To: Robert Thomson
Editor in Chief, Wall Street Journal
Dear Editor Thomson,
This is in response to an article you published in early December by Jeffrey Zaslow, “When It’s Time to Pass the Baton.” I generally wouldn’t wait this long to respond, but I found the thrust of the article, and particularly coming from the Wall Street Journal, disturbing enough to carry over the holiday period—and, significantly, New Year’s Eve.
The article, noting Dick Clark’s “slurred speech,” quoted critics who suggested that it’s time for him to quit hosting his New Year’s Eve program because it may remind people of the “sadder things: the ravages of illness and the hazards of aging.” Dick Clark turned 80 and suffered a stroke six years ago. His New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (which we have now all enjoyed again) has been the top-rated New Year’s Eve show since he started that program in 1972. Many of us remember his American Bandstand program—and some of us remember when it originated from Philadelphia. That program aired from 1952 to 1989.
Besides the obvious popularity of a Dick Clark New Year’s Eve show, and the equally clear symbolism of having Dick Clark ring out the old as we prepare to ring in the new, the sentiments expressed in this column are wrong for a more fundamental reason. Dick Clark wants to keep working! We should all celebrate people who wish to work at any age.
Few in this country do. This is the only industrialized country on earth where less than half of the population works at all. And according to the Social Security Administration, the average age for “retirement” is less than 64 years of age. And so I would expect the Wall Street Journal, at least, to celebrate an older person who is good at his job and who wishes to keep at it.
In fact, our modern welfare and entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all the rest—would be further from catastrophic bankruptcy if more able-bodied people (of all ages) actually worked. At least you haven’t criticized Helen Wagner, who at the age of 91 still plays Nancy Hughes on As the World Turns. That show will quit broadcasting after 54 years next September, but hopefully Ms. Wagner will still keep on acting. Perhaps you could suggest it’s time for her to hang it up. Oprah Winfrey will cease her program next year at the age of 56. You could hold her up as your new role model.