August Days Grow Shorter, Winter is Coming

Herbert Hoover at home in his Waldorf Astoria Suite 31-A. ca. 1960
Herbert Hoover at home in his Waldorf Astoria apartment. ca. 1960

Every August brings me face to face with another birthday. Now aged 64, I began to physically challenge myself each August.  Coincidentally, August is State Fair season in the Midwest.  For the past few years, I’ve challenged myself by entering the Iowa State Fair bench press competition and by taking the Army pullup challenge at the Minnesota State Fair.  I declare victory in just showing up and competing.  I am under no illusions in my battle against gravity and Father Time. Gravity is the law we all must obey.  Father Time is undefeated and still champion.

Herbert Hoover also faced an August birthday.  Rather than fight gravity or time, his chosen fields of battle were philanthropic and intellectual.  After age 70, Hoover spearheaded the Famine Emergency Committee-assessing food needs in 38 nations after World War II. He also continued his heroic fundraising for the Boys’ Clubs of America.  He chaired two committees on reorganizing the federal government to improve efficiency.  After age 80, Hoover wrote the last two volumes of his memoirs, an award-winning biography of Woodrow Wilson, and light books on fishing and children.

No wonder that Bernard Baruch, one of Hoover’s colleagues from famine relief in the first World War, featured Herbert Hoover in an article titled ‘Don’t Sell Old Age Short!’  Baruch commented that: ‘Old age is not so much a time of life as a state of mind… To keep our minds and spirits young we must keep them active, otherwise they grow moribund.’  Baruch then cited the example of septagenarians Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt and Konrad Adenauer as continuing to live productive lives after many would have retired.  In addition to Herbert Hoover, Baruch pointed to octogenarians Alfred Sloan and Winston Churchill-still actively engaged: ‘Their concern is with the present and the future, not with the past…that characteristic keeps them young at heart.’

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