There’s been quite a bit of ink and airtime used lately to discuss the age of one Joseph Robinette Biden. (Yes, that’s his real middle name. It’s his paternal grandmother’s maiden moniker.) Some news sources thrive on highlighting the spoken gaffes and memory lapses of the President, while others may admit they occur but don’t make them the lead story every time they happen.
There are rumors that the White House staff holds its collective breath every time Mr. Biden is in front of a microphone. When he goes off-script he tends to add fuel to the faux pas fire. It’s doubtful that even his ardent supporters would say that extemporaneous speaking is his forte. Even his Press Secretary seems to start many briefings with some form of the words, “What the President meant to say . . .” before clarifying a misstatement.
On his next birthday (November 20th), Joe Biden will be 80 years old. That used to be ancient. As a matter of fact, the average lifespan for an American male is still less than 79 years. When I was a kid, I had very few relatives who got to celebrate his or her 80th birthday. Even 75 was rare.
I did have a memorable occasion once as a really young lad to meet a lady who was 100. She was a patient of my dad who had been born during the Civil War, and Dad made it a point to take my sisters and me with him on a house call (remember those?) one Sunday afternoon. Her name was Mrs. Hand, and she was still pretty darn sharp. Dad said we’d probably never meet anybody that old again.
Nowadays, 100 isn’t commonplace, but there are countless people living well into their 90s, and the Centenarian Club has more members than ever before. My dad’s best friend recently hit 97 and claims he’s shooting for 105. His mind is still firing on all cylinders, although his body daily tends to remind him to take it easy.
But the topic du jour is the age of the leader of the free world. And the question I’d like to pose is this: What’s the best age for a U.S. President? Joe Biden is already the oldest to serve in that office. Ronald Reagan is second. He was 77 when his second term ended. Biden was actually older than that when he started the job.
Teddy Roosevelt was only 42 when he became President following William McKinley’s assassination. Jack Kennedy was 43. Bill Clinton, U.S. Grant, and Barack Obama were in their mid-40s when elected.
The Constitution says this about the qualifications to be President: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
I don’t know many 35-year-olds that would want the job, let alone feel qualified to do it. And 40-year-olds might be pushing it a bit. Although, being younger does have its advantages. Energy levels are high, brainpower is potent, and seldom are naps required in the afternoon after lunch.
If I could choose the perfect age for a U.S. President, I think I’d go with someone in his/her mid-to late 50s. By then, you’ve had a chance to experience a whole lot of life, personally and professionally. Perhaps you’ve raised a family (kids can teach you bunches) and been involved in the world of commerce enough to know how things work (and, more importantly, don’t work). You’ve probably had opportunities, as well, to learn from a mistake or two or three. And that far into your mortal existence on Earth, you might even realize that you’re not right all the time and that it’s important to listen to the opinion of others (at least on occasion).
That doesn’t mean seasoned citizens should be put out to pasture. Au contraire. There can be a lot of wisdom in those collective brains that should be sought and utilized. Perhaps they just shouldn’t be at the top of the food chain.
You know it’s said that the job of being President ages a person much more quickly than the normal aging process. I think all you need to do for proof of that is look at before and after pictures of those who have held the office to confirm any suspicions.
Our last two Presidents were older at their first inaugurations than any of their predecessors. I’ll ask again: What do you think is the right age for a U.S. President?
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer