ALLAN JEFFERYS: In Politics and in Life, Age Is Only a Number
Every time I start complaining that I am too old for something, a good friend will remind me that age is just a number. That props me up, especially if that friend happens to be a pretty girl. Then, I preen.
Admittedly, some things have changed and are now just out of reach. I can no longer rattle off all the answers to "Jeopardy!" as well as I once did. This galls me when the category is Musical Theater and I realize how dated my knowledge is of what, at one time, was an area of expertise. Golf, too, is physically just beyond my outstretched fingers. Still, there are some things I can handle with ease and some justification for the age is just a number statement.
Which brings us to John McCain, who is 72.
This seems to be a target for his opponents, who are quick to point out the limited experience of Sarah Palin. But then there is John McCain's mother, who is a sprightly 96, lending credence to the promise of equal long life of John McCain. Now, he becomes only 72. In any event, it is just a number.
To those who warn that the presidency is a torturous job, let us point out that Presidents John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush -- all either lived into their 80s and 90s or are still alive.
Given the major improvements in medicine and health that have occurred since the days of John Adams, the likelihood of John McCain living through a second term is realistic. By then, Sarah Palin will really be ready. Maybe by then even Obama will be ready.
The next question about age concerns someone in his or her mid-40s. Is that too young? Maybe we should have a law that says only those people between the ages of 57 and 59 will be allowed to run. That sounds pretty safe, even if age is only a number. Oops. That law would eliminate McCain, Obama, Biden and Palin. That is a little scary. In one fell swoop we just wiped out everyone running.
Of course, age is not the only criterion for criticism. What about someone under 45 years of age who loves the outdoors, loves to hunt, has a bunch of children and is a Republican reformer? Could such a person be cast as a vice-presidential candidate? Especially one with less than two years as a governor? Who could ever come up with such a wild idea?
It turns out there was such a person. No, not Sarah Palin. Teddy Roosevelt in 1900. (My thanks to Ted Patton for reminding me of this.)
Here in the Sandhills, age is no big deal. Especially now. When we first moved here, it seemed that everywhere we went we were confronted with a sea of gray hair. In the beginning, it was nice to be surrounded by contemporaries but, after a while, we began to wish for a more eclectic group. Wouldn't it be nice to see a young face every now and then?
Finally, our wish has come true. Wander through the supermarkets today, and you see an increasing number of young people with small children. That demographic has led to trendy little shops and a creative variety of available foods. (I'll never like sushi but know people who do.)
Some of us have even been known to visit the Fresh Market on Saturday just to look at the young customers. Such visits put a little spring in our step and solidify the notion that age is just a number. I note that I'm not the only member of my generation pretending not to stare on such visits. Some attributes never wane, and high on that list is an appreciation of youth and beauty.
Then there's golf. More and more friends of mine are beginning to boast of shooting their age, something that they never would have thought possible back when they were in their 60s. Have they discovered a magic swing movement or a different way of keeping score? Nope. Their golf game is exactly the same today as it was years ago. The secret is that they have finally allowed their age to creep up to their golf score.
It's a nice feeling on two counts: living this long and still being able to tee it high and let it fly. Long may these new Jack Nicklauses reign.
Which brings us back to McCain and his choice of a running mate. There is more than eye candy connected with Sarah Palin. She is alert, sharp, tough when it is called for and smart enough to surround herself with great advisers.
Besides, that fellow John McCain is just a kid. His age is just a number.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. You can contact him at oldjeff @embarqmail.com.
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