Monday, March 17, 2008

The world's 10 oldest leaders

Online posters to Rolling Stone have responded with sarcastic gusto to the rocker magazine's Web site, which asked them to complete the phrase: John McCain is so old ...

"... his Social Security number is 1."

"... he knew Mr. Clean when he had an Afro."

"... he actually asked Jesus, 'Who would you bomb?' "

They may not realize that McCain is a whippersnapper compared with his seniors Gloria Steinem, Phil Donahue, Willie Brown and Woody Allen. Born in 1936, McCain is in the company of singer Kris Kristofferson, counterculture comedian George Carlin, director Robert Redford, and that "Easy Rider" epitome of youth rebellion, Dennis Hopper.

"Fifty is the new 40. Let's get real," Hopper practically sneers in a current financial commercial set to the backbeat of "Gimme Some Lovin." "What should never grow old is your dreams."

But what if that dream is the Oval Office? With Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton contending to make history as the first black or first female president, respectively, the presumptive GOP nominee threatens to make history as well. If elected, McCain, having celebrated his 72nd birthday in August, would become the oldest person ever sworn into the White House for a first term.

It's clear how he hopes to shrink this elephant in the room: with sardonic wit. When a New Hampshire high schooler asked him whether he might be too old for the job - given the prevalence of Alzheimer's and the greater likelihood that a man in his 70s could die in office - McCain touted his vigor, then wryly concluded: "Thanks for the question, you little jerk. ... You're drafted."

He routinely introduces his sharp 95-year-old mother - "good genes," he says - and parries reporter's queries about fitness by mentioning how he recently hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim.

The Arizona senator also has observed that he's reached the age at which he hides his own Easter eggs, and that he has more scars than Frankenstein. "I'm older than dirt," he says with a shrug, before going on to make the case for life experience.

None of which is likely to put to rest questions about his age in our Botoxed, youth-worshiping society. He would have been pushed into retirement years ago were he a pilot, air traffic controller, federal law enforcement officer, firefighter or Superior Court judge in Arizona.

Four out of five companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 force retirement - typically at age 70 or 72 - for their directors, according to Institutional Shareholder Services. Law firms still tend to shoo aging partners out the door.

The rationale is that older people are less physically and mentally rigorous, and less productive. Ample research suggests that, on average, this is true. The Mayo Clinic studied septuagenarians and reported that 1 out of 11 displayed cognitive impairment.

The public perceives this. A New York Times/CBS Poll last year found 52 percent of people saying candidates were at an optimal age for the presidency in their 50s. A scant 1 percent made the same claim about people in their 70s.

Even more striking, a Pew Research Center survey last February revealed that 48 percent of respondents were disinclined to vote for candidates in their 70s - slightly more than the number hesitant to back a candidate who was Muslim or had been a drug user.

A 2008 Pew study found that while less than a quarter of younger voters, when told his age, considered McCain too old for the presidency, fully 40 percent of retirement-age voters regarded him as too old.

Columnist Anna Quindlen likened McCain's presidential quest to women's opting to have babies in their late 50s: "The impulse is understandable, the goal possible. But, looking at all the facts and the actuarial tables, is it really sensible?"

Actually, those tables suggest that 70 really is the new 50. In 1900, white male life expectancy at birth was just 46.6 years - now it's 75.7 years. In essence, Americans long have chosen presidents at the probable end of the life cycle.

What's more, thanks to medical advances and healthier lifestyles, a man who makes it to 65 has a life expectancy of 12.8 more years. After celebrating his 75th birthday, his life expectancy shoots past age 85.

The result is a growing number of people who, whether compelled or by choice, retire in their 70s and pursue second "careers" - whether for the competition or in the civic arena.

Some professions are re-evaluating forced retirements or adjusting the ages upward. The mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots, for example, was recently upped from 60 to 65. And last year, the American Bar Association House of Delegates urged law firms to end to age-based retirement altogether.

Of course, it's not just a question of years. It's the mileage.

In McCain's case, he spent five years as a prisoner of war, during which the North Vietnamese tortured and beat him, shattering his shoulder and cracking his ribs. Surgery in 2000 also removed a malignant melanoma.

That year, McCain released 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records - something he thus far has not done.

So how are voters to assess an older candidate's strength and acuity?

"Perhaps someday we'll expect candidates to take physical and mental tests - something more detailed than the Mini Mental Status Exam (a dementia-screening test of 30 short questions)," said Dr. Robert Butler, director of the International Longevity Center-USA who coined the term "ageism."

"But age in and of itself should never be a disqualifier. History is full of old, great leaders."

Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer and Golda Meir all led their nations well past their 70th birthdays. Israelis last year elected Shimon Peres president at age 84.

This is the case McCain must make - and with a bounce in his step. Still, it could be formidable.

When Pew recently asked voters for a one-word description of each candidate, the adjective most commonly applied to Hillary Clinton was "experienced." For Barack Obama, it was "inexperienced."

As for McCain? The word 55 percent said best fit was "old."

This election could turn on whether the United States, in 2008, is no country for old men.


-- Herbert Abrams, Stanford University School of Medicine professor, addresses the issue of age and the presidency from historical and medical perspectives. See his article online at sfgate.com/ZCSS.


THE WORLD'S 10 OLDEST LEADERS
ROBERT MUGABE, 84, president of Zimbabwe, 28 years in power

KING ABDULLAH , 84, king of Saudi Arabia, 12 years in power

GIRIJA PRASAD KOIRALA, 83, prime minister of Nepal, two current years in power

ABDOULAYE WADE, 81, president of Senegal, eight years in power

HOSNI MUBARAK, 79, president of Egypt, 26 years in power

SHEIKH SABAH AL AHMAD AL SABAH, 78, emir of Kuwait, five years in power

RAUL CASTRO, 76, president of Cuba, two years in power, including unofficially

MWAI KIBAKI, 76, president of Kenya, five years in power

MANMOHAN SINGH, 75, prime minister of India, four years in power

THAN SHWE, 75, chair of Burma's military junta, 16 years in power


Source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/15/INBQVIUIF.DTL&type=politics

This proves every Elder is Special............................



Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

1 comment:

A Christian Prophet said...

Older people are wiser, aren't they? For example, young Barack Obama will be finished if a spotlight shines on his theology. See:
http://miraclesdaily.blogspot.com/