by Brooke Medina
Vice President of Communications, John Locke Foundation
Generally speaking, it is not polite to ask someone else how old they are unless they’re clearly under the age of 18 or you’re ID’ing them for the double shot of Ardbeg they just ordered. Yet, even so, the American people have made it their business to know how old their elected leaders are, particularly those who are running for President of the United States. It’s no wonder that voters expect the man or woman who holds the title of Commander in Chief to have sharp, mental acuity and a degree of spryness.
So, how old are American presidents?
As this chart shows, there is sizable variance among the youngest and oldest presidents. Theodore Roosevelt was 42 years old when he assumed the presidency. John F. Kennedy followed closely behind him at 43. Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden were, and are, our oldest.
Because this data was published in 2016, it doesn’t include President Biden, who became our oldest president, to date, when he was inaugurated in January 2021 at the age of 78. Of note, is that Biden is the Silent Generation’s very first president.
It’s worth mentioning that when compared with international leaders, the United States chief executive is trending older, whereas most democratic countries’ heads of state are becoming younger. One only need look to our north to see Prime Minister Trudeau, at 50 years of age, probably only very recently paid off his student loans (he is not the best example of a young leader, given his questionable handling of Canadian freedoms over the past 24 months, but I digress). And then there’s the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, who is only 36 years old.
We could elect a 35 year old or a 90 year old to the office of U.S. President and the most important question would still be, “Will he or she relentlessly preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic?”
The New York Times drives home the agedness of American leaders versus much of the rest of the world by writing in this 2020 piece, “Since 1950, the average age of heads of government in the three dozen member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has steadily declined, from above 60 years old to around 54 today. The average O.E.C.D. national leader is now two decades younger than Mr. Trump — and almost a quarter century younger than Mr. Biden.”
Although these are interesting facts and data points to take in on this President’s Day – and perhaps they afford you an upper hand in trivia night – I’ll be honest; I’m not as concerned with an elected officials age as I am with their ability to carry out their constitutional duties with integrity and excellence. We could elect a 35 year old or a 90 year old to the office of U.S. President and the most important question would still be, “Will he or she relentlessly preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic?”
I’ll close with this line from Dwight Eisenhower, who assumed office at 62, during his first inaugural address:
“We are summoned to act in wisdom and in conscience, to work with industry, to teach with persuasion, to preach with conviction, to weigh our every deed with care and with compassion. For this truth must be clear before us: whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.”
Regardless of how many turns around the sun a U.S. President has made, Americans deserve leaders who conduct the People’s business with conscience, conviction, and compassion.