I turned 65 yesterday. Earlier this month I joined the very popular and successful government-run national healthcare plan. Thank you!
This landmark birthday has caused me to think about aging in general, and particularly about the most frequent concern I hear about a second term for President Biden. “He’s too old!”
I’ve come to believe that perhaps his age is actually one of his better qualities. If you’re a rabid Trumper, I’m not going to change your mind. If you want to discuss Biden’s policies, and especially to bash them, do it someplace else. I want to reflect especially on age and leadership and confidence.
Speaking broadly, I do wish that baby-boomers would all shuffle off to play pickleball. Let someone else have a chance. It really isn’t surprising that this most bloated and self-important of all generations, who was so eager to be in charge, is not able to release the reins.
That said, Biden’s age makes me like and trust him. It shapes the way he leads. The best description I can come up with is that he seems comfortable in his own skin, probably in a manner we haven’t seen in a president since Reagan — himself, then, no youngster.
I am sixteen years Biden’s junior, but I see a similar comfort with and trust in myself as I age. I’m not as concerned if my hair looks wonky. I don’t need to be a part of conversations about the latest trends or the future of my denomination. I haven’t tuned them out completely. I’m not fossilized. But things that once were so pressing are not any more. Popularity and image matter less. I detect something similar in my good friend, Bob Dylan, who at age 82 tours nearly non-stop and releases wonderful, obscure, 8 minute songs that will never be hits.
Sometimes this attitude is described as “I don’t care anymore.” That’s wrong. Of course I care. Biden cares. Dylan cares. It is probably caring differently, or maybe about different things. These aren’t especially original and a bit shorthand, but — satisfaction more than winning, relationships more than principles, waiting more than fixing. There isn’t the same anxiety, the same striving. There is a comfort, a peace, a pace. It is part resignation and part confidence.
Consider Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — younger men when they were president. Bright, charming, intelligent, elegant, innovative. Personally, I was never a Clintonista, but my admiration for Obama is unabated. In both of them there was a little edge, some might call it arrogance, a need to make history, to be dashing, to read the best books, talk to the shiniest artists, know the emerging economic theories.
This is what their detractors found so irritating. I can understand why they felt resentful and jealous. It was easy for many to hate Clinton and Obama with burning passion.
Hating Joe Biden is like hating the school custodian, the night-shift nurse, or your plumber. They are good, solid people doing the best they can. Not necessarily inspiring, but competent, more workmanlike. They know their stuff and they do it. No glamor.
With Clinton and Obama it seemed like everything had the prefix “neo” attached to it. Not Biden. It’s just adequate, competent, and lusterless. If he’s anything, maybe he’s neo-New Deal.
If you’re between the ages of 30 and 55, I am not calling you immature or unqualified to lead. But you still have things to prove. You’re concerned about your trajectory. And you should be. Admit it or not, recognition and reputation matter. And yours are still developing.
Many of you are so bursting with ideas and energy and compassion that you make me hopeful about the future. There’s a spring in your step, but a little self-consciousness also remains. You are a pair of new shoes — shiny, wanting to be fashionable, but still working through some pinch points. Biden, Dylan, me — we’re old shoes, a bit worn, but comfortable, walking in a more uninhibited way, and probably able to walk farther than you might think. (Actually, I wear slippers about 90 percent of the time since covid! Maybe that proves my point.)
In four years, I hope there won’t be any baby-boomers running for president and before too long, no octogenarians in the Senate (or the pulpit, for that matter). But there are now. So rather than seeing Biden’s age as a detriment, I’ll take it as a quality well-suited for this time.
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Nota Bene: I haven’t discussed Biden’s policies and record. If you have a need to do so, please go elsewhere. That’s not what we are doing today. We have a pretty lenient policy about comments here at the Reformed Journal. Today, it isn’t quite so lenient. If you want to dump your Let’s Go Brandon nonsense, or to bring up the economy, foreign policy, immigration, Hunter Biden or senility, your comments will be deleted. If you want to ponder and discuss aging and leadership and the qualities you see in older and younger leaders, then please share your thoughts below.
Two small points of personal privilege. No one in my state of Iowa can make any derogatory remarks about Biden’s age. In 2022, we elected an 89 year old to a six year term as Senator! And as for the scare tactics about “the likelihood of a Kamala Harris presidency,” they are nothing but not-so-veiled racism and misogyny. Whatever your opinion of the Vice President, she’s no more or less qualified, no more or less dangerous than Quayle, Gore, Cheney, or Pence.