Age and Politics: How Young is Too Young?

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By Michael Nicholas

Staff Reporter

How young should be too young to run for and hold political office, and how old should be too old?

Recently in Kansas, 17-year-old Aaron Coleman announced he was running for governor in July 2017.

“In Kansas, there are no minimum age restrictions to run and at 17, Mr. Coleman is one of six teenagers who have announced their bids in the last year to become chief executive of the state,” according to a New York Times article.

“There should be an age limit and I think you should be 42 as a minimum age to be in elected office because that’s the time you’ve had plenty of years of work experience and you have been around for a couple elections,” said sophomore Joseph McCormack.

McCormack also followed that with a reason for an upper limit.

“I think the oldest you should be [elected]is 65 because that’s when you start to get old and your health could start to decline,” said McCormack. “And with a job like that it adds a lot of stress, which can affect your health even more.”

Of course, the minimum age for some public positions is already much lower than 42, such as 25 for being a Representative.

“I believe that 25 is a good age to be the youngest,” said junior Christian Houghton. “My reasoning is because at the age of 25 a human’s mind is fully developed.”

Christian went on to provide a nuanced look at the upper limit.

“For the question regarding how old is too old, technically it does not matter as long as the individual is mentally and physically healthy to hold that position,” said Houghton. “But from the eyes of the voter, if the individual running for office is running for a position against a younger candidate, most of the time they will vote for the younger candidate. It is still a toss-up question because one can play devil’s advocate by stating that the older candidate is wiser.”

Others interviewed brought up that there is a hierarchical lower limit already with higher minimums for higher positions, starting with 25 for Representative.

Professor and former senior producer for NBC News, Joseph Alicastro, feels that age provides a candidate necessary life experience.

“I think that our founding fathers were wise to choose the age of 35 as a requirement to be President of the United States,” said Alicastro. “It seems that gives the prospective candidate enough time to gain the experience necessary to govern in a very complicated world.”

Alicastro agreed with students who said that an upper limit was necessary due to health and the impact of stressful positions of power at that age. Among those interviewed, there was a fair consensus that keeping some lower limit was necessary due to lack of experience. However, opinions varied greatly as to the number, ranging from 25 to 42. There was also some agreement around diminished ability due to health and stress when too old, with some giving the caveat that an older candidate is technically always more experienced.

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