Hawaii News | Volcanic Ash Old leaders need to make room for younger talent By David Shapiro July 20, 2014 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Back in the 1990s when the Internet’s impact on news began to be felt, media critic Jon Katz accused newspapers of what he called "raging old-fartism." He meant leading newspapers were mired in the past, risking doom with their paternalism, indifference to the young and resistance to change. Such warnings weren’t heeded, and we saw where it led. A similar geriatric gas hangs over Hawaii’s political institutions as we struggle to find our way through the problems of the new century. In this year’s election, a big question is whether voters are ready to start transferring power to younger lawmakers who will have to live with the future we’re building. Our state has lost a generation of potential leaders as the old have jealously clung to power, leaving many of our best and brightest waiting for their turn that never came. We had two U.S. senators serve to the age of 88, with one replaced by a 65-year-old freshman and a 63-year-old now contending for the second freshman spot. Our governor is seeking a second term at 76 and the three candidates trying to unseat him hardly constitute a youth movement at 60, 59 and 57. Several experienced candidates in their 30s and 40s are running for the 1st Congressional District seat, but the front-runner is the 60ish candidate. Even when they retire, our aging leaders feel entitled to continue running things on an emeritus basis as self-styled political kupuna. A U.S. Senate candidate is championed by a retired senator and two retired governors, who aim to enforce the dictates of a deceased former senator. Former governors are also key backers of one of the gubernatorial challengers and a 60ish candidate running against the 42-year-old lieutenant governor. Until Sen. Daniel Inouye’s passing broke a logjam at the top, the ages at the time of Hawaii’s five highest office holders — the governor and members of the congressional delegation — were 74, 88, 88, 63 and 61. In the early days of statehood, by contrast, John A. Burns was considered the "old man" of Hawaii politics when he was elected governor at 53; William Richardson was his lieutenant governor at 43; and Daniel Inouye, Patsy Mink and Thomas Gill were elected to Congress at 34, 37 and 40. Is it any wonder the energy that built our state is lacking as we struggle to restore its luster? There’s plenty of room in public office for older, experienced leaders who have made so many contributions, but not as their exclusive domain; we need age diversity as much as racial and gender diversity. We commit the political equivalent of eating our seed corn if we keep shutting out the young talent we need to carry us into the future. ——— Reach David Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org or blog.volcanicash.net. Previous Story Newswatch Next Story You row girl!