Age is just a number
Three years ago, Donald Trump became the oldest person elected president of the United States. When he took office, he was 70 years, seven months, six days old.
That distinction was previously held by Ronald Reagan, who was 69 years, 11 months, 14 days old. When Reagan left office on Jan. 20, 1989, he was 77 years, 11 months, 14 days old.
Three Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate, as well as the incumbent, are all in their 70s.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is 77 years old, and would be 78 years, two months zero days old on inauguration day in 2021. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is 78, and would be 79 years, four months, 12 days old on Jan. 20, 2021.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is also running to become the first female president, would be in excess of 71 years old on Jan. 20, 2021.
Republican Bill Weld, 74, would be 75 years, five months, 20 days old on inauguration day, while Trump – if re-elected – would be 74 years, seven months, six days old at the beginning of his second term. He would be 78 years, seven months, six days old when he leaves office.
The median age of a president, when he (or hopefully someday she) takes office, is 55 years, three months old.
So, what do all these numbers mean? Well, to start with, most presidents have a full career – whether in the private sector or in politics – before they enter the Oval Office.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution outlines three qualifications to be elected 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.”
The Founding Fathers, obviously, put great thought into eligibility requirements for the top office in the nation. The average age of the first 10 presidents was 58 years, one month.
But, with life expectancy in the 1780s at 38 years old (however, most people who lived to age 60 survived to age 75), did the Founding Fathers ever imagine or intend for a president to take office at 70-plus years of age?
Likely, they had at least some foresight, as they did not put an upper limit in the U.S. Constitution.
So, is a 70-plus years old fit for office – especially the office of the presidency? The short answer is yes.
To start with, presidents have access to the best possible health care. They also – unlike many of their American counterparts – have yearly, thorough checkups that would detect any serious malady before it becomes a threat to life.
In addition, presidents have their food prepared for them by an entire staff of professional chefs who present balanced, nutritious meals to the occupant (and their family) of the White House. Of course, many presidents have their indulgences, like Bill Clinton and Trump with their penchant for McDonald’s Big Macs.
Presidents have – literally – a nonstop schedule that often sees them rise in the early morning hours of a day and not retiring for the evening until midnight or after. And, sleep is frequently interrupted when major events happen in not only our own nation, but also oversees in foreign lands.
The presidency certainly isn’t for the faint of heart or those who lack a strong constitution, pun intended.
The rigors of the office are well known, with photo comparisons in recent years of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before and after they getting to the White House.
Wartime presidents – including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush – have it particularly difficult, seemingly aging at an even more advanced rate.
All that said, those in their 70s certainly can execute their many presidential duties, eventually becoming elder statesman and making contributions to the United States in a different and equally meaningful way after leaving Washington, D.C.
One need look no further than the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Carter – a one-term Democrat – has set the gold standard for former presidents, working tirelessly promoting our country on the homefront and abroad, winning a Nobel Prize and volunteering for various organizations, including Habitat for Humanity.
Others, like Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton have continued to serve the American public after leaving office, all reaching their 90s before passing into history.
So, no, advanced age should not be a reason to exclude a candidate for consideration. With age comes life experience, wisdom and a more honed ability to make key decisions. Those are the characteristics that are a must to be president of the greatest nation in the world.