Seriously, Luke? You look like a fine young man. Wait, I better adjust my bifocals just to be sure.
NBC reporter Luke Russert, 27, was thrust into the role of Ageism's poster boy Wednesday when he asked Nancy Pelosi her response to those who "privately" (read: behind your back) say her decision to stay on as House minority caucus leader presents a roadblock to "younger leadership and hurts the party in the long term."
We've all heard the question in one form or another: If you are over 65 and have a job, the assumption is that you are taking up a spot in the workplace that "belongs" to someone younger. True patriots would presumably grab the nearest walker and head for the office exit door. Experience doesn't matter, wisdom matters even less and everybody who is anybody knows old people can't text anyway, right?
In Pelosi's case, the question was immediately labeled "offensive" and met with boos and hisses and shouts of "age discrimination" (and maybe a few Al Pacino-esqe "hoo-rahs" as she proceeded to publicly reprimand the young-un).
Pelosi is 72, so perhaps to whipper-snapper Russert she is the stuff fossils are made of. It's odd because his mother is Maureen Orth, 69 and, last we looked, she is still producing award-winning journalism for Vanity Fair and elsewhere. His dad was NBC's White House bureau chief Tim Russert, who died suddenly in 2008 at age 58. We wonder if Nepotism Boy would have been pushing his much-beloved Pops off the "Meet The Press" chair he occupied for 16 years to make room for a younger body.
But there's a "hold your horses" moment here. What many "heard" in Luke Russert's question was that people in their 70s are somehow no longer qualified to do the job because of their age. He may feel that way, but that isn't what he asked. He asked about making room for younger people in the workplace, moving over to let younger folks learn to be leaders.
His question raises a larger one. There aren't enough jobs to go around and with the recession having battered retirement savings and home equity for many, older workers are doing their darndest to stay in the workforce longer than anyone -- including themselves -- had planned to. After all, half of all boomers say they don't expect to ever be able to retire, according to an AARP poll. And those older workers who are unemployed play a continual game of musical chairs with their younger counterparts -- dashing around the circle hoping to be the one that lands the job when the music stops.
What young Luke and his like-minded cohorts must realize is that while many might like to move over, few can. And for those who still want to contribute in the workforce, nowhere is it written that we turn into pumpkins on our 70th birthday. What's needed is more jobs -- for everyone -- not questions that suggest older workers are somehow selfish or unqualified.