas where I have some concerns today. The first was education. The education here was not for the kids from the castle or the rich kids alone. It was for every single person in this country. And that gradually developed as we moved cross-country from these New England areas out to the Mississippi, and then to the mountains and on to the West Coast. And education was a must for everybody, and out of that came the best-educated citizenry in the whole world.
Combine that with something else. From our earliest days, we were a nation that was a questing, curious nation. We wanted to know about the unknown, whether it was exploration, whether it was physical exploration, macro-exploration, as we would call it, moving to to the West Coast, or whether it was micro-exploration, in the laboratories. And that kind of curiosity led to us discovering the new things first. And with the free democratic entrepreneurial society, that capital was invested and away we went, and jobs were created, and that's the way that the country developed.
Well, let's look at what's happening in those two areas today before we get on to the question period here. In the area of research, we are, compared to other nations, we're past our peak. We've been seeing a lot written recently about this, about things that may--about where we're going with our lack of research. One that was in The Washington Post in the editorial section, the outlook section, just on April 10th as a matter of fact, says, "Our incredible shrinking curiosity," and it goes through some of the things where we're now beginning to get behind in some of these areas of research, and if we keep doing that and do not put money into research, whether it's individual, private money or whether it's government money, we're going to gradually, slowly get behind the other nations of this world. We're in a time period of globalization. We're not going to be able to keep up if we don't do those things that's going to keep our research going.
How about the area of education? On education, I wish I could say that we're leading the world in that area. We are in higher education. We are not in that overall education of our citizenry, particularly in math and science, that leads us to these new discoveries, that are the basis of our new manufacturing, new investment, new entrepreneurship in which we always have led the world. Dick Riley was the Secretary of Education in the last administration, and he asked me at the end of my Senate years to head up a commission to look into this, because he was very concerned. He had seen this study called the TIMS study, Third International Math and Science study. And that was a study that showed that, and some of you may have seen that, if you're teachers here you may be familiar with that. It was a study done over a three year period in 41 nations around the world. And it showed that our kids, in math and science, our kids, up to about the fourth grade, are in the top 2 or 3 nations in the world. And that's fine, that's good. We're proud of that. Between then and when they get out of high school, they drop to 2 or 3 from the bottom. On average, across country.
That is something that we can't tolerate for the long-term future. It's something that will lead us into being not the leading nation in the world, if we let that sort of thing continue. Dick asked me to head up this commission, which I did, and we had some wonderful people on the commission, we came out with a big report at the end of it that was a report before it's too late, was our commission--report to the nation, the National Commission on Math and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. What we found was this: we found that our average, the average math teacher in this country, in our high schools, 25% of them were never trained to teach mathematics, they're teaching what we call out of field. They're dragged in from some place else, "Hey, you don't have to do anything until next football season or something, you're going to teach advanced algebra." "Who, me? I barely passed it to begin with. So I'm now teaching the kids and barely keeping ahead of them, probably."
And so you have that kind of a problem, number one. 25% of the math teachers teaching out of field, no training. 20% of the science teachers, the same thing. Even more disturbing is 30% in both those categories are out of the field and gone, they've left the vocation within three years and 50% are gone within 5 years. Now, why do we permit this to occur? It's not something that the government does, it's not something the federal government does. In fact, I think most people have a very erroneous view of the role that the federal government plays in education. In the K-12 education, the amount of money that comes from the federal government is only about 7%, and most of that goes to things like school lunch programs and bussing and things like that, of that nature. We have in this country 14,000--we like to say we have an education system, a K-12 system. It is anything but a system. Across this country, we have over 14,700 independent school boards. Each one trying to do their own thing, and many of them getting elected by promising, "We won't raise your taxes in this primary."
Well, are we too long into this to change? I think we better be changing some. I don't think that the old formula of keeping the property tax as a basis for education, which it is in most states, that's long overdue for being changed, I think, and that's one of the reasons people are so object to tax, more taxes. Because most of it is on the property tax. 14,700 school boards. We're very proud of the fact in this country, we're very proud of the fact of local control of our schools. We want local control of our schools. We've just grown up with that. Yet we do not take local responsibility to make sure those schools are good enough to be competitive. That's where we sit right now with the situation that is in our schools.
Bill Gates, clipping here from Bill Gates, it was in February this year when he addressed the National Governors Council, and he said we have to restructure our whole U.S. high school system. He said the United States ranks 16th among 20 developed nations in the percentage of students who complete high school, and 14th among the top twenty in college graduation rates. Just 18 of 100 students entering high school go on to complete their college degree within 6 years of starting college, and the nation has slipped from 1st to 5th internationally in the percentage of young people who hold a college degree. Math and science education poses a particular challenge, with American students gradually slipping behind the rest of the world between the 4th and 12th grades, starting among the top ranks and finishing near the bottom of industrialized nations. And later on one of the other people commenting on it says if we don't do something about this we're positioning the United States to gradually become a less developed nation.
Well, I think this has gotten to the point where it's no longer just screaming an alarm here, it's something that we really have to do something about. We've seen more writing recently about both of these areas, in the areas of research and what we're doing by not putting more emphasis in that area, and also in the area of education. Well, to me education and research are the real job creators. And we talked during the last campaign there was some debate about whether taxes overseas--our tax code here invited our own people to invest overseas instead of here, and that was one thing, and that can be corrected, of course. But to me, anything except emphasis on education and research as the real job creators is missing the mark. It's just like anything else would be temporary and nibbling around the edges, particularly in this era of globalization. And if we're going to lead and control our own destiny, our own future here, then we need to control our own future in the world, we must lead the world in education and in research.
Well, those are two areas I see as being very dangerous for, if we don't do something about them, for the long-term. How about short-term? What we see on day-in, day-out, what we read in the papers today, are there areas for concern there? And I think there very definitely are. And I would throw out some ideas here and we could have comments on them by anyone later as well as questions.
Short-term, what bothers me more than anything else is the economy. The deficits we're running now, which are inordinately larger than anything we've ever had in the whole history of this country. Last year, 441 billion dollars deficit, and that did not include the money for Iraq. That is, to me I can't believe that we're not in an uproar about this. Deficits like that and debts now going well over 7 trillion dollars, the national debt. The tax cut, of course, added 1.6 trillion to that over a ten year period, if it's made permanent. And our debts are being financed, now, mainly, from foreign sources. China in particular, and Japan, but China in particular, buying American paper, American bonds and debt. And about 80% of our failure to pay our own way is being paid by that kind of borrowing from foreign countries. Now, if they stopped that one of these days, and there's been some indication they might, that they're no longer going to use the dollar as their reserve currency, if they do that, then that means that we are going to have to finance that internally, ourselves here, it means interest rates go sky-high to do that, to encourage our own people to buy our own money to pay for our own indebtedness here, and we can be in a real difficult situation.
Why do we do this? Well, the theory is that we're going to--if we cut the budget, cut the--if we put ourselves further in debt, we won't have money to do the programs that we're doing right now, and we will automatically have to shrink government. I don't like that way of doing it. If that's the objective overall, I'd rather see us do it like Margaret Thatcher did in England, where she wanted to shrink the size of government too, back when she and Ronald Reagan were both in office. And what she did over there is she picked specific programs and said, okay, she's going to work and cut those programs and specifically cut the programs out and got that through their Commons over there, the legislature. Got that through and reduced government size that way, rather than just trying to, as our people say, starve the beast here by huge indebtedness. I don't like the way we're doing this here and I think this is not the honest way to do it as far as I'm concerned. We're going to get ourselves in very very deep trouble if we keep up with this. I've never seen anything approaching this in all my public life. Never saw anything like the deficits that we're running right now, and the debts that were being run up right now, which I think have a real danger for the future.
The other area that I think we have to look at very very carefully is what is going to be America's role in the world in the future? Iraq is a good example. I don't think most people disagreed with going into Afghanistan. I did not. I agreed with that 100%. My last eight years in the Senate, I was on the Senate select committee on intelligence, and so we would see all the time, we had pictures of what was going on in Afghanistan, some of the training that was going on there. We knew exactly what we were doing when we went into Afghanistan.
Iraq, to me, was a whole different thing. In Iraq, we said, well, the weapons of mass destruction was proved not to be true. Then we said, well okay, we're still going in because Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. He killed 50,000 of his own people. And that didn't sell too well for most Americans either because we had pretty much ignored the million or so people killed down through Africa. So the number of people killed didn't resonate with most people. And the third area was now we're going to take democracy into the Middle East. Well, if we're going to do this not by example, but by force, around the world, everywhere there is not democracy, we have a long road ahead of us. And so I think we have to make some very basic decisions as a nation as to what our role is going to be in the world. We in the past have led by example, by and large, and not by force. And with AID programs and foreign aid programs and the Peace Corps and the Marshall Plan and things like that through all of our years.
But it's beginning to get out of hand because, saw an estimate the other day from Jane's defense studies in England, which are looked at as the definitive study of military matters around the world. They put out annual reports on different military aspects. They estimate that next year, the United States will spend on the military more than all the rest of the world put together. All the rest of the world put together, and we'll exceed those defense expenditures. When you get to that point it hardly fits the word defense, does it? There has to be some other word going to apply to it, it's military expenditures more than it is defense expenditures. So I think in some of these areas, and back to the economy just a minute, my view is, I think we've had a role reversal of our political parties here. And it's not too hard to illustrate that. If you're running nationally for national office, for president say, on the Democratic side, the first thing you could always expect would be to get hit with the fact that well, Democrats are big spenders. Don't mind run up the national debt, and too much foreign involvement. Well think what's happened now. Talk about deficit spending, and talk about national debt, and talk about foreign involvement. I think we've had a real role reversal.
So, with those few words Tony, I don't know, maybe--President Marx, I'm sorry here. But that gives us more than enough controversial issues to take on here today, I guess with the idea of space, if anyone wants to talk, ask anymore questions about that, or the area that I'm concerned about for the long-term, education and research, which I see as being absolutely key for the future of this country, if we're not going to out-do other nations in that area, those areas, then we will take second, third, fourth or whatever places are left as we go down the ladder of not being competitive. And then the more current events here, of these areas of the national, the expenditures, the deficits, the national debt, and what kind of foreign involvement we can expect out of our country in the future. It seems to me those are some areas, short-term, that I think we all have to address very carefully. So, with that somebody else can come up and make a speech, we'll have some questions and answers. Questions and I hope some answers. Anybody?
Can everybody here that? The question was, am I impressed with any of our Democratic candidates, Hillary in particular, for 2008? I'm impressed with all of them, I'll put it that way. But it's going to be tough, and we're going through some very difficult times politically now, and there's more controversy right now in the Congress than there has been in the past. Contention and head-knocking in the Congress, that's difficult also. But I think when people consider what's happening here, and just on these things that I mentioned here. If somebody wants to take the other side, and argue these things or debate these things on the pro-con, or the pro side of why we should have these debts and so on, I'd be glad to do that right here today. But I think the more this gets around, the more we realize what we're up against with the debts, the deficit, and this making a decision about what is our foreign policy going to be. We've always been the nation that tried to lead by example. So I think we don't have a complete list yet, I think, of whose going to run next time around. You see the daily comment on Hillary and others on the Democratic side, and certainly on the Republican side, Bill Frist and some others on that side too. But I think this next election is going to be a very very important election. There won't be an incumbent, it'll be an open seat at that time, and so it's a time for real change, I think, if we want to debate these things and really get some definition of where we're going in the future.
Let's begin a two hour lecture on that one. How we got here, number one, oh I have my own theory on this and it may or may not be accurate, I don't know, although I did notice, I've been saying this for the last year and a half for two years, and I noticed yesterday in The New York Times a little column that put out what I've been saying for a long time, not that they're copying me because I haven't talked to them. I think we have a higher percentage of House members coming over to the Senate now. And you may have seen that little article yesterday on that. And the House is normally more contentious. They're up for election every two years, there's competition for money to run, and it's all the finances and things like that, that they're sort of at odds with each other, and in the House there're 435 members. They have to sort of get their groups together and this group cooperates with that group to get something else done, it's sort of jockeying all the time.
Where the Senate was more, in the past, was more of a collegial group where, when I got there, when I was sworn in in '75, I thought nothing at all of going to talk to some Republican senator in his office. Jack Javits of New York, who was one of the senior Republicans at that time, was looked at as one of the Senate's experts on constitutionality of different things. And I thought nothing of calling him up and he'd say, "Yeah, come on over," and I'd talk to him about whatever it was, and a couple of times he came up and he would call up and say, "I was thinking about what you said,"--he wanted to come to my office. Can you imagine, a senior guy on the other side coming to a junior, I had been there about three or four months? An junior nothing, and there he is coming over to my office. I don't think you'd see that today. And there were people back then on the Republican side like Jack Javits and Howard Baker and Hugh Scott, people of that caliber. On our side, we had Mike Mansfield and Ed Muskie and Abe Ribicoff, people who were very thoughtful senior people, and got together and worked things out. And we had joint meetings, joint caucuses, sometimes.
And how that's changed now, through the years, and what's happened. I think, one of the things is we've had more people come over from the House. On this little chart they had in The Times yesterday, there were only about 1/3 of the Senators back then were former House members. Now it's up to about 55%, I think it was. I don't know whether that's a factor in it or not, I may be completely off on that, but it's one of my theories. When Newt Gingrich came in, of course, and started the Contract with America and all that, hammering away at people, that was something that was sort of a high tide there, I think, in shifting the direction we were going. And maybe some of it was justified. You know, over in the House, the Democrats had had control for about 40 years with Tip O'Neill. And there were during a lot of that time, they were not, they pushed a little hard too. And so maybe this was get-even time, when the Republicans finally took over the House. But we need more of this working together, there's no doubt about that. I got off. What was the rest of your question?
Oh with the nuclear option, so-called? I hope that does not pass. And if I was the most dyed-in-the-wool Republican I'd be saying the same thing. We have the powers of government split, and the Founding Fathers set it up that way, and it's worked very very well, you split into executive and judicial and legislative branches. It's pretty well-defined, and if you have absolute power in any one of those branches, it sets up a hazardous condition for this country for the future. You don't have checks and balances then. You just have whatever one party wants to do, and that's dangerous. And the filibuster has a been a protection that the minorities, whether it's the parties or an individual or whoever, can express themselves and make people think twice before they take some irrational action.
Right now, this argument right now is over the judges. What seems to be left out of most of the newspaper comments on this is that the judges are, the president has proposed 215 judges, so far. 205 have been approved. And that doesn't show a very big opposition. The one's they've held up have been ones held up for good reason. And some were re-submitted after being held up before and withdrawn, and re-submitted again. And so I would see this as a--one reason it's important is we're going to have some Supreme Court proposals coming up one of these days, Supreme Court candidates coming up. If this is to be just a rubber stamp of one party on that whole process, you start upsetting the judicial balance in this country that I think the Founding Fathers wanted. So I favor keeping the filibuster rule exactly the way it is right now. It protects the minorities. If you want to hold something up and let the country know about it, while you make up your mind, it's a way to do that. It's one of the balances protecting all of us for the future and I don't want to see that balance get so far over on the other side where the party just becomes a rubber stamp for whatever may be proposed. There was another hand up. We haven't had any over here.
Sure was. Question was, was Ted Williams angry when he got called back in as a recalled reservist, and was the crash landing story true? Yeah, Ted was a good friend. I kept in touch with him through all these years, up until he died. Annie and I went down and visited him several times down in Florida, where he lived in his final days, and kept in touch with him and went to the hospital and so on. The policy we had in the Marine Corps back then, they had the regular Marine pilot who had been flying day-in, day-out. They team up one pilot with a recalled reservist, and Ted and I happened to go out about the same time, so we were teamed up, and it didn't mean that you flew every single mission with that person, that it meant if you were on the flight schedule for that day and those two people were on, they flew together. And the idea was to keep somebody that had more experience than the reservist did, and so you flew together.
So Ted and I were that kind of a team, so probably half the missions he flew in Korea, he flew as my wing man. He got hit anti-aircraft fire on about his third or fourth mission, and he just finished his check-out flights and got hit back around the engine and it was all on fire back there and for some reason in the old F-9, that's the Panther airplane, if that happened it usually blew up and blew the tail off. So everybody's yelling at Ted to get out, get out, and he didn't want to get out. He told me later that one reason he didn't want to get out, he remembered at that time that somebody had ejected from the airplane, and if you're sitting in a fighter cockpit like this, you have what they call a canopy bow, it's this solid metal part that comes right up over here where the canopy slides shut, the instrument panel is right here in front of you.
Ted remembered somebody that had ejected that had long legs, and cut the guy's legs off, getting out on that canopy bow. Because he didn't have his feet back in the stirrups the way they should be. And he kept thinking of that, he said, and he said he'd rather take a chance with it. So he did, and he came into a K-16 out there, which was a Seoul, and with this airplane, fire streaming out behind, and he came around for approach, couldn't get the landing gear down, and everybody thought he was going to blow up before he ever reached the runway. So he got to the--he couldn't get the landing gear or the flaps down, so made a very fast, hot landing, and slid about a couple thousand feet up the runway, and then jumped out and ran off the wing tips, sit down and watch the burn, so he was very very lucky.
He got hit one other time, too, that I had a little bit to do with, I guess. I didn't have to do--sometimes if you're on a low attack, and this shows that Ted was not a fair weather pilot, he was down there digging them out with everybody, he was trying to be the best pilot he could be. And that's your first question, did he every gripe about it? No, not a word. Not a word. But sometimes you'd come down and Ted was flying behind me one day, and we came down, and if you were hitting an ammo dump or something like that, and so you'd hit and if you got into it, and hit a good vulnerable spot there, you'd get what we call secondary explosions. It's when the ammo dump start going off itself.
Well, Ted was coming in behind and I had apparently gotten a good hit on an ammo dump. And so things are going off and he came in low and the next thing I heard was him yelling, "I'm hit! I'm hit! I'm hit!" I said okay, pull out, so he pulled out towards the rendezvous point and I went over, went around him and on the right wing tip I could see a hole about that big on the right wing tip tank. Well, the plane flew okay and so we flew back and landed. When they took that tank off, they found a rock that had blown up in the air, which showed that Ted was really getting down there with them. He was really trying to do a good job. So this had been blown up in the air and it hit the bottom of his tank, so those were the two major hits he took. So he was a good combat pilot, he was a good friend. There's been so much controversy over his post-demise existence with he and John Henry but, to me, whether they want to freeze him or--I think once you're dead, if you want cremation or freezing, whatever, what makes a difference to me? Couldn't care less.
Well, we're going through sort of the same thing in Ohio, as a matter of fact, right now. I sent all my papers and things out sent to be archived at Ohio State University and they formed an institute, Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy. I had become concerned in the Senate about the apathy and cynicism so many people seem to have, young people in particular, about our government and everything that we're doing in government. So we formed this institute there, and one of our things that we're pushing is working with public schools in that area, in public service and so on, service learning in particular right now. So a little bit different than what you're talking about. I don't have any one suggestion to you, no, I just think the more we can have people that have an interest in teaching and can practice teaching or can go into helping the kids at school, understand math and science more, and work with the teachers that are in the school now. That's the thing that we have to do.
If we don't get going, we literally, in another generation or two, during the most productive years of the graduates from right here tomorrow, they're going to be living their lives in a time period when this nation is going to be going downhill compared to other nations around the world. In the economy, in our productivity, and if we don't step up to the plate and do something about that, then we're going to go downhill as a nation I think. I have no one suggestion for you at all. I just think this is so important for the future. We have, you know, it's already happening as a matter of fact. We have 30--where are my figures? Another thing Bill Gates commented on, in his article I commented on a little bit ago, 20% of our scientists and engineers in this country are foreign-born, right now. And this year, graduate degrees in science and math, graduate degrees, 51% this year, 51% will go to foreigners. Now some stay here, but most of them go back, and they're providing competition for us back there.
I've had a big interest in China for a long time and I was, on one of my last trips to China I asked the people at Ohio State there how many people from the P.R.C., mainland China, we had on campus there. And turns out we had 750-some kids from P.R.C. on the campus there at Ohio State, and 400 and some from Taiwan, which incidentally they get along great, they celebrate, no animosity at all back and forth. And I happened, by just happenstance, to be across the table from a Chinese ambassador, later, after I had made the trip. And I asked him how many students they normally have in the United States at any one time. He says, oh, around 50,000. 50,000 students just from mainland China. They're going back and they're talking about setting up a whole series of their own technical schools. They've asked some people from Ohio State to come out and advise them on some of these things. They're moving and they're moving rapidly. But I think our higher education system is still, we're still the best in the world. There isn't any doubt about that. People come here from all the world and will continue to do so. But this is not something we can, in the high school area, where we're really preparing what the average citizen is going to live with for the rest of their life, we're not doing a good job at all right now. Yes, the one way back.
That's a good statement, I agree with you 100% on that, I wish the, how do you change it? If I had gotten up in the Senate of the United States and proposed that we go to a national education system, which is what all our competitors have. We're the only nation in the world that operates with this disjointed school board situation we have. If I had gotten up and proposed we go to a national education system, I'd have been run down the east steps of the Capitol before I could have gotten my words out. Because we're so proud of this local control, and we talk about education at the federal level all the time but don't do much about it. We had the whole No Child Left Behind, that I thought was an absolutely great step forward. I did, I made a press release on that congratulating the president for really taking this thing on and making some standards here, and then what happened? What got left behind? The money. The money.
Most states are running budgets that are in deficit right now, they're having an awful time, and they don't have the money to do all these things that are required, that are good things, I think, that are required by that law, so it just turned into another unfunded mandate, is what it did. So I don't like that and I think if the federal government wanted to step up and really put some major money into this, then that would probably get some objections to a lot of people too. I think back when the property tax was used as a basis for education for all of our kids, that was quite a logical thing back in colonial days, about the time this building was being built, I guess. It was 1827, I saw out front. People who had money back then had property. Didn't have the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange and Nikkei average and all these things around the world that you can invest in. You invested in property and so the people had money and they're the ones that paid the bill for the schools.
But now, we're what--that's back when 98% of our people were on the farms, and property was the thing. But now, here we are now with over 2/3 of our economy is service-based, now. Not based on property. And yet we make that 1/3 that's property still support all the taxes, provide all the taxes for education. Very very difficult to change this. Just look at tax proposal after tax proposal goes down all over the country, including our own state of Ohio. We have an awful time. They were trying to get money enough to run these public schools. And yet if we don't do this, we're really hamstringing ourselves for the future.
That's another we can give a--Tony said this is the last question, that's a two hour answer, though, Tony. How do we do that? Another one. I think where we find ourselves with the space program. The president's proposed going to Mars. The moon-Mars program. The way it's done--I don't object to setting objectives like that, and working--so we know what we're working toward, sort of have a framework of what we're working toward all of the years in the future. I don't agree with some of the things that are being done with regard to cutting out research on the space station, the long-term research that we've been building up to for all these years, and getting the scientists to put their projects on that space station, which they want to do, and now one's saying, "Well, we can't afford that right now," so we're pulling the rug out from under them and saying the only research that will go on is research that applies to going to the moon or to Mars.
I also do not agree that we should have to set up a moon base before we go to Mars. If we're going to go to Mars we can do it far better by assembling a vehicle in Earth's orbit, where, when you get it in Earth's orbit, going around, 17,500 miles an hour, you already have about 3/4 of the speed you need to leave and go on to Mars. You need a little boost to get outside Earth and get going, and on the way to Mars. Where if you go to the moon, you have to take all that huge amount of equipment up to the moon, zero it it out again, with energy being expended to zero it out to set it down, somehow build a space base on the moon, in a vacuum, a perfect vacuum, with people running around in suits trying to make a launch area, and then going from there to Mars from the moon.
It's far easier, to me, to do it out of Earth's orbit here where you can build it up, test things here, and always come back to Earth then if you have a problem with some of this stuff. So to me, the space, to me should be used two ways. I think we'll always be looking for exploration. I think we're always trying to find out new things and we'll do that by exploration. But I also, and I advocated this all the 24 years I was in the Senate, I think at each step along the way we should not cut back on research, we should maximize the research return that benefits people right here on Earth, and that way you build a solid valuable base for the ongoing space program. To me, that's the way we go.
Let me just close with one word here. I think, you know, we talk about all the things that are wrong and yet we live in the greatest nation on Earth, still. We want to correct what faults we have and actually, from here, right not too far from here is where Ralph Waldo Emerson lived, back in his day, when they had big problems too. And there were a lot of people back then who didn't quite agree that the Constitution set up the balances that were going to take this nation into the indefinite future and there were some people who thought that maybe we'd gone too far with this idea of democracy and free enterprise, and they were saying maybe we should have a little bit more authority in government, not these divided powers we talked about here a little bit earlier.
And Emerson commented on this, and I think his comments were pretty good. He said, "If there is any period one would to desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side, and admit to being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old, can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."
Well, I think Emerson was correct. That doesn't mean that we cut back on our criticism. It doesn't mean we cut back on our discussion of what's going to lead us to the future, because in this country we need the advice and consent of all people in the country. That's written in the Constitution for the Senate, this advice and consent role, but actually it's an advice and consent role for all the people of this country. And I hope everyone here is registered as either Democrat, Republican, whatever you are, and are active in your political processes, because we need the best advice, the best action of all the people in this country.
To all the graduates, some of the graduates that are going to be here, good luck to you, and I hope you keep your--as this said here, our curiosity's gone downhill. If you think about it, every single bit of progress ever made in the history of this world was made because somebody was curious about doing things differently or better or a new way or doing some research so we can do this or that, that kind of curiosity is what had led every advance in whatever field. Whether it's medicine that's now giving us, gone in the last century from a 47 year life expectancy up to almost 80 now, between 78 and 80 now. Agricultural production. All these things are because somebody was curious about how we can do things differently and better.
So if I could wish one thing to the graduating seniors, keep your great inordinate sense of curiosity, and maybe you can figure out along with Emerson what we're going to do with it. Thank you.