Joe Biden Is 78 Today. He’s Just Getting Started.
78 is the new 40.
Joe Biden is 78 years old today. That’s pretty old! No male in my family tree has ever made it to 78, though I like my dad’s odds of surviving the next seven years, at the very least. Only one of the Grumpy Old Men ever made it to 78. Charles Schulz, Ted Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Mister Rogers … they never got there either.
But 78 sure isn’t what it used to be. After Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20 as our 46th president, the next person in the line of succession will be Kamala Harris, who is obviously younger than 78. But the next two, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President pro tempore of the Senate Chuck Grassley (who is currently recovering from Covid-19), aren’t. And depending on who Biden selects as his various Cabinet members, the rest of the line could be over 78 too. Seventy-eight is nothing! Harrison Ford is 78. Judge Judy is 78. Joy Behar is 78. Barbra Streisand is 78!
Two months from today, Biden will become the oldest person ever to hold the office of President of the United States. (Had Donald Trump been re-elected, he would have earned that distinction in the final year of his second term.) Biden will just be starting the most important phase of his political career, facing one the most difficult jobs any American president has ever had to deal with. Maybe he’ll be able to handle it and maybe he won’t, but that he’s 78 shouldn’t stand in his way. He’s healthy, he looks great, he’s hanging in just fine. But more to the point: 78-year-olds are doing amazing things all the time. Heck, some of these 78-year-olds were just getting started:
Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses had a difficult life as a mother of five, living on a farm in Eastern New York, and she didn’t produce her first painting until she was, you guessed it, 78. She would end up becoming one of the most beloved artists on the planet, selling millions of dollars worth of paintings, and even appearing on the cover of Time magazine. She died at the age of 101, still painting.
Colonel Sanders. Harland Sanders — he was not in fact a military colonel — originally sold fried chicken on the street during the Depression and didn’t open his first restaurant until he was in his late ’60s. He sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise when he was 75 and began appearing in national ads, the first time most humans had ever seen him, at 79. And now he has Ray Liotta and Reba McIntyre playing him in commercials.
Clint Eastwood. This is even more exciting for Biden. At 78, Eastwood was starring in Gran Torino and directing Invictus. That’s an active year. He has actually directed eight films since then, including one where a character he plays has a threesome. So yeah, Clint’s keeping busy.
Anthony Hopkins. Hannibal Lecter is 82 this year and is a favorite to win a Best Actor Oscar this year. Though, to be fair, when he was 78 he was in a Transformers movie and doing this:
The point is, 78 isn’t old anymore. Seventy-eight is when you start stretching your legs and finally figuring out what you are best at. At least we all better hope so.
Will Leitch will be writing multiple pieces a week for Medium. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel “How Lucky,” released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.