Recently, while enjoying spaghetti and meatballs, we were watching the popular TV game show “Jeopardy!”. Host Alex Trebek posed a question regarding the age requirement to be president of the United States. The correct answer, of course, is 35. As I worked on my supper, I got to thinking about politics and age. Then the age requirement to be a U.S. senator and a representative came to mind. Those being, of course, 30 and 25, respectively.
It is. perhaps, significant to note that the age of 18 (or lower) is not mentioned by the Founders – even as a remote possibility. What was up with those guys? Were they totally clueless, or were they grounded in the facts of life? I suspect the latter to be the case. Maturity and experience are useful (hopefully demanded by voters) to be an effective and productive legislator. What age produces a responsible voter?
Back in the day, to be an adult you had to be 21 years of age. That was the “legal age” for drinking and voting. And you know what? The country operated pretty well — even survived. Likely due to the fact that the voters had a tad more maturity and experience to devote to their decision-making process.
As we know, the vote was given to 18-year-olds in 1971. The promotional verbiage, back in the day was, “if you’re old enough to fight for your country, you’re old enough to vote.”
I would contend this is not universally true. It is an incorrect mantra of leftists and has long presented our country with innumerable problems. Having served in the military, I would also contend that an 18-year-old who’s old enough to serve is old enough to follow orders. Making electoral or other decisions is another matter entirely. There are currently movements to lower the voting age yet again — to 16 — afoot in Washington and San Francisco. Can you believe that? What’s worse, they’re deadly serious.
I suppose that I should state my creds. I’ve been 18, and every age between that and 70+. I’ve been a high school and college student. I’ve been a draftee, and in order of rank held I’ve been a U.S. Army E-1, E-2, E-3, E-5 and an O-1. For the civilians, that indicates that I served both as an enlisted man and a commissioned officer. It was a strange journey, admittedly, but interesting and worthwhile, nevertheless. Finally, I’ve been an observant adult for over 60 years.
This journey was both sobering and maturing. I learned the meaning of responsibility and adulthood. I left the Army at age 24 having changed substantially from the day I was drafted at age 21, but I was not done. I returned to college and later came to the Maryland suburbs for a career. I was still young, single and having fun in my new surroundings. I came here from West (by God) Virginia at age 26 — young.
Who can explain why, but it wasn’t until my 28th year that a startling thought occurred to me: “You ain’t a kid anymore.” I was slightly shaken by the thought. It was sobering. I was dating the girl who would become my wife a year later. Seems I was growing up.
So, who really cares about all that? It’s mostly personal, but a lesson is hidden in there. It’s about how and when maturity comes to us and certainly it’s different for everyone — occurring at different ages for each of us.
Medical experts are reasonably agreed that the human brain does not mature until about age 25 — the age requirement to be a representative. Why, then, do we permit teens to vote?
Now, understand this. It is widely understood that different people mature and age differently. It is without question that some 18-year-olds are capable of making mature decisions. That said, I contend that most are not. On that, I rest my case that most 18-year-olds should not be voting, and absolutely no one younger than that should even be considered, let alone discussed.
There exists serious doubt that legislators will ever scrape up the courage to have a serious discussion about returning the voting age to a minimum of 21, but I’m convinced that election outcomes would reflect much more serious thought and relevance — and individual decisions less influenced by popular ideas.
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Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. His column appears every other Tuesday. Contact him at email@example.com.