United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis received the John Glenn College of Public Affairs' 2017 Excellence in Public Service Award for his commitment to citizenship and public leadership at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., June 20, 2017.
Mattis said he was humbled by the award. “It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about public service. We’re trying to build a country here, and it’s never done.”
Dean Trevor Brown said the Excellence in Public Service Award has gone to many who have decorated resumes with a spirit of service over the years, but in the wake of Sen. John Glenn’s death, he wanted to find someone Glenn respected tremendously.
“There’s no question that Secretary Mattis is deserving of this award tonight,” he said. “This is in part the college’s way to fulfill its commitment to the senator — to bind someone he revered in his life to the life of the college.”
John Glenn's daughter, Lyn Glenn, said her father had a great admiration for Mattis, “not just that he’s a Marine, but also because he’s a tremendous patriot and has been a patriot like Dad for all his life. That’s been his commitment.”
To honor the secretary, she gave him a needlepoint she had made. Her father used to give her mother, Annie, and their children a stick of Doublemint gum before he would leave on missions, she told the audience, and tell them, “I’m just going down to the store. I’ll be back.”
She makes the needlepoint Doublemint gum sticks for people who were helpful to her family, pivotal to her dad’s service in Ohio and who brought meaning to her dad’s life, she explained.
Before the presentation, Mattis spent time with the 31 Ohio State students in the Glenn College's Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) answering questions and discussing leadership and public service. Two WAIP students, Daniel Sonnefeld a member of the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class Program, and Zachary Garcia a member of the United States Air Force, grave Mattis a Glenn College challenge coin and a Glenn College astronaut figurine.
Mattis said John Glenn was a role model. “I do not have the words to fully express my admiration and respect for Lyn’s father, for Annie’s husband, for a man who did what he did,” he said. “We all need role models in this world. We all need them because they inspire us. They remind us that if we look at someone like this, we can always be better the next day. We all need a code and the role models we choose to remind us of what we can be in this country give us so many beautiful opportunities.
“As we build this country in John Glenn’s image,” he continued. “it’s good to remember it doesn’t matter where you do it, where you contribute — your family, your parish, your school district, your county, your state, your country, the military, civil service, the intelligence agencies, wherever it is — it is a noble mission, and you have to remember that, especially when the going gets rough, and it’s gotten a little rough here in our beautiful country.”
Mattis also said no that matter how frustrated people may get, John Glenn didn’t get worn out. He kept at it and held the line, treating others with a sense of decency. “As you go through your life, as you go through your career, there’s greatness in every life,” he said. “It’s just a matter of you giving it that sort of attention that comes from putting others first. Semper Fi, Always Faithful.”