I turned 75 this week—OMG, ¾ of a century! It is a humbling experience to have lived so long. I am truly grateful for my life—supported by a loving family and buoyed by so many good friends. Such milestones are a time for reflecting and I experience my life as an undeserved blessing—a gift that, at its beginnings, had nothing to do with me.

I had with the most amazing parents who sustained me with love and affirmation—no matter what—and who provided the incredible example of their own lives, rich in integrity, compassion, empathy and a sense of fairness. Recent studies have shown time and again how important the formative years are. And mine were extraordinary; I am forever grateful. I am still surrounded by a wife and family who love me—now multiple generations strong—and that has been a constant source of joy and inspiration.

Then, along the way, I have been privileged to engage in meaningful work through which I have met friends and colleagues who have enriched my life, expanded my horizons, lovingly (usually!) pointed out my blind spots and helped me through the inevitable personal crises that we all face. These friends continue to be a cornerstone of my life and a source of empowerment as I move forward.  

Arriving at this demographic milestone, it is perhaps inevitable that I would turn my thoughts to pressing “aging issues” of the day and focus on the 2024 Presidential race which may feature two octogenarian candidates. While America is an aging nation, I am concerned about this being the choice for American voters. (Should Donald Trump be the Republican candidate, his advanced age is perhaps his least troubling quality; reasons for his disqualification to run for the nation’s highest office are legion.)

My apprehension, then, is with Joe Biden’s age should he be the Democratic nominee. I am torn. I believe Biden has been an excellent President—calming the nation after four years of chaos under Donald Trump, passing significant bipartisan legislation, steering the NATO alliance to effectively aid Ukraine in its war against Russia. He may not have fulfilled every promise made during his campaign, but given the divisiveness in Congress and the nation, he has come close. And yet, and yet…He is in his 80’s. His capacity to withstand the inordinate strains on the presidency cannot but diminish in the future, thereby leaving him and his policies vulnerable.

As a candidate, Biden will be exposed to ruthless attacks should he slip publicly—literally, as during the graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy, or verbally in interviews, pronouncements or conversations with leaders in this country or abroad. Such a slip, if pounced on hard and often by the opposition, could lead to his defeat at the polls, resulting in a disastrous victory by Donald Trump or someone toeing the Trump line.

Another worrying scenario is if Donald Trump is not the Republican candidate and the nomination is won by someone decades younger. It is painful to imagine the onslaught of attacks the elder Democratic candidate will suffer under such an eventuality, again leading to potential defeat.

Then, if Biden is re-elected, how will he endure the rigors of the office in our increasingly complex and fast-paced world? Should he win a second term, he will serve until he is 87 years old. With all his skills and experience, can he govern effectively at such an advanced age, even if he remains healthy? While it is a tricky proposition politically, I fault the Democratic Party for not finding a creative process to develop a more solid “bench” in case he should falter—Gavin Newsome, Gretchen Whitmer, Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown—would all be preferable to the alternatives lined up on the Republican side. But have they been given the political responsibility and the media framing to assume such a leadership role? I think not.

I do not come at this conversation as an ideological, wide-eyed youth believing that Biden is too old to reflect my values. At 75, I am fortunate to be relatively healthy. But I know how precarious the blessing of good health is and how quickly—and markedly—things can change. Hence, the conundrum faced by me and millions of voters as we approach this election season: Can we support a candidate—even one who has demonstrated extraordinary vigor and sound judgment—as he moves ever deeper into his 80’s? I wonder.

6 thoughts on “Getting Older

  1. If Biden believes he can serve another four years then I am on board with the plan. Given all that we as nation faced going into the 2020 presidency Biden has shown remarkable strength and fortitude. His stellar performance during the 2023 State of the Nation address was yet another bellwether moment wherein age, experience and guile won the day.

    The years going into the 2028 election will afford the Democrats ample time to position a successor to Biden. Until then let us hope the pressing issues facing every inhabitant of this planet find meaningful resolve.

    In closing, Happy Birthday, my friend.

  2. You are spot on! I am 86 and I have energy and my thinking is still sharp, but I don’t want to work any more! It is time for Biden to be the elder Statesman that he already is.

  3. Well Bob, Happy Birthday– I’m about to turn 78, in 6 days. I am going on stage with the debut of my new play– as you know – Dementia Man, An Existential Journey, in the Washington DC Fringe Festival. And I have early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

    You know, though, I am with you. I want not to be the leader; I want to be the one who supports new generations to lead. I see it many places. There is a time and era for us — and we don’t have to step away, what we need to be doing is facilitating and supporting and amplifying the next generations. Rather than trying to be at the tip of the arrow — we need to be the balancing shaft that helps guide them to their targets.

    May you have many more years of blogging, speaking and mentoring new generations of justice seekers!

  4. If only. If only. If only President Biden had said right after his election “I will not run for a second term” and then used his time in the White House to showcase other exceptional Democrats. He could have put them forward and let us all view them through the lense of possible presidential candidate. If only.
    There is no question that he will have my vote but I am SO worried.

  5. Happy Birth Day dear Chase. So motivating to read your gratitude email. Keep on hearing that age is numbers but it shows from your writing that growing is a fortunate things, we are alive so we grow, it gives you a lot to thank for. Great to know that you are doing well at this numbers….but you may count it but please do not keep it in your head as we want you to be as energetic and innovative and great as you are.

  6. Happy Birthday Bob! 🙂
    May your 75th year be filled with even more of those blessings…
    Re the election and as I read your words just now… when you introduced the theoretical but very real possibility that Biden could face a younger opponent, I said out-loud, “Whoa.”. I hadn’t yet thought that far. This election feels more and more like a lose-lose proposition.. It just might be wise after all for Biden to cede the candidacy to someone.
    I always think of Ohio Senator Tim Ryan. (When he wanted to run for Speaker, colleagues cautioned him, ‘Not now. Your time will come.. we need her right now’. (Also, Pelosi mentored him, gave him is start..) He’s a smart, scrappy little Democratic bulldog with a blue-collar appeal. 🤔 Write your congressman!

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