BACKTALK: David discusses age limitations

Let’s call it what it really is — age discrimination

Marco Polo was seven years your junior, Dylan, when he went out on his first exploration of note, albeit it was with his father and uncle. He was just 17.

Chopin gave his first public piano performance at age 7, while a 12-year-old boy named Willie Johnson was presented the Medal of Honor for his gallant actions during the Seven Days Battle of the Civil War.

An explorer, a concert pianist and a soldier, their common denominator was their youth. Imagine how history would have been rewritten had they been denied their destiny, if age limitations had blocked their way.

Too young to drink in many states and even too young to vote until 1971, the average age of the front-line U.S. soldier fighting in Vietnam War was just 19. “Too young to vote, but not to die,” was more than just a generational battle cry during the 1960s, it was a very real, unfair and unbelievable way of life.

Did I forget what some of our 14-year-old youngsters have done? Bobby Fischer became an International Chess Grandmaster at that age. Mozart wrote the opera, “Mitridate Re di Ponto” when he was barely a teenager. Nadia Comaneci became the first person, male or female, to achieve a perfect score in her Olympic sport — perfect, at age 14.

All because they were not held back by insane, inane age limitations.

Before we go any farther, let’s call age limitation what it really is — age discrimination. It seems to me some of our brightest minds are young at heart — literally, and according to their birth certificates, too. A great injustice being carried out against our youth when we tell them “no,” without giving them the opportunity to prove themselves otherwise.

And this age-old attitude dominated by those who have aged, has to change. The next injustice this country needs to correct is to lower the voting age, again. We need to lower it until we get it right, and fair. “Too young to vote, but note to die,” has been addressed and corrected, but this is not enough. If a person is old enough to hold a job and pay taxes, if he or she is old enough to be a licensed driver, they should be old enough to vote, too. We need to lower the voting age to 16.

Just as important, they should be able to hold elected office at that age, too.

But in correcting the literal and legal age injustices being carried out against our youth, let’s not forget the social injustices being carried out just as routinely against our elderly, too. All-too-often we hear younger people cry and complain that a person is “too old” to do certain things.

This is true.

Some of us are too old to run a mile in four minutes and 20 seconds, like we once did when we were young.

Some of us are too old to dance like we once danced. Hell, we can barely walk without losing our breath.

Some of us are too old to see the horizon like we once saw it. But we know it’s there.

Through it all, we’re not too old to dream. We’re not too old to communicate. We’re not to old to teach.

And, like our youthful counterparts, we’re not too old to make a difference, either.

So quit putting roadblocks in our way. Quit holding us back. Quit discriminating against us because of our age.

Most of all, don’t bother us when we’re taking our naps.


Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at

Leave a Reply