As someone who puts opinions out for public discussion, it’s fun to read others doing the same. That’s the case with Sheila Lawrence in the Roseburg, OR, News-Review a few days back.

While finding some areas of agreement, I fundamentally disagree with her on two points.

First: term limits. In elected entities where they’ve been tried, many have revoked them. “One size fits all” almost never works in governing. Think OSHA. Think EPA. Careers of wise, effective people are arbitrarily cut off; historical experience of what works legislatively and what doesn’t is lost; civil servants who’re supposed to implement policy end up with undue influence on lawmaking and governing because they’re a constant. Lobbyists, too. Who do you want in charge?

Turn her argument on its head. We already have term limits. They’re called “elections.” The problem is we are not required by law to have an informed electorate. So millions go to the polls without a speck of candidate research on votes, issues, leadership, etc. They look for familiar names or ask someone else’s opinion. I’m married to one like that. Politics just isn’t her thing.

Then there’s the “my guy is a good guy but your other guy is a bad guy” syndrome. Nancy Pelosi is a good example. She can be re-elected in her district for life but she has a national approval rating of about 27%. Good guy-bad guy.

“A term limit that extends no more than 18 years … should suffice for an individual before he or she builds enough muscle to establish a power base,” Ms. Sheila wrote. Barack Obama had a congressional power base in two years; John Kennedy in less than six; John McCain, Dick Cheney and Richard Nixon in eight or so; to name a few.

I do agree that some politicians stay in office far too long. Robert Byrd at 91; a drooling Strom Thurmond at 96 being led everywhere for years. There are others; too many. But each is answerable to his own electorate and not to all of us. Compounding the problem, the seniority system (longest serving) is their golden rule. Not the best or the brightest but the one that got there first. I hate it, but no one outside Congress can change it.

The late “Mo” Udall, a favorite congressman of mine, once told me “Everyone in congress got here because he or she learned the rules, played by ’em and got elected. They’re the only ones who can change the rules. And it ain’t gonna happen.”

I’ve been around the political arena most of my adult life and I also disagree with her premise that new ideas and effective use of new thinking disappear with the graying of hair.

“Older people live in the twilight of today’s world,” Ms. Lawrence wrote. Road apples, says I. Reagan was a memorable president at age 70 to 78; Eisenhower 63 to 67; Truman at 64 to 68. Ben Franklin was the nation’s postmaster general at 70. Sully Sullenberger amazed the world with his skills at 58. Unlike her, I want gray hair in the cockpit!

Incidentally, airlines have upped the retirement age to 65 so they can keep older pilots “in the twilight of today’s world” in cockpits. The pilots are filled with today’s latest whiz-bang technology to go along with those years of experience.

Employers across the country are hiring back senior workers for their skills and for work habits better than many of today’s younger hires.

I agree with Ms. Lawrence that some older people do live in a world they don’t understand, and that they don’t like change. But they’re few. And getting fewer. Today’s 60 is age 50 a dozen years ago; 70 is, for many seniors, age 60 or so. Ask your doctor. I’ve also found the “don’t-understand-don’t-change” attitude is not limited to seniors.

“Put it together,” Ms. Lawrence wrote. “Old age, old ideas, reticent to newness because the world is changing so quickly around you, you simply can’t keep up.” Where in hell did that come from?

Brain research shows conclusively nearly all of us can continue learning as long as we stay active, stay curious, stay in the middle of things and off the sidelines. Just like exercise works with the body, brain “exercise” adds years to your life and life to your years!

For the record, I’m 73. Don’t look it; don’t feel it. My reflexes have slowed a bit but my reasoning power, physical condition and ability to take on just about any physical or mental chore has never been better.

I hope the “Senior Advocate” (her description of her vocation) and I stay in touch over the years. Considering her problems with age, she’s going to need the help of someone who’s been through it. Successfully.

Comments are closed.