Cartoon of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders facing off

An Age-Old Lesson From America

Bernie Sanders is 78. Joe Biden is 77. And one of them looks likely to take on Donald Trump, who is now 73, but became president after he turned 70.

Elizabeth Warren looks out of the race, despite her youthful 70 years. And the millions 78-year-old Michael Bloomberg threw at his Democratic nomination bid was never going to be enough.

On getting older, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our US friends, who value wisdom and experience and age, and a few grey hairs.

Just imagine, here in Queensland, a 78-year-old being front-runner for the lord mayoralty, taking on Adrian Schrinner, who at 33 became the youngest deputy mayor in Brisbane’s history.

Yes, we’ll boast about being young, but rarely about being old.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is still fairly youthful at 51 but time might soon run out for Anthony Albanese, who celebrated turning 57 this week!

Imagine if we valued age here in Queensland and were able to lure into politics those who have contributed a lifetime of work outside Parliament.

Imagine if age was not a barrier, and we were able to convince a young, ski-mad and youthful 67-year-old Ian Frazer to take on the health portfolio.

After all, he’s already been Australian of the Year and won almost every science prize the world over for his contribution to the cervical cancer vaccine.

Or if Ian was a touch young, perhaps Dimity Dornan, the indefatigable 74-year-old behind Hear and Say who still works 100 hours a week, could take on the role.

Indeed, Dimity’s husband Peter is the 2020 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year and would be a terrific candidate too.

Philanthropist Tim Fairfax, at 74, would be my pick for treasurer. He routinely gives his own money away, so knows who might need it most.

There’s a huge cabinet of 70-year-olds here in Queensland who would offer more experience and vision than we can possibly imagine, in daily politics.

The wit and wisdom (and proficiency in social media) of Brisbane Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge, at 71, speaks volumes about how he sees our future, not our past.

He was born a few days apart from Paul de Jersey, who might not want to give up the big house at Fernberg Road, but his 16 years as chief justice of Queensland could come in mightily handy as attorney-general.

Quentin Bryce could pick the cabinet job she wanted, if we just closed our eyes and imagined a cabinet where we valued age and wisdom and even gentleness.

Tony Fitzgerald, having done the hard yards, would be a perfect fit for police minister. At 78, and the architect of a clean, new, post-corruption Queensland, his take on our future would be invaluable.

Walk down the street with Sallyanne Atkinson, who is 77, and see the response. Respect. A trailblazer for working mothers, she’s taken on sexism and misogyny and boys’ clubs her whole life, and won at every turn.

The same goes for Mike Ahern, a month older, and from the other side of politics Keith De Lacy, who turns 80 this year, is sharper and has more perspective than most politicians I’ve met.

Retirement age is long past for Everald Compton too, but his contribution on so many fronts is not.

Sister Angela Mary Doyle beats all of those afore-mentioned in age, and rivals each in talent.

Of course, there is a long line of youngsters in their mid-60s too, like Ann Sherry and Maroochy Barambah, whose knowledge and generosity and public service would be invaluable.

Just imagine if we learnt one thing from America: how to value age.

All our lives, and the future of Queensland, might be changed. For the better.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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