A thought has been gnawing on me for the past few election seasons, so let me just come out and admit that it’s ageist. There, let the axes fall where they may: old people should not run for president.
It’s not like we would expect senior citizens to perform other vital roles in society, for example, in an emergency room. Would you want a nurse as old as Bernie Sanders in charge of hooking you up to a respirator when he’s on the 23rd hour of his 32-hour shift? How about a surgeon as old as Donald Trump trying to reconnect the nerves on your severed limb when he probably should not even be operating a car? Neither Joe Biden nor Elizabeth Warren should win the election for the next chief of staff. They, like all, seniors, should step aside and let the younger, more vigorous candidates vie for the hardest job in America.
And while we’re at it, the Senate, House and legislatures across America should be washed out of its gray, and replaced by youth. Otherwise – especially among the lawmakers – the government remains the old order. It changes slowly because the same representatives stay in office and because they rarely lose a reelection. Worse, they never die young. Our country has stagnated because, quite frankly, the people in power have enjoyed good health care while their constituents mostly have not.
And so, for the first time since I’ve been able to vote for the president, I’m not going to vote for experience. I’m going to vote for youth and message because I’ve discovered that for the 30-plus years I’ve been going to the polls, voting for experience has only meant endorsing the old guy or girl.
No more. I want energy. I want someone who hasn’t lived long enough to accumulate too much to lose to do the work. Anyone with a legacy worth admiring is not going to do much. He or she simply has too much to lose.
So let’s take a really good look at the young ones – the under-40s and not-yet-50s. Though it is doubtful that anyone will challenge the current president on the Republican side, the Democrats have several statesmen in the springs of their careers. Let’s give them a chance. I certainly will.
As I write this, my mind wanders to a few years ago as a new high school teacher in a Guam public high school. I am sitting in the office speaking to the principal, reviewing basic new hire information. We are exchanging light conversation.
“How long have you worked here?” I ask.
“Fifteen years, but I’m retiring this year,” she replies.
“Oh really?” I’m a little sad. I liked her even though I had only met her twice. I wasn’t quite ready to imagine a new boss quite so quickly.
“Yes, I’m ready to double-dip,” she nonchalantly says.
I knew what she meant. Double-dipping is when a government employee retires, collects retirement, but remains in the position to collect additional pay. Double-dipping was common knowledge when I started teaching. I imagine it is still common. In fact, I know that in my new district, some retirees remain on staff.
For the record, I don’t think double-dipping is wrong or immoral in education – the fact of the matter is that there is a teacher shortage. And if a teacher can make more money, more power to her. Most are overwhelmingly underpaid, after all. However, this practice hazards a preference to familiar faces over new and qualified individuals, who deserve their own chance to work for honest pay. My position is if there is a young teacher who can take a classroom from a retiree, then he or she must have it. We must make space for new professionals. We must allow them to learn the ropes, and not hold inexperience against them.
I am age biased. I cannot deny it – I have been for a while. I guess it started on a flight from Hawaii to Houston about 10 years ago. The head flight attendant declared she had been flying for over 40 years. Admiration diminished quickly at the first sign of turbulence. As her septuagenarian’s voice called out the fasten seatbelt warning over the intercom, I couldn’t help but hope that in case of a water landing, a younger flight attendant would be guiding me to the inflatable ramp. Is that so bad?
Dan Ho, a native of Agat, is a writer and teacher and holds a Ph.D. in indigenous studies. Follow his garden adventures on Instagram @HoandGarden.