The first thing I did this morning was listen to Ashton Applewhite’s recently posted TED talk. The message – ageism kills spirit as readily as isolation kills the body – is all-important, yet it is the messenger who leaves my jaw dropped with amazement.
When I started working as a corporate speech writer, the goal was to make every word count, to have every one convey the message I wanted to send. Ashton uses every word to CONNECT. Oh, to have such a gift!
It is no mere jest to compare Ashton to Thomas Paine. Washington’s leadership would not mean zilch, ditto Franklin’s diplomacy & Jefferson’s brilliant words IF the everyday colonists hadn’t been won to the cause, not just in the fresh exuberance of the early days, but in the deep slog of Valley Forge.
Like Paine, Ashton connects with her audience by sharing a common sense message we already know in our hearts. Paine rallied the troops by touching a deep personal aha that we could not be Americans as long as we were under British rule; Ashton rallies us by laying out the fact that we cannot be full humans, at any age, if we hold that only the slimmest sliver of time represents our best self.
It’s possible that I will go to my grave unable to fully put my finger on what it is in Ashton’s 11.5 minute talk that fires my appreciation of how she articulates her message. It is true that it should be required viewing for every communications student, every speechwriter. What fun it would be to sit down with Pete Boericke, my boss at Prudential Healthcare, to dissect what it is in her presentation that bowls me over. Her simple message – let’s end ageism – is conveyed through simple words, through a pared down delivery.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO, help open the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st (quadrennial) World Congress, in San Francisco. Meeting & speaking with her later, I took the opportunity to tell her how, to me, she is the Benjamin Franklin of today’s revolution against ageism to Ashton Applewhite’s Thomas Paine – she has the gifts & savvy to draw major allies into the fight, while Ashton is out rallying the troops to take the fight to victory. She thanked me – and agreed!
We are the Washington in that picture. Each of us needs to lead our own revolution against promoting ageism in what we say, in what we accept from others. We need to accept & take & embody leadership in living as fully & vibrantly as Ashton does. If we don’t, it won’t matter what she did back in April, back on that fabled TED stage in Vancouver. We – each & everyone of us, whatever our age – need to lead the fight to be fully HUMAN at ever moment.
Then, as now, it’s about claiming the freedom to live without shackled to alien ideas & labels.
It’s not cute & coy to equate Applewhite with Paine – they are cut from the same cloth. She, like he, lays bare what we all already know, acknowledges our plight, steels our spines & lets us know that victory can be ours by taking the fight to the enemy – the many that make a buck off pushing age as something to be battled & conquered. She deserves the love & thanks of man & woman, as we take up Ashton’s common sense cry – “Let’s do it!” – and fight the good fight until the final battle is won.