“The marching band refused to yield” — A rare political rant

I’ve pretty much sworn off political posts. Nothing good comes of them and there are professional observers and commentators that can and do say everything I would say, and with more insight.

But there is one thing I have to get off my chest.

What is wrong with these people in their 70’s and 80’s and beyond who do not have the grace to gently step back to their appropriate elder status and hand the reigns of power over to the generations that are going to have to live and raise children in this world long after we gerontosauruses are gone?

Trump, Ginsburg, Pelosi, Biden, Grassley, McConnell and the rest. Do they not see that their desperate clinging to power is both unseemly and destructive? For the love of God, have some respect for the children and grandchildren and future generations who are going to have to live on this earth, if, indeed, the earth even remains livable.

The appropriate status of the elder is to counsel and advise, not to control. Be a mentor, show the best and brightest of the next generation how to wield the levers of power. Explain your missteps. Point out what you did well, what you would do differently, and what you think the appropriate course of action is going forward. Then step back and support. Will they make mistakes? Of course. Who hasn’t made mistakes? But this is their world, not yours.

These are tough times. Tough times and dangerous. The world needs you. But it does not need you to run things. It needs you to offer guidance. If you do not understand this, your actions, no matter how well-intentioned, are ultimately acts of selfishness. There is someone out there who can do what you are doing equally as well and in a manner more appropriate to the times. Your task is to find them, help them, nurture them, bring them forward. Otherwise your age is an impediment and not a gift. And that is a sorry legacy to leave when you are ultimately dragged off the stage, which, I assure you, you most certainly will be.

25 thoughts on ““The marching band refused to yield” — A rare political rant”

  1. Patricia Glatfelter

    Bravo! I’ve been thinking these same thoughts the past few days and longer. Written so eloquently! Thank you for getting this out there.
    Patty G

  2. Steven Reynolds

    “What a sorry legacy to leave …”


    “Too many individuals within our Indigenous community have experienced sexualized and suggestive comments, unwanted and unwelcome touching, or bullying at the hands of Elders/Knowledge Keepers, who are protected by their own position and by others who are in positions of power,” the report states.

    Self recognition of Transgenerational trauma eluded the perpetrators and further scarred their victims. Sadly, stepping aside wasn’t in their vocabulary. As Indigenous history becomes known and accurately taught in schools, as searches for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are conducted throughout our two countries, as more bodies of Indigenous Residential School children are located and exhumed week after week, these respected ‘leaders’ have the unmitigated gall to desecrate their own people!

  3. “Your task is to find them, help them, nurture them, bring them forward.”

    I couldn’t agree more, Kent. I’m 75. I moved from Iowa last fall, after working at the U of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics for nearly 23 years. Chuck Grassley will be 95 if he survives until the end of his current term as Iowa Senator. And we all saw the embarrassing and disturbing spectacle of Mitch McConnell’s mental power outage yesterday. Despite my own gratitude to Joe Biden, he is clearly not the man he once was, though I consider him vastly superior to his nemesis.

    The duty of village elders is, as you said, to advise, to inspire, and to nurture newer generations of leaders. Young people, and all future generations, deserve better than this. So yes, village elders, stand down. There is brilliant talent in the world. Let them take up the baton.

  4. Eloquently stated, Scott. I’m 77 and know how to navigate my limitations. But limitations they are. And they are exactly the sort of things that would make one ill equipped for the political arena.

  5. I’m sorry, Kent, but I cannot go along with your thoughts on leadership as an elder. Perhaps I’m misreading you, but I feel smacked in the face with ageism, laced with some pretty ouchie anger. Those of any age who seek or maintain positions of leadership should, of course, be capable physically and mentally. But age, per se, is irrelevant—except as it affords the wisdom age alone can build. If old age is disqualifying, it should be incorporated into the rules and regs regarding the position, not dragged out to get rid of someone. I admire you a great deal, so I’m deeply sorry to disagree with you on this matter, but my disagreement is serious enough that I have to speak up.

  6. Interesting. Well, we do disagree then. To me, ageism is one of the flavors du jour. This concern with “isms” is essentially an analytical modality by which various groups can express their dissatisfaction with the fact that their membership in that group has circumscribed their opportunities and defined the way they are perceived. Fair enough. But there are larger rhythms, and, to me, the rhythm of life’s seasons is far greater and of far more analytical value than cultural categories. Perhaps I am thinking from a greater distance than you are. But I always have been and always will be more concerned with the eternal than the temporal, and elderhood is part of life’s rhythms and should be cognizant of its appropriate role. As to “ouchie anger,” I can only think that you are implying that I am feeling some pangs of irrelevance or something that has to do with my own particular age. Absolutely not true. My concern it how to live appropriately for the season I am in, and how to utilize my life experience to help the generations coming up behind me to be conscious stewards of the world they are inheriting.

  7. All well stated and true, yet I am left with a question, don’t “we” have the power of the vote? Should we not learn about the younger ones that are entering into the public arena and find out what there foundation is and if it meets the direction we want our country to move in? Then choose where our vote is casted.

  8. Absolutely. And it is not easy. We must also find a way to stand against the tools of manipulation that keep all of us of any age from seeing clearly the skills and possibilities of the generation we want to empower.

  9. Saxon White Kessinger-
    Sometime when you’re feeling important;
    Sometime when your ego ‘s in bloom;
    Sometime when you take it for granted,
    You’re the best qualified in the room:
    Sometime when you feel that your going,
    Would leave an unfillable hole,
    Just follow these simple instructions,
    And see how they humble your soul.

    Take a bucket and fill it with water,
    Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
    Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
    Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.
    You can splash all you wish when you enter,
    You may stir up the water galore,
    But stop, and you’ll find that in no time,
    It looks quite the same as before.

    The moral of this quaint example,
    Is to do just the best that you can,
    Be proud of yourself but remember,
    There’s no indispensable man.

  10. So clear and wise . . . and passionate, Kent. Thank you for this! This is my favorite sentence in the midst of a wonderful “rant”: “The appropriate status of the elder is to counsel and advise, not to control.” This is a shout-from-the-rooftops kind of clarity. Wow!

  11. Rant on brother. When I saw the words “The marching band refused to yield . . . ” I had to read on. It is a very vivid image “a marching band that refuses to yield” and so perfect. Don McLean’s spirit recalled. At 71 years old I know I could lead and I know it is not my place. People say I’m wise and you describe exactly how I feel about that . . . let me help those younger to lead.

  12. Kent if only some mass media would entertain the perspective you have reflected on and ask a President or Congressional member to respond to it.
    I have begun to ponder my 72 years circling the sun and wondered does my opinions or insights really matter ?

  13. Kent, I agree. An additional example..Diane Feinstein. When I read an article about her several weeks ago, it seemed that her caretakers needed to lift her fingers to press the vote button in the Senate. Sometimes, the obvious is non too clear. This is one of these situations where (WTF), it’s hard to use our language to express our disbelief. Once again, I totally agree with you. There’s a point where, “Let it go”. How much power, how much money (Kevin Costner) does one need? Sometimes, I can’t understand the human animal. Thanks for being so elegant and clear regarding this situation in our leadership (or lack thereof).

  14. Amen, as one of the age group you mention, I totally agree. Moreover, you have verbalized what has been on my mind for awhile. We need to yield to the next generation as it is their world now. We have not left them with a smooth path to follow.

  15. Carolyn Yates

    I agree in principle. But – sometimes as you age (I’m 68) you become the leader your community needs because of your experience. Maybe women are allowed to be leaders when they age. I’ve spent most of my life as a very good second in command. It makes me uneasy to lead right now but for awhile needs must. I’ve been looking for the step away, I’m not comfortable here but I’m trying to build young leaders and I’m trying to lead in the Daoist way – where people think they did it for themselves. In a society where one leader is looked for by others in power, that’s hard.

  16. You are doing it right: a leader who leads when called, not a leader who believes he or she is the only one who can do the job. It is another discussion, and maybe I’ll make mention of it in another post. But you are so right — the Daoist way. I commend you. Your people are lucky to have you.

  17. Kent, I’ve been thinking this myself for awhile now. We all need to continue contributing to solutions to society’s challenges as long as we can, but when it is time to go, we need to do so with grace. As someone who just joined the 70s Club, I volunteer where I can use my skills and support those who are following after me. We need to take the time to teach, guide and help young people build their skills for negotiating and problem solving, not learn the skills of divisiveness. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  18. Dear Kent – Have you heard about “The Third Act” founded by activist Bill McKibben (also a great author*)? If you have not, I suggest you visit thirdact.org. I’ve copied their “About Us” page below. The crux of the work done by Third Act is to organize the wisdom – and assets – of the elder generation. (Bill defines this as over 65.) They call for the elders to step up and step away – connect with the younger generations as mentors and such, and use their financial and other ~power in support of the generations coming of age – you know, things like stopping the financing of fossil fuels and other climate mitigation. That’s just one example.
    If you haven’t come across this org, I suggest you check them out. I’m trusting that would give you a dose of optimism amid our current dire conditions.
    Best wishes // CatherineStenzel / “Tears for the Samurai”

    “Experienced Americans” are the fastest-growing part of the population: 10,000 people a day pass the 60-year mark. That means that there’s no way to make the changes that must be made to protect our planet and society unless we bring our power into play.

    We’re used to thinking that humans grow more conservative as they age, perhaps because we have more to protect, or simply because we’re used to things the way they are. But our generations saw enormous positive change early in our lives—the civil rights movement, for instance, or the fight to end massive wars or guarantee the rights of women. And now we fear that the promise of those changes may be dying, as the planet heats and inequality grows.

    But as a generation we have unprecedented skills and resources that we can bring to bear. Washington and Wall Street have to listen when we speak, because we vote and because we have a large—maybe an overlarge—share of the country’s assets. And many of us have kids and grandkids and great grandkids: we have, in other words, very real reasons to worry and to work.

    Working principles
    As we begin this work, we’re eager to build a strong and healthy culture right from the start, one that makes Third Act productive and even kind of joyful for those involved. (The more fun it is, the more we’ll get done).

    Who we Are
    Third Act is guided by a volunteer Advisory Council led by Akaya Windwood. Organizing, campaigns, and operations are coordinated by a small staff team. Read more about the team.

    and more . . .
    * “The End of Nature,” “The Return of the Wolf,” “The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon” -most recent (2022)

  19. Jane Workhoven

    Dear Kent,
    I find you very insightful and intelligent. I must agree. I am 75 and know that I have lost things that would be vital for a President. If this were a less important job, age might not matter. This is a vitally important position. The world needs someone with laser sharp vision, self-control, ability to concentrate, speak well, and so much more. I know many people that are in their late 70’s and early 80’s who are sharp for normal everyday things. But, I do not think they probably have the ability to carry out tasks that the President needs to be able to. It is time to give the younger people a chance. Hopefully we have skilled thoughtful people who have experience and can create new ways and new pathways for us. The 2 leading candidates are too old. While I still find one slightly more desirable than the other, it is not because I think that person is a great choice. I keep hoping to someday have the opportunity to vote for someone I really believe in, and am sure can and would make positive changes.

  20. Thank you to all who contributed their opinions to this post. They are thought provoking ones, indeed. I must agree with Kent on respecting the rhythms of life. I love this description as I find it so accurate. There is a time and place for everything and everyone. It takes wisdom and respect to recognize where your place is in the “rhythm” of life.

  21. Thanks, Diane. I also really appreciate the different opinions. This is not an easy question to address — surely not black and white. Wisdom accrues with age; so does perspective. But energy and capability diminish. How to balance those two truths? Good thoughts from lots of good people. I have such wonderful readers!

  22. I agree…
    I have long thought that one of the goals for any leader should be to make yourself dispensable. If you hang on to the leadership position until you are beyond capacity, there’s no time left to support and mentor your replacement.

    Queen Elizabeth might belong on your list as well, but King Charles seems to have succeeded her relatively smoothly. It will be interesting to see how long he hangs on to the scepter.

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