Camilla Cavendish in her wide ranging article on the increase in the “unretiring” of senior executives and politicians, with a greater proportion working during an “extended middle age” rightly highlights the examples of the US president and the presidential candidates (“It is time to wake up to the challenge of longer lifespans”, February 29). Perhaps, however, during an era of diversity and with International Women’s Day this month, she might have included Elizabeth Warren, the senior US senator from Massachusetts, who at 70 is only slightly younger than Bernie Sanders, Mike Bloomberg and Joe Biden.
Given the importance of public figures as role models, Ms Cavendish might also have mentioned the age and seniority of numerous members of the legislative branch of the US government. These include Susan Collins, the senior US senator from Maine (age 67), Jackie Speier, the US representative for California’s 14th congressional district (age 69), Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives (age 79) and Dianne Feinstein, the senior US senator from California, who is a mere 86. Nor should it be overlooked that the third branch of the US government, the Supreme Court has its own role models, who exhibit comparable longevity, for example, Clarence Thomas (age 71), Stephen Breyer (age 81) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 86).
During a BBC radio broadcast over Christmas, Ms Ginsburg engaged with her much younger UK Supreme Court counterpart, Lady Hale, who at the age of 75 was having to retire from the court due to a mandatory retirement age in the UK. The comparison between the two systems couldn’t have been more graphic, and our loss of judicial experience contrasts starkly with America’s gain.
Surely there is now sufficient evidence to value the combination of ability and experience which all these role models exhibit, not to mention extensive records in their various disciplines. In many cases they have outperformed their younger rivals, to secure and maintain high office at the latter’s expense, and have used their experience to this end. Last week’s withdrawal of the younger presidential hopefuls amply illustrates this.
Penalising someone simply because of the length of time they have been alive is arguably the most pernicious and unjust form of discrimination, and increasingly this is being demonstrated by the success of these role models. Even the embattled president Trump has played his part here.
Milton Keynes, Bucks, UK
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