Posts Tagged ‘Birthdays’

Reflections on Being 80

June 26, 2012

Reflections on Becoming 80

by Jon Foyt


This is a Presidential Election Year, as it was 80 years ago when I was born. Most of you are too young to remember the campaign of 1932. I recall it vividly. Especially that last night, election eve, when President Herbert Hoover arranged for his transcontinental private train—on his way back to his home in Palo Alto so he could vote—to pull off the mainline Southern Pacific tracks and onto a siding at Winnemucca, Nevada.

There, his aides had arranged for something completely new in the arena of national campaigning—a Presidential address to the entire 48 states on both the Blue and the Red Radio Networks, which, as you will recall, eventually became NBC and ABC.

That evening, it  was the depths of the Great Depression—a controversial time when socialists and communists and proponents of The Townsend Plan and other “solutions” to joblessness, despair, hoped for a system adhering to their designs. Hoovervilles of cardboard houses had sprung up across the land. Men and women were riding the rails. Many were yearning for a new system, some new plan, perhaps even a new governing framework—anything that would pull the nation, and even the world, out of the nadir of sour economic news and unsolvable personal tragedies. That Presidential campaign of 1932 was conducted amidst signs such as “Hoover, we trusted you and you busted us.” And so that evening, the nation listened to the new technology of radio and thought deeply about its future, which was to be to be voted on the following day,

On the radio waves of the nation, President Herbert Hoover, humanitarian hero of Europeans during the aftermath of World War I, former Commerce Secretary, and pioneer of the art of fly fishing in bucolic mountain streams, set forth his viewpoints. He called, essentially, for a return to yesteryear with the tried and true values associated with fiscal conservatism.

His adversary, in advocating America’s future, himself raised in conservatism’s conversations, essentially said, “No,” we’re going to yield to the present as we look to the future. We’re going to advance America and its worthy people, both important and ordinary—all inclusive—forward into a nirvana that we’ll call the New Deal.

Needless to say, with my father being an establishment banker, my family and I went early to the polls that next election morning and, you guessed it, we all voted for Mr. Hoover. You will note, as I reach 80, that that vote, being my first decision in life, was a bad one—a humbling fact that has haunted me for eight decades. Yet, hoping to learn from that unwise choice, over the ensuing decades I have come to believe that, politically, this nation is better off, for both the important and the ordinary people, if it is governed on behalf of all the people and not just the few, the devotion to whom Mr. Hoover apparently viewed as his Presidential job assignment.

At my age of 80 today, I can’t help but wonder what if Mr. Hoover had been 80 back then in 1932, rather than his actual age of 58, would he have viewed matters of state differently. Does age change outlook? It does with me, for, crossing this calendar threshold, I feel a more immediate vitality of purpose in every day life, a responsibility to cherish certain things such as thoughts, words, friendships, relationships, even political and economic issues, and to not be deterred in that personal pursuit. Would President Hoover have felt and expressed such a political philosophy in his national radio address, had he been 80 on that pre-election eve? And would he have delivered a more compassionate message to his fellow human beings?

So my advice, now at age 80, to all you younger Rossmoorians who live in this nirvana retirement community, is to view this Presidential election year in terms of the issues and the candidates that will best serve all the people and not direct the muse of history back into the past of yesteryear, where the only ones catered to are the wealth of special interests and the special people aligned therewith. Instead, yield to the present and look to the future, especially to a future that must, for the benefit of all, include all the people of this great land all the time.

So, to high-ball a railroad metaphor, “Don’t get sidetracked.”


Jon Foyt, a Rossmoor novelist, has completed his tenth novel, Time to Retire, set in a fictional active adult retirement community. He posts his Blog at  and can be contacted at