Op-Ed by yours truly published this date in Florida Today

I am turning 80 this month. I don’t care if I were the smartest politician in government and/or could still climb mountains — I would have no business being a president of the United States, a U.S. Supreme Court justice or a member of Congress at that age.

I feel in good shape, but I definitely have far less physical and mental stamina than I had 10 or 20 years ago, no matter how I try to fake it. While there may be exceptions, that’s the norm.

Of course, some lucky people are one-up in the genes, but the wear and tear of years on the mind and body have an effect on everyone and should not be risked in critical positions of power that affect all Americans. No offense to seniors, it is important that our government employ the fittest and finest among our citizenry.

The private sector is very sensitive to promoting and hiring top level personnel who are far past mainstream. The average age for Fortune 500 CEOs, according to Fortune.com, is 57 years old. Sure there are some that are much older, but they also have a well-paid, well-vetted staff to handle matters that are over their heads. Big business doesn’t cede to the will of the corporate employees; the owners have a lot on the line and they have the obligation and ability to select the best of the best, and that usually means discriminating on the bases of age, as well as credentials.

In the past, we have had politicians who had no business occupying a seat in the Senate or the House. The most egregious example was Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-South Carolina, who served 46 years until 2003, the year he died at 100. He was so frail and under sedation he needed assistance standing up from his chair. Today there are several congressional members over 80 still serving, starting with Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who’s 88, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who’s 85.

I salute all octogenarians who continue to serve their country, but there must be a point when it’s time for fresh blood, fresh ideas and vigor.

On the U.S. Supreme Court, stepping down can be a political issue. Thurgood Marshall, who was extremely ill while serving his last two years, openly refused to step down until a Democrat was in the Oval Office. Chief Justice William Rehnquist suffered from thyroid cancer his last year, missing numerous oral arguments before dying in office. These justices relied heavily on law clerks to review cases and write opinions. Today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 86 years old, ill and frail.

Do we want our highest court judges and congressional representatives making the most crucial of decisions when they are far past their prime? Particularly disturbing is how much time members of the House must devote toward running for their next elections because they run every two years. Not much time is left for serving the people.

Common sense dictate we need term limits for all the high level representatives in government, with a cut-off at age 80 for U.S. Supreme Court justices. That’s not being cruel, that’s being sensible.

I propose these term and age limits:

  • House of Representatives: six terms, 12 years total
  • Senators: two terms, 12 years total
  • Presidential elections should require candidates to be under age of 80 during their term.

Individual states can create their own markers, but leaders in federal levels should be subject to limits. Just like hiring CEOs, America needs the very best in the prime of life.

In 1983, an assistant to White House Counsel under Ronald Reagan wrote a memo: “Setting a term of, say, 15 years would ensure that federal judges would not lose touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence. It would also provide a more regular and greater degree of turnover among the judges.” The author was John G. Roberts, current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

I wonder if Justice Roberts still holds the same view today.





  1. Laura Petruska April 23, 2019 at 9:09 am #

    Funny, I just had this same talk with one of my sons (the politician and lawyer). My arbitrary cut off date is 67 – the age no one should any longer consider running for public office. I’m 69 and I already feel my abilities, my sharpness, that keen edge and ability to really forge for more than a few hours at time, waning. It’s ego that is driving the Biden’s, The Trump’s, the politicians that just can’t let go of power. I’d just wish more politicians would be more American and step down and let the next generation who will truly be affected by decisions made get elected into office.
    Good one,

  2. Richard Plager April 23, 2019 at 9:23 am #

    Very interesting; we appreciate you confessing to be 80 soon.

    I am 91 plus and agree that I have changed both mentally and physically in the past ten or twenty years.

    The time to properly retire must be recognized and obeyed.

  3. Anonymous April 23, 2019 at 10:10 am #

    Especially the sublime court, who are allowed to serve even certifiably insane. More political than judicial. Congress could only be improved by a two term limit similar to the prez.
    And those who worry we will lose talent are unfamiliar with the game.

  4. marvin wiley April 23, 2019 at 10:25 am #


  5. Bill Schultz April 23, 2019 at 10:28 am #

    Also at 80, I recently went through concealed carry school and fully intended to get my license to carry a weapon. However, when it became time to apply, I backed off.

    Lately, I have questioned my own decision making capability to such an extent that I was no longer confident that I could make such an important decision (use of a firearm) in an emergency situation. Accordingly, I backed off and keep my guns available only when in my own home.

    There are those that know me who believe that I was mentally incapable of carrying a gun back when I was thirty – they may be right.

    • Edward A. Hensley May 1, 2019 at 7:32 pm #

      Hi Bill! I’m 80 also & just leave my guns at home too. However, living
      in LA, CA, there’s little choice to remain legal. CA is a “May Issue” CCW
      state, the application process is expensive and CCW Licenses are only
      issued for one year. I do maintain a non-resident AZ CCW, of no value
      in CA, but good in 31 or so states. We never know what the future holds.
      As for our lack of ability, due to age, in a shoot or no shoot situation, we
      face that possibility just by keeping firearms at home. I was taught from
      an early age, by my dad, that deadly force is always a last choice, not
      an early option and the best way to win a fight or an argument is to
      stay the hell out of it in the first place. The Lord or plain luck, with a
      dash of restraint on my part, has allowed me to serve 20 years active
      navy and then 25 years private security & supervision, most of it
      armed, with no shots fired in anger either by me or at me. Anyway,
      I subscribe to the theory that the MIND, mindset & awareness are
      most critical to survival & guns or other weapons are tools. I do carry
      a small OC Pepper Spray & would have no qualms at spraying,
      then retreating to dial 911. I would not carry a gun most of the time
      if I had a valid CA CCW. But, I damn sure would keep one in my
      car in a fast release mini safe, bolted to the car. Los Angeles is not
      getting any safer, with early prison release of so-called non violent
      felons now being the feel good policy of our Democrat Governor
      and Super Majority Legislature in Sacramento. Finally Bill, if you
      do finish the process and obtain a CCW, that does not mean you
      have to carry, away from home. The choice would be yours.

  6. Alan April 23, 2019 at 10:46 am #

    Where do you get all that wisdom? You may be turning 80 and possibly losing some of your physical dexterity but your mind is still a marvelous thing. Keep it coming…

  7. Jan Siren April 23, 2019 at 10:49 am #

    I have written about my mother’s mother before – that in her ninety-eighth year, she was still writing me letters. Lucid letters. She knew exactly where she was, who she was, and whom she was writing to, I’d call her up and she’d say “It’s so good to hear from you, but put everything you’ve just told me into a letter, so I don’t forget it.” Knowing her limitations, rational to the end.

    Age limits seem so arbitrary. Can’t we, as a society, come up with a set of objective tests, fairly applied, that if passed, let each of us continue to drive, operate machinery, live independently – all the things that contribute meaning to a modern life?

    Jan Siren

  8. Old Jack Milavic April 23, 2019 at 10:54 am #

    Excellent article as always. I wish I was there for your birthday.

  9. Terry Terril April 23, 2019 at 11:22 am #

    Happy birthday Marshall. You’re right on with this reasoning. When you recognize that your getting old, and the end is creeping closer, it’s so hard to face the fact that your no longer a part of the main stream of life. Time to move over and let others take the helm.

  10. charlie April 23, 2019 at 11:48 am #

    Makes sense to me Marshall.

  11. Donald April 23, 2019 at 1:38 pm #

    An excellent article. I wish there was some way to get national exposure for it. Unfortunately, I doubt any of the people who make our nation’s polices will ever see it. I am 83 and my mental and physical abilities don’t even come close to what they were when I was 60. I would like to see an age limit of 65 or 70 for people who hold a national elected office.

  12. Tom Ault April 23, 2019 at 1:47 pm #

    Only being 83 going on 84 I know that I could handle about anything that does not require memry, meory, oh darn it…memory!!! I lay down the hammer, walk across the shop and wonder what happened to it for I remember having it in my hand just seconds before.
    I still write, but use the dictionary a lot more than I used to…carrying on a conversation isn’t difficult as long as you don’t ask me the same question too many times because that makes me very flustered and I may say something I don’t mean.

    Marshall, I don’t know how you can say age is a problem…as you can see I am perfectly incabale, oh nuts, there I go again.

  13. Joseph Pesce April 23, 2019 at 1:55 pm #

    Hi Marshall,
    I couldn’t agree more with your interpretations. This country has some serious problems with our legislative branch. Term limits for our senators who are career politicians would be beneficial for another reason. Some of these entrenched politicians like Chuck Schumer are getting re elected over and over taking advantage of incumbency and having unfair influences with in their party suppressing new comers and building alliances that are almost impossible to overcome.

    I know within the Fire Department regardless of rank, age 65 is a must retire; and certainly most people retire before that, if you’re below the rank of Battalion Chief due to the physical rigors of the job.

    In the aviation industry the same may be true although I’m not certain of the age. Obviously physical acuity is the driving force behind that rule.

    So the question is why ? Why are these changes not being made or proposed in our government ? I believe your argument is true and strong

  14. Katie April 23, 2019 at 2:12 pm #

    Age limits don’t make sense to me but passing a physical should be mandatory.

  15. Don Matthews April 23, 2019 at 3:17 pm #

    Marshall, you hit the nail right on the head about some of the major problems with our overall system. We as a nation is faced with one hell of a problem and if we don’t stand up for our rights in 15 to 20 years we will no be the United States of America: we will be controlled by non Americans.

  16. Art Martin Ph.D. April 23, 2019 at 7:59 pm #

    Marshall. 80…holy smoke. I feel old turning 71 in May. It’s been quite a few years since spirited discussions in O’Mallys and sometimes contradicting Letters to the Editor in the Waynesville newspaper. I remember the class you gave on creative writing and have always taken those hints and tips into my professional papers. There is a definite need for term limits for politicians. There is no term limit, however, on logical, cogent thought. You are absolute proof of that. Keep on keeping on!

  17. Ann Buckhalt April 24, 2019 at 7:09 am #

    Marshall I enjoyed your article on term limits. Outstanding article and very informative. At age 50, our bodies and mind begin going down hill, no matter who we are, I got my first pay check at age 14 and I was in the work force for 60 years working for one company for 50 years. Now over 80, no medical issues and I stay active BUT I do not performed as I Could at age 49, My senses tell me I do not want someone over 75 or 80 making decisions about our country. Aged citizens have wisdom that can be utilized in other ways. Yes,
    Age limits are needed for senate. Congress. Judges and even for president.

  18. Rico April 24, 2019 at 8:11 am #

    Thank you Marshall, very well written. I strongly support the term limits, but unfortunately the congress continues to resist the citizens wishes. I would amend your proposal to be under 80 at the start of the term, not during the term. I have a friend who is 88, and is fit as a fiddle, both mentally and physically. Some individuals are just gifted with longevity, thanx to their genetics and how well they have taken care of themselves.

  19. Bob James April 24, 2019 at 10:37 am #

    In one of his movies, Clint Eastwood remarked, “Every man has got to know his limitations.” Good advice for most men and women, at any age.

    One week after he turned 88, Clint Eastwood started shooting a movie called, “The Mule,” in which he starred, produced and directed. A pretty good movie too.

    Just before the shooting started, he was playing golf with C/W star Toby Keith. When he told Keith he was turning 88 the next week and was going to start shooting a new movie, Keith was amazed. He asked Eastwood, “What is it that keeps you going?” Eastwood replied: “I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.”

    I’ll be turning 83 soon. Clint’s words have “made my day.” It gives me something to aspire to each day I am lucky enough to wake up, enjoy my cuppa coffee, go about my chores and try hard not to let the old man in.

  20. Paul Williamson April 24, 2019 at 12:50 pm #

    Marshall, you make good points about aging. But I don’t believe we need another law limiting who we can vote for. I am 81 and learn something almost every day. No, I’m not as strong as I once was and lack the stamina I had years ago. But experience has made me wiser (I think), to make better decisions.

    Like many others I once thought term limits on Congress was a good idea. I have since realized we can impose term limits at every election by simply voting them out. I feel the same way about age limits. If you don’t think the person isn’t up to the job, don’t vote for them. The Supreme Court or any other lifetime appointment offers a different problem. Perhaps a congressional vote to continue after a certain age, I’m not sure about that one.

    Every law passed limits someone’s, or everyone’s freedom.

  21. Jose April 25, 2019 at 12:51 pm #

    For once, I totally agree with you! At 82, I’m still smarter than the average bear. However my BS threshold is much too low, my acceptance of idiots and stupid people has weakened, and I just don’t have the fire in my belly anymore. Your heart still has a strong beat in it. Keep provoking thought! It’s good for us old folks.

  22. Anthony Frigo April 25, 2019 at 12:56 pm #

    Strange no one had this problem with Trump’s age. Why set a age limit when the moral, ethical, intelligence of an individual does not matter with many American’s today ? We voted for Rick Scott who took the 5th 75 times and was CEO of a health company that ripped off Medicare,etc.
    When you actually think of our founding fathers including Lincoln,they were very old based on how long people lived. I’am 78 and most of the people I know my age. consider America’s best days are long gone.
    Make America Great Again Trumper’s long for the America the Greatest Generation
    created. They voted for the likes of FDR ,Truman and Ike the last general who actually
    knew how to win a war. That generation is gone as is ther work ethic. Like it or not Trump represents what we’ve become.

  23. Helen Frigo April 25, 2019 at 2:07 pm #

    George Washington was 64 when he explained why he wouldn’t seek a third term. If you haven’t read what prints out as 4 really lucid pages of what he believed about America, google “Washington’s Farewell Address 1796”. I believe term limits were considered and rejected at the Constitution Convention, which he and another old man, Ben Franklin, presided over. Some say they colluded to keep the windows closed and doors guarded by soldiers, that very hot July day, to force the delegates to come up with a strong central government with taxing powers. Washington had been in the Virginia House of Burgesses 12 years, when King George dissolved that colonial govt. As Nancy Pelosi said, “we have term limits; they’re called elections”. Has FL been better off with 8 year limits? Now another young whippersnapper gets to make the final decision on FL budgets, along with the senate president; both elected by their peers, NOT by voters.
    The people we voted for go home without being consulted. When Rubio and Pruitt were in charge, somehow $30 million was taken out of the Highway budget and used to build that “taj mahal” courthouse in Tallahassee-lots of nice artwork and high end TV’s, according to an old video on “youtube”, Anybody been there, and if so, taken any photos to show the rest of us what our tax money bought, instead of a new bridge, e.g.?

  24. JAAO April 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm #

    Good ideas Marshall. I am against age and term limits. i prefer rigorous, very rigorous ethical, mental and physical certification for all government positions and re-certification every six years with one third elected every two years. All positions should come up for challenges at the end of six years, The outgoing office holder and challenger would receive equal money and equal media time for a period of three months with the knowledge any infringement would disqualify them.
    The ethical certification would include the requirement that the candidate has no tax or business debts or obligations. A bankruptcy record that has been fully repaid would not be a disqualification. With this type of government the USA could adopt the motto

  25. Helen Frigo April 27, 2019 at 10:34 am #

    What about the bureaucrats who are NOT elected, who stay in office like J. Edgar Hoover? How many taxpayers dollars paid the salaries of the TWO undercover FBI agents who tried to get favors from ex-Tallahassee mayor Gillum? How many years were they on the job? Didn’t they also get a “free” ride around the Statue of Liberty? And neither one of them showed up to testify against Gillum, if I read the newspaper report correctly. So are they keeping their taxpayer-paid jobs? Yet if you read “Triple Cross”, by Peter Lance, he names the FBI employees who could have caught the first Twin Towers bomber, but did not. Then they’re was the Whitey Bulgur case in Boston? A movie was even made about several unelected government employees who for years and years, paid off criminal informants.

  26. Edward A. Hensley May 1, 2019 at 8:05 pm #

    Good op ed Marshall. Sound reasoning. Chance of ever seeing
    old age or term limits for federal congress members, slim to none!
    Chance of a mandatory retirement age for SCOTUS Justices and
    other federal judges, slim but remotely possible. NOT GOOD!

    But, old age is not the sole threat to the ability of high office holders
    to perform well, in service to and protection of our country. DANGER!

    I’d say a compelling argument can me made that FDR was in no
    condition, physically, mentally or emotionally to be elected to a 4th
    term in November 1944. That Stalin played FDR like a fiddle at
    the Yalta Conference in Feb. 1945, is clear from this wiki history:


    FDR died in April 1944, at age 63. In fairness to him, his efforts
    to get Russia to declare war on Japan and help with the planned
    invasion of Japan, were made at Yalta before the successful
    test of the first A Bomb in July 1945. BTW, Truman did not even
    know of the A Bomb, until after FDR died and SEC WAR Stinson
    advised him of same. We can’t turn back the clock, but I wonder…

    Had a feeble and ill FDR lived until, say August 1945, what
    decision would he have made, with General Ike arguing that we
    give Japan a test drop, to scare them into surrender? Would
    he have punted? Declassified data confirms the Army Air Force
    had only two Atom Bombs ready in August, with a 3rd A bomb
    6 months from being ready. History records it took both Fat
    Man & Little Boy to get the Japanese to cry uncle!

    Something to ponder.