Most Dutch people (and many other Europeans) look with amazement at the transition process from one American presidential administration to the next. That cabinet members are replaced and that a series of other people will have to be appointed to important positions, is obvious, especially when another political party comes to power. But the fact that some 4,000 people will have to be replaced does not improve the stability of the government machinery. It’s a huge job for the new president and his team, But that’s how the system works!
In the meantime, the first top officials have been nominated by the president-elect. He has begun to honor his promise that his administration will reflect the ethnic composition and gender distribution of the American people. This was demonstrated by the fact that he appointed a Latino as the Secretary of Homeland Security, an African-American woman as American ambassador to the United Nations and another woman as Minister of Finance. What is particularly striking about the first group of new cabinet members is their many years of experience in government positions. Biden is clearly determined to choose people with a proven track record and men and women he knows and trusts.
But another aspect comes to the fore. The average age of Biden’s team is rather high. Not only is the president-elect himself now 78 years old, but two others who are now nominated for high government positions are also in their mid-seventies. I must confess that I look at that aspect with mixed feelings. Joe Biden has emphasized that these people have enormous experience. That is clearly the case with these people. But it should be remembered that older people do not always have more experience than people who are much younger. I know peers who pride themselves on having a lot of experience, but this experience, in actual fact, consists of a lifetime of repeating the same thing over and over again, so that they have in fact learned very little. And of course, older people become more vulnerable and this poses a risk to their health, and in most cases they also see how their energy is gradually reduced. On the other hand, however, I find the fact that older people are still valued and that their skills and experience are used very inspiring. It gives me the feeling that, now that I am of the same age as Biden, I may still be able to make a contribution here and there. All in all, it seems to me that also withe respect to age distribution a government apparatus should reflect society. In addition to experience, other qualities are also important, which are mainly brought to the table by younger generations.
The worldwide Adventist Church is currently preparing for the leadership elections that will take place in about six months’ time. It is important that a new team will reflect the total church, not only in terms of nationality and ethnicity, but also with a much larger proportion of women than at present and with a good reflection of the theological diversity in the church. A prerequisite for this is that the members of the nomination committee understand which potential leaders are available worldwide. Unfortunately, the reality is that in the past, the church’s 300 or so “electoral men” and “electoral women” had to rely mainly on “pre-cooked” lists and on preferences of the newly elected president, who (as in the American political system) has a large say in the composition of the new team (and sometimes even uses a veto). Wouldn’t it be possible to find a group of people in the Church, with an extensive international network, who will gather profiles of about a hundred (or more) suitable candidates for the top positions, reflecting the diversity of the Church, and make this available in a timely manner to all members of the nomination? It could be a great help in their important task in May 2021.