Con: Should There Be a Maximum Age for Presidential Candidates?

Charlie Kay '25, Staff Writer

The United States stands on the belief that all men are created equal, regardless of external factors like gender, race or age. An age limit for presidential candidates would violate this ideal and exclude a large demographic of Americans from our most sacred institution: democracy. Our presidents should be elected for the strength of their platforms and their leadership skills, regardless of age. A maximum age would exclude countless potential leaders and their wisdom and experience gained through long careers in public service. Our nation’s elderly population provides unique perspectives, having lived through defining moments in our history. Restricting these people from candidacy would constrain the perspectives of our nation’s leaders.

The stereotype that elderly people are feeble or senile is harmful and untrue. Some of our nation’s greatest leaders were senior citizens and would have been excluded by a maximum age. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who defeated fascism in Europe and Asia, ushered in an era of American prosperity, despite being 62 when he was elected. George Washington was 57 when elected and left office at 65, establishing a legacy of democracy with his peaceful transfer of power. Harry Truman, elected at 60, effectively navigated the volatile landscape of the Cold War, drastically expanded welfare and social programs and promoted equality by ending discrimination in the government and desegregating the military. All of these presidents exemplify effective leadership, regardless of age.

Proponents of an age limit also argue that health issues hinder older presidents’ ability to lead. This criticism falsely implies that only older leaders would be limited by health issues. For example, the second youngest president in United States history, John F. Kennedy, was plagued by health issues throughout his presidency, relying on high doses of opiates to function.

Instead of an age limit, rigorous health assessments should be used for all presidential candidates, ensuring that only those who are physically and mentally capable of fulfilling their duties are eligible. Individual assessments provide a fair and comprehensive evaluation of each candidate’s ability to lead without discriminating on the basis of age. Trust in the electoral process is a core tenant of our democracy, and age limitations would infringe on Americans’ right to choose their leader. Instead of discriminatory restrictions, we should trust the choice of American people.

A maximum age for presidential candidates endangers our fair and free elections, discriminates against the elderly, bars candidates with decades of experience and contradicts our history of effective elderly leaders.