Affinity and Beyond – Episode 17

Brianna had expected to find educators as a talent spark, but that had not been the case in her explorations of the discovery of talent. She suspected that educators were talent sparks but were just not recognized as they deserved to be. She found that spark in the story of John Glenn, the first American to go into space orbit.

We know John Glenn as an astronaut. That certainly took talent, since he was one of the first people to ever travel to space. His talent was initially developed as a fighter pilot serving in World War II and Korea. We may also know him as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, who served in Congress for 24 years.

What we may not know is John Glenn, the person. He was asked to play Taps at a Memorial Day ceremony when he was 10. That experience ignited a spark of civic duty which was further flamed by his high school civics teacher, Harford Steele, who gave him a vivid sense of the fundamentals of democracy. It was that moment when John Glenn devoted his life to public service. John Glenn used his talent as a pilot and later as an astronaut to make a difference.

Brianna began to think of the multiplier effect of one’s talent. John Glenn’s high school teacher had the talent to inspire him to a life of public service. That led to John Glenn’s desire to develop the talent as a fighter pilot in service to his country. It was his talent as a pilot that then led to his being selected as one of America’s first astronauts. Subsequently, John Glenn served in the U.S. Senate where he was able to repay the love of democracy his high school civics teacher had given him. And that love of democracy has influenced many young people by inspiring them to careers in public service.

Brianna began to realize that the sparks that ignited the talent in one person have a sustaining power to ignite talent sparks in others.

Brianna suspected that there were untold numbers of teachers across the country who served as talent sparks. Unfortunately, few of these teachers are ever recognized for their contributions to the lives of their former students.

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“You could see how individuals could exercise their beliefs and actually cause change and improvement. The idea that you could really make a difference stimulated me.”
– John Glenn (reflecting on a lesson he learned from Harford Steele, his high school civics teacher)

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