“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures (Psalm 90:10)
A TV ad for a dietary supplement features a woman who says, “Age is just a number and mine is unlisted.”
Mine is not unlisted and a simple internet search can reveal it, so I will admit it. I was born Dec. 2, 1942, which makes me 80 years old on Thursday. President Biden and I now have something in common.
In some cultures, wisdom is thought to have been attained by people who reach such an age. Not so much in contemporary America as youth is worshiped and wisdom is thought to be whatever one reads online.
When I was 1, my Dad was drafted into World War II as were many other men. He was gone for two years, but a community of neighbors became like family to many in similar situations. He and his brothers came back. Not everyone did.
I and my fellow high school classmates, who have also turned 80 this year, are fortunate to have grown up at a time when families mostly stayed together, when right and wrong were taught at home and in schools and when you were responsible for whatever choices you made.
In my years in journalism, first as a reporter and now a columnist, I have met every president of the United States since John F. Kennedy. The current one I recall meeting when he was a senator. As a reporter for NBC News and a network affiliate in Houston, I was privileged to meet and work with people I still regard as great journalists. Their signed pictures hang on my office wall to remind me of what real journalism once looked like.
I treasure another picture. It is of my mother (age 11), grandmother and great-grandmother standing next to President Warren Harding in the White House driveway. They were regular visitors to the White House because my maternal grandfather and Grace Coolidge, wife of the 30th president, were first cousins and frequent companions.
That picture reminds me of something else; that while presidents and politicians change, none can make your life better. That’s your job and mine. Coolidge shared the same belief and expressed it in the way he lived and spoke and in his policies, which reflected his view that the government should tax less so the people might have more.
In my columns over the last nearly 39 years (more than 4,000 of them), I have sought to remind readers of those old values, which became old because they worked for most people who embraced them.
Among the many privileges from a career in journalism are the many talented and intelligent people I have been fortunate to meet. No other job of which I am aware allows you to associate with such a diverse group, from presidents and prime ministers, to astronauts, singers, composers, actors and physicians, especially the One known as the Great Physician, who has shaped my thinking and my life.
I’ve been asked when I will retire, but I can’t think of anything that matches or exceeds expressing my opinions and getting paid for them. If good health continues, and with the approval of editors around the country, I shall press on, annoying liberals for as long as I am able.
In this, my examples include the British journalist, William Rees-Mogg, who was still writing in his 80s and Tom Wolfe, who lived to be 88 and wrote until near the end of his life. I humbly admit I am not in their league, but I shall keep working at it as long as strength endures.