Have you noticed the increase in political and media talk knocking older people and their abilities? It’s referred to in fancy-talk as “ageism.” I have another word for it: Baloney.

It seems age doesn’t disqualify those in the media elite, some of whom have been endlessly playing the “too old” game themselves.

As for ability to take on tough jobs, President Biden recently returned from a far-reaching foreign trip full of energy. Nancy Pelosi retired hale and hardy at 82, and she was arguably one of the best House speakers in our history. In Congress at 81, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem like a shrinking violet. Then look at Maine’s senators; Angus King at 78 and Susan Collins at 70 – both hardly seem ready to leave the fray.

How old is too old? Don’t look to the Constitution: It sets a minimum age, not a maximum. How can we measure the future contribution anyone can make in whatever time is left? Is four years of a weak president worth more than two years of a memorable one? Should we have dumped Lincoln or Kennedy if we knew neither would live long enough to finish their term?

My question, rather, might be: How young is too young to be able to handle the presidency in this time of great danger?

My dad would tell me: “You’re not old enough yet to understand that.” How right he was. We used to call folks who wanted to run things before they knew much “as green as grass.” Give me an “old guy” named Joseph Biden who’s been around the block, who’s had his share of miscues and learned how to regroup. A man who can credibly take on other world leaders – most of whom he knows – and who can courageously show up in a war-ravaged land and bolster the spirits of a nation under siege.

There is an African proverb I often refer to: “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” It refers to the multitude of experiences one collects over the years, including the times of failure and learning to get back on one’s feet. In the challenging and dangerous world in which we all live, we cannot afford to waste the needed talents of those whose hair is gray and whose step is a bit faltering.

My first and arguably best teacher was Isaac Peekel, my great-grandfather. In the 1930s, he lived with us and became my first teacher and best friend. He would often tell me stories of his early years in Holland; he would read to me from the Book of Knowledge. He would accompany me on Saturdays to watch cowboy movies. He died at age 87 and, indeed, for me, a library had burned down.

Speaking for myself, with my 92nd birthday just around the corner, I have no intention of allowing anyone to tell me I don’t matter, that I can no longer make a contribution. To the best of my ability, I’m staying in the game.

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