Fidel Castro ruled Cuba for almost 50 years, but the 81-year-old is ailing, so it’s not surprising that the presidency of the country has been officially passed to his youthful brother Raul, who is only 76.
Raul’s top vice president, Jose Ramon Machado, is young too. The revolutionary leader is only 77. The other five vice presidents are 56, 80, 68, 63 and 71. If you’re good at math, you’ve already figured out that the average age of Cuba’s top seven leaders is 70. And you’ve also realized that there must be something wrong with a political system that doesn’t give opportunities to people in their late eighties and nineties.
If you’re 93 and want to hold a top political post, you should be given a chance. I say this because one of my readers, Ernestine “Ernie” Stripe, is 93 and she would make a fine Cuban vice president. (If you’re reading this Raul, please appoint Ernie as one of your vice presidents, so people do not accuse you of age discrimination.)
Just because you’re old, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a good leader. Old people have a lot of wisdom and they also have lots of experience doing what politicians do the most: sitting around and talking. They’re also good at shaking hands and waving.
If you don’t think those are important skills, you probably don’t follow politics closely. You probably didn’t pay attention to President Bush’s recent trip to Africa, in which he and several other presidents did a whole lot of “sitting around and talking.” In Tanzania, for example, Bush sat around and talked to President Jakaya Kikwete.
Kikwete: “Welcome to Tanzania, President Bush.”
Bush: “Thank you, President Kikwete. Things have changed a lot since the last time I was in West Africa.”
Kikwete: “Yes, things have changed in East Africa too.”
Bush: “I’m pleased to hear that. I will be going there next.”
Kikwete: “I have some gifts for you, specially from our country: a stuffed leopard and lion, and a zebra skin.”
Bush: “Thank you. I have a gift for you, specially from our country: a pair of Shaquille O’Neal basketball shoes.”
Kikwete: “Thank you. They will be a good addition to my house.”
Bush: “Yes, I suppose so. But don’t you already have enough guest rooms?”
As you can see, Bush is getting good at this. He has seven years of experience. At 61, he’s at an age where he can keep a conversation going with anyone, even himself. Just imagine how good he’ll be in 20 years. But instead of bringing his wise leadership to America, he’ll be bringing it to the Crawford, Texas, Shuffleboard Team.
Even at 81, Bush would be younger than one of the most successful leaders in Canada: Hazel McCallion. She’s 87 and is serving her 11th consecutive term as mayor of Mississauga, Ontario. Forget the rocking chair, she’s got city councilors to scare.
My motherland, India, loves old politicians. The current president, Pratibha Patil, is 72. The previous four presidents, Abdul Kalam, K.R. Narayanan, S.D. Sharma and R. Venkataraman, were 70, 76, 73 and 76 respectively. Dr. Kalam was the youngster of the bunch, barely making the cut. Had he been 69, we would have known him as just another eccentric scientist.
Let’s face it: Age is just a number. At least that’s what Mick Jagger says to all the schoolgirls.
Age is often an asset, not a handicap. John McCain, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, is 71 years old and has been through a lot in his life, including being a prisoner of war. That’s got to be a major asset.
Don’t tell me he’s too old to be president. If anything, he might be too young.