When I come to Presidents Day, I remember the pictures of Lincoln and Washington hanging side by side over the blackboard in the front of Estelle Shaver’s first-grade classroom at Benson School and I thought they were married since Washington’s locks looked ladylike and I didn’t know them from the $1 or $5 bills, I only knew Adam and Eve and Mary and Joseph from my Bible Families storybook. And now Benson School is demolished, Estelle has gone to her reward, blackboards are green, and the pictures have been replaced by — I don’t know what — Snoop Dogg and Taylor Swift?
This is why we need millennials to rise up and take over; there are too many people my age in power whose minds are like attics, packed with disposable antiques. I want someone to be elected president who doesn’t remember the era of doo-wop and long-distance phone calls. These memories take up brain space that could be used to replace fossil fuels with solar and wind.
My generation had no memory of the Depression, which enabled us to create rock ’n’ roll, but tell me: what did rock ’n’ roll contribute to the world other than make a few people enormously rich? I was a Beach Boys fan and every so often, without warning, the line “Catch a wave, you’ll be sitting on top of the world” goes through my head. This alone disqualifies me for any position of public responsibility.
Presidents Day was created to combine the February birthdays of Abe and Georgette Lincoln, but it lacks a clear purpose, and I propose that it be devoted to hearing potential candidates under 50, Gretchen Whitmer, Tom Cotton, Chris Sununu, bring them on, give them twenty minutes of national TV time, and simultaneously hold a plebiscite to lower the age of eligibility for Congress to 18 and let’s get some young minds in the chamber to whom Reagan and Humphrey are just names.
I am going on the premise that decades of repetitive experience is not a great learning experience. I support Uncle Joe but his thirty-six years in the Senate did not serve him well and hobnobbing in hallways and giving speeches to an empty chamber are not edifying activities. It would’ve been good for him or any other senator to take a two-year sabbatical and teach tenth-grade history.
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So I propose lowering the age for the presidency to 30. If a person doesn’t have a good grip on things by then, too bad, but we need to hear them and let my age group shut up.
I happen to admire the waitress/bartender from Queens who, deep in college debt, grieved by the death of her dad, was inspired to run for Congress and whupped an old Irish pol who was out of touch with the district, and off she went to Washington. A person can learn a lot about human foibles from tending bar and she came to Congress full of p&v and has stood up well to the opposition’s attempts to slime her and I think Rep. Ocasio-Cortez should find a broader audience and talk to farmers and truckers and also geezers like me.
I don’t think classrooms have a front anymore, the kids face in toward the middle, it’s holistic, and the children’s artwork hangs on the walls, rather than the sad bearded man and his fierce wife with the bad teeth. Maybe politics and government are outmoded and our problems will be addressed by science, which has been the case lately. Democrats and Republicans have lived in the shadow of Apple and Microsoft and Amazon and Google, and perhaps the White House is only a straw man whom we hold responsible for the perils of life and throw on the bonfire and find a new straw man.
I don’t know. That’s my motto now. I failed to catch the wave and became a beach toy lying in the shallows amid flotsam and jetsam and I’m cheering for my millennial nieces and nephews to dash past me and launch themselves onto the enormous wave of 2022 and go flying on the tide of good fortune and I will go sit under an umbrella. I’m an American and I love the story of the Latina waitress who beat the old white guy. It’s an iconic American story. Talent wins out. Smarts beat clichés. The quick lightweight KOs the big palooka. So do it.