How Old Do You Have to Be to be President?

Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota, shows the portraits of former presidents.
Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota, shows the portraits of former presidents.

The president of the United States is considered to be one of the most powerful people in the world and the leader of a global superpower. The president heads both the government and the state, and directs the affairs of the executive branch of the federal government. The president is elected indirectly by the people through the Electoral College and serves for a maximum of two four-year terms. Article II, Section 1 (5) of the Constitution of the United States imposes eligibility requirement on the presidency. These qualifications are based on the age of the officeholder, residency, and citizenship. However, a person who meets these qualifications may still be barred from holding the office if they rebel against the constitution, are convicted in an impeachment case, or have already served full two terms.

Age Eligibility

Age is a critical factor in determining the holder of the presidency of the United States. According to the American Constitution, the president must be at least 35 years old at the point of assuming the office. By virtue of the Twelfth Amendment, the Vice President is also required to be at least 35 years old. On the contrary, other constitutional office holders like Senators are required to have attained the age of 30 years while the Representatives should be at least 25 years old before they can run for the office. The framers of the Constitution established the age limit alongside other qualification to increase the chances of electing a person of patriotism, sound judgment, and of civic virtue.

Age: More Than Just a Number

Age is not a guarantee of good governance and leadership skills for any leader, as has been demonstrated by several leaders in the US. The idea that maturity and wisdom come with age was what the Founding Fathers and Framers might have considered when they included the president’s age requirement in the Constitution. Supporting the age limit, Joseph Story noted that “character and talent of a man are developed in middle age and that he has had an opportunity to for public service.” Some people have noted that when the Constitution was framed, the average life expectancy in the US was lower than what it is today, thus, at 35 years old someone was already considered a statesperson.

Youngest Presidents

John F Kennedy was elected as president at the age of 43 years and served for just 1,036 days before his assassination in 1963, one of the shortest terms in office. Although John F Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected president of the US, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest president to take the oath of office at the age of 42 years following the assassination of President William McKinley. He became popular for his progressive reforms and building of the Panama Canal. Bill Clinton was sworn into office at the age of 46 years and served two full terms, achieving a budget surplus in the process. Ulysses Grant and Barrack Obama complete the list of top five youngest presidents of the US with each taking over the presidency at the age of 46 and 47 years respectively.


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