By Dr David Laing Dawson

As a Canadian I have always been moderately interested in American politics and presidential elections. And the other night I watched and listened to Joe Biden’s state of the union address.

And when President Biden did really well, in content and delivery, emphasizing strongly, ad- libbing seamlessly, responding to the moment – I felt surprisingly relieved.

And my sense of relief told me something:

I have been more afraid of a Trump victory than I let myself realize.

There have been other times when the American choice of president has been important for the future of the world, but never to this extent. Never has the contrast been so great.

If Al Gore had defeated George W. Bush, maybe we would be further ahead combating climate change and maybe we could have avoided the Iraq war, but this time the future of western democracy is at stake.

And so I felt greatly relieved when President Biden rose to the occasion.

The fear had been, of course, that his age and his lingering stutter would cause him to make a mush of his words, prevent him from sounding strong and fit. And that any mistake, any false step, would be played over and over again until November.

Which brings me to the topic of age:

Yes he is slow and careful in his movements. His joints are stiff and arthritic, his cartilage in ruin. He must walk more carefully, and hold onto the railing going up and down stairs.

But his brain is aging well.

We peak with some mental skills in our late teens and early 20’s, and then with some others we peak in our mid-life. Learning a language or a musical instrument, grasping complex equations – these become more difficult. With normal aging some memory retrieval problems increase – but this may be partly a problem of having to sift through increasing numbers of memories and events before finding the right name or place or time.

But then a few mental abilities increase with age, improve, get better. These can include empathy, judgement, perspective and wisdom. And our ability to understand and interpret contextual information and non-verbal communication improves throughout our lives.

Having a president who must walk slowly and carefully, who’s stutter sometimes makes him fumble his g’s, k’s, and t’s, but who is knowledgeable, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and sane is so much safer than the orange buffoon, felon, and would-be tyrant.

Stay tuned on Monday for an analysis of Kaitie Britt’s response to Joe.


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