Events this week have shown you can’t beat experience and knowledge. So are we, asks Chris Bond, seeing the beginning of the end of the cult of youth?
IT’S been a fascinating week for those, like me, who have been following the see-sawing fortunes of those seeking to become the most powerful person on earth.
There’s a long way to go, of course, and the runners and riders will have plenty more slings and arrows from outraged opponents to deflect before this exhausting race is through.
But on the evidence of what we have seen so far the chances are that the man, or woman, who becomes the next president of the United States will be of pensionable age.
Donald Trump will have turned 70 if he gets chosen to be next in charge at the White House. But he doesn’t have as many miles on the clock as Bernie Sanders who, at 74, is the oldest of all the presidential nominees.
Having beaten Hillary Clinton, who is herself 68, in the New Hampshire Primary, the Vermont senator has all the momentum going into the next round of votes as more people clamber on board the Bernie express.
But it was another incident on the election trail that was perhaps the most illuminating. Up until last weekend, 44-year-old Republican candidate Marco Rubio appeared to be a serious contender.
Seen by many as the great young hope of the GOP (Grand Old Party) he seemed to be gaining the upper hand after a surprisingly strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses.
But Rubio was brought crashing back down to earth when he received an on-stage evisceration from fellow Republican Chris Christie. The savvy New Jersey governor attacked Rubio’s lack of leadership experience and his overly polished answers, leaving the Florida senator floundering and looking out of his depth.
Christie later continued his rhetorical attack, saying: “This is not just something where a guy makes a good speech and looks good in a suit, so let’s make him president of the United States,” before adding that Rubio was “not ready” to be president. Ouch.
In Britain, we’ve got used to our political leaders being younger – both Tony Blair and David Cameron were in their mid-40s when they became Prime Minister. But here, too, it would appear that change may be afoot. Jeremy Corbyn was a rank outsider to become leader of the Labour Party last year and yet the 66 year-old won by a proverbial landslide.
In the case of both Sanders and Corbyn it could be argued that their success has less to do with age and more to do with their willingness to offer an alternative to the status quo. However, it’s surely not a coincidence that both men have risen to prominence after decades of public service.
But it isn’t just in politics where veterans have been leading the way this week. At the age of 39, Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in this year’s Super Bowl 50 – the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history.
There is certainly no shortage of role models who are living proof that older people can, and do, make a big difference in the world. At 85, Bernie Ecclestone is still running Formula One, while Dame Judi Dench continues producing stellar performances at the age of 81. And then there’s the Queen who turns 90 in just a couple of months.
Nevertheless, ageing remains a big issue and age discrimination, in particular, which is why it is encouraging to see experience and knowledge valued in the same way that youth and exuberance so often are.
There are times when an injection of new ideas is required and we should never hold young people back – as Matt Busby once said: “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”
But by the same token we shouldn’t be in a hurry to get rid of talented people just because they’re deemed to be “over the hill.”