Peace Talks and Sex Scandal Take a Back Seat to the American Liftoff

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • November 30, 1998

by Karen Feld

Peace Talks and Sex Scandal Take a Back Seat to the American Liftoff

Annie Glenn is an inspiration to people everywhere. Like her astronaut husband and childhood sweetheart, she has proven to the world she also has “the right stuff.” A born stutterer, she’s faced a different challenge than John Glenn.

Rosalynn Carter nixed Mr. Glenn as her husband Jimmy’s vice-presidential running mate in 1976 because of Annie’s speech impediment. When Vice-President Lyndon Johnson requested a network TV hookup at the Glenn home in Ohio during the first space shot in 1962, then astronaut Glenn called the vice-president to refuse for fear that the viewers would misunderstand Annie. That same year she declined to speak on a Bob Hope TV special with the other astronauts’ wives.

“I just couldn’t talk,” says Annie. Today, after intensive treatment at Hollins College in Roanake, Va., and daily practice, Annie speaks slowly, still stutters some and admits to difficulty with “m’s and n’s, f’s and th’s, and s’s and st’s.”

But, more importantly, she can now say the words “senator” and “astronaut” — twice.

As for the buzz in Washington, peace talks, sex scandal and salsa took a back seat to John Glenn’s space mission.

“If John wants to go up in space I think they ought to put a Lazy Boy recliner on there and send him off,” said Dale Bumpers, retiring Arkansas senator.

“He’s one of the finest American heroes left.”

Elsewhere, actors Jimmy Smits and Marc Anthony, Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, retiring Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Rolling Stone editor and publisher Jann Wenner were among the 200 guests who joined a jovial President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton at the White House Wednesday evening for a state dinner honouring the new 44-year-old Colombian President Andres Pastrana.

Jimmy Smits, who called the evening “an important moment for Latin America,” was scarce with his comments on the impending death of his character on the hit TV series, NYPD Blue — but his closing words were, “It’s not my demise, but that of my character.”

Mr. Smits made the list because he’s the founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.

Rehashing “the topic” is politically incorrect when you’re a guest at the White House, but Carlos Fuentes was certain: “Clinton will finish his administration.”

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