Aging with Grace

Astonishing what we learn from others when we listen… I was talking with a friend only a few years younger who offered a suggestion that in my self-absorption had never occurred to me.

At our advancing age, she said, it’s important for us all to make way for new leaders and thinkers. When we’re asked to speak, write, or lead an initiative, she suggested we consider suggesting a young person making their way forward in our stead. Her term was “ageing with grace.”

Former Governor Madeleine Kunin has long been a role model in her championing of younger women reaching up and out to win leadership positions, especially in politics. As we age, it’s important that we do this for all younger people, which is not to say that older people should not lead; they should, but we don’t need to take on all leadership opportunities that come our way.

Next time I’m asked to lead, serve, or express an opinion, I’ll take this advice to heart and consider whom I know who might benefit from the leadership opportunities I’ve enjoyed for so long.

Armed with this new sensibility, I cast about for others on whom I could visit my new awokeness. Almost at the same moment, I heard Bernie declare his candidacy for the presidency.

Bernie and I have known each other since our late twenties and have even worked together on occasion. I respect his politics and believe they have added greatly to the national discourse, even as I don’t always agree with his underlying logic or how he expresses himself. If Bernie were elected in 2020 at 79 he’d be the oldest serving president.

Imagine if Bernie were to take the electoral following he’s earned and the campaign war chest he’s amassed and throw his weight behind and put his imprimatur on one of the younger and more diverse presidential candidates whose progressive politics are consistent with his own. Such an endorsement would serve several purposes. It would advance Bernie’s progressive cause, albeit in a new voice and persona, while addressing growing concerns about his age.  It would propel one of the up and coming candidates into the limelight and considerably enhance their chances of victory and the furthering of the Progressive Democratic agenda.

Finally, it would be an act of extraordinary grace and democratic commitment, reminding us that our democracy is not about any one person but rather about us all.

As individual citizens, we come and go. Our commitment must be to the enduring republic and governance principles our founders had the wisdom to create.