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John Kerry: it sometimes takes one old fart to recognise the value of another

November 25, 2020

John Kerry is one of only two current American politicians I have laid eyes upon in person (Hillary Clinton is the other). He is 77, younger than Joe Biden, but still the subject of raised eyebrows because Biden had given him the job of head honcho for climate change in his new administration.

Kerry was the Democratic candidate who ran against George W Bush in the 2004 presidential elections. He was Secretary of State in the Obama administration. Why then, would he take on a less prestigious role at this time of his life, instead of heading for a comfortable retirement?

Presumably because, like Biden, he reckons he has a few more miles in the tank, and would prefer to make a further contribution to public life rather than spend his days playing golf.

Biden could have gone for a younger man who also has strong credentials on the climate front. Al Gore, Clinton’s vice-president, is a mere 72. He has arguably contributed more to climate awareness than Kerry. But Kerry has stayed engaged in politics. Gore, on the other hand, has slowly faded from public view. Fair enough. It’s his right.

That said, I think Biden’s appointment of Kerry is an excellent move. Likewise, selecting Janet Yellen, at 74, as his Treasury Secretary nominee. As the former Chair of the Federal Reserve, she also has bags of experience.

My reason for singling out these appointments is to highlight that diversity is not just about race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or gender. It’s also about age. Every age group brings its own perspective on life. If you mix those perspectives into a government, you have the potential for a richer debate, and the possibility of achieving a more effective consensus.

If only we in Britain could see that we are better off governed by a group of people who come from an age group wider than the 40-60 crowd that call the shots today. We need to recognise that the old are not all reactionary, and the young are not all revolutionary. Speaking from the commanding heights of 69, I fail to understand why the voices of people like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major so often fall on stony ground. Michael Heseltine, at 87, is still worth listening to, even if you don’t agree with everything he says.

But then listening is not necessarily one of the British government’s strong points, though you could argue that they listen, but to the wrong advice. You could direct the same observation at Donald Trump and his motley crew.

So along with the new, bring in the old. We oldies deserve to be respected and heard, rather than be fobbed off with handouts to keep us happy as we tip-toe towards oblivion.

From → Politics, UK, USA

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