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"You're Too Old to Be President"

(Lessons from Ronald Reagan Part III)


Today is Part III, so if you missed the other two, here are those links

Part I - Knowing Where You Want to Go

Part II-Pass it on Down the Line

I was watching one of the documentaries on Ronald Reagan that covered his first presidential term and his run for re-election.

It came time for his debate against Walter Mondale.


Reagan was attacked for his age - he was too old to be President, and here's the question asked by Henry Trewhitt:

"Mr. President, I want to raise an issue that I think has been lurking out there for two or three weeks, and cast it specifically in national security terms. You already are the oldest President in history, and some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall, yes, that President Kennedy, who had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuba missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?"


President Reagan looked down at his podium and cleared his throat began to speak.  It looked like he was floundering, and then he said,


"Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. If I still have time, I might add, Mr. Trewhitt, I might add that it was Seneca or it was Cicero, I don't know which, that said if it was not for the elders correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no state."


The crowd howled with laughter and applauded.  And so did I!




Reagan had taken something that others perceived as a disadvantage and turned it into an advantage.


That is a skill needed by every successful person, and a skill which so few people have.   This is a true life skill that you can teach your children that will be invaluable to them someday.


For instance, my son Ryan has really bad eyesight.  In fact, his pediatric ophthalmologist told me that our goal in treatment for him is to make it so he can get a driver's license someday.  With his glasses, that have coke-bottle-thick lenses, he can only read the top two lines of the eye chart.


You might think this is a disadvantage.


He started in a soccer league three weeks ago.  Each of the kids had to have their own soccer ball, so I got him a bright orange one that you can see a mile away.


But during game play, the team used a white ball; and he was having a hard time seeing the ball and where it had gone. 


So, my husband talked with the coach and the team started using the orange ball.


Ryan could now see the ball, but he was still not kicking it.  He would just follow the crowd around as they chased the ball.  I asked him about it.


"Well," he said, "The other kids are there and I just want to let them kick the ball until it's my turn."


Bless his heart.  His kindness overwhelms me at times.  You're probably already thinking that's another disadvantage - especially in sports.


But you'd be wrong.


Last week before we left for his game, I pulled him aside, for a heart-to-heart.


I explained to him that in the game of soccer, you had to just "get in there" and get your turn to kick the ball.  That people weren't going to stop and let him in to kick the ball because they weren't as kind and thoughtful as he was. 


"And, besides," I told him, "They're out there using YOUR ball - you should be able to kick your own ball, right?"


So, somehow that struck a chord with him.  From that game on, he has been "gettin' in there", chasing the ball, kicking, and helping his team.


Ryan has no idea that other people consider him to have a "disadvantage"; and it's not because he's "sheltered" or "protected" from life.  It's because I take his "disadvantage" and turn it into an advantage.


Instead of teaching him that he needed a special ball just to be able to play, I showed him that everyone was using his ball and he had a right to kick it.


With every circumstance and situation in life, you can either see it as a disadvantage and let people beat you up and life drag you down.  Or, you can analyze the situation to find the advantage - and be ready to use it.


President Reagan had learned this lesson.  If he hadn't, he might not have been re-elected because everyone might have thought he was too old.  I guarantee you at the end of that debate, people weren't thinking about how old President Reagan was.  They were thinking, "why in the world would I vote for someone so young and inexperienced?"


Have a great day!


Laura Banskton


P.S.  In life, you can see disadvantages as negative aspects that will hinder you in life. Or, you can see them in a different light to make the advantages of your situation visible to yourself and those around you.  The lesson above from Ronald Reagan shows how such a perspective could mean the difference in winning a Presidential election or not.

Laura Bankston is author of Internationally selling Cooking with Kids Curriculum:  ï¿œHomeschool Cooking in a Boxï¿œ and the ï¿œHomeschool Cookbookï¿œ.  She currently home schools her three children, maintains home school support websites, and manages their family-owned service business.  For information on her curriculum and free home school support services, please visit

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