The requirements to be president of the United States have been hotly debated throughout the country’s history. There are two requirements in particular that have been the most controversial.
The first is the requirement that the president be at least 35 years of age. This requirement was put into place because people, at 35, were considered to have more experience and wisdom, which were considered qualities necessary in a president. Yes, people have more experience as they get older. And quite possibly someone over 35 would be more experienced and make a better president. But that doesn’t mean that someone younger should be barred from running for the office.
Some research has shown that the brain is not fully developed until people are in their 20s. But there are no age restrictions against elderly people or official health requirements. There are also no required mental health tests. When people are older, they have an increased risk of having Dementia or Alzheimer’s, either of which would severely affect their ability to govern, or becoming senile.
When Thomas Jefferson drafted the declaration of independence, he was just 33. If you trust someone to write the document that established a country in the first place, why shouldn’t you trust them to be president of that country? Also, Supreme Court justices, who are appointed for life and interpret the country’s laws, have no age requirements.
If this requirement was changed, it probably wouldn’t make much of a practical difference. The U.S. has never had a president that is 35. Their youngest was Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42. The youngest elected president was John F. Kennedy, at 43.
And if experience is the goal, why stop at 35? Germany bars anyone younger than 40 from declaring their candidacy for president. In Pakistan, the requirement is age 45. On the other hand, France lets anyone 18 or older run for office. Yet their youngest president is their current one, Emmanuel Macron, at age 39.
Voters should be able to vote for a candidate that represents them. If someone is mature enough to have a say in who should be president, they are mature enough to run for president themselves.
Immigrants deserve representation too. They shouldn’t be barred from running for any office. And they can hold everyone except the presidency. We let immigrant citizens run for seats in the Senate and in the House. They can be appointed to the Supreme Court. It doesn’t make sense to not allow them to be president.
After just being set free from colonial rule, America’s new government was afraid of foreign influence in their elections, thus the natural-born citizen clause was established.
The meaning of this clause is disputed, but some still fear that allowing people who are natives of other countries to become president would open the office to foreign interference. But there’s also the requirement that the person lives in the U.S. for 14 years prior, which provides some measure of protection against that.
With controversies over the natural-born citizenship of past presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz and Barack Obama, this remains an issue in politics. It shouldn’t be.
America is considered a democracy, and it is left to the electorate to decide which candidate is most fit to be president. There’s no need to limit the playing field unnecessarily. If voters want to elect a candidate, they should be able to, regardless of their age or where they were born.