Today is my 97th birthday. I am a lucky man. I’ve been married to my wife, Anne, for 60 years and she continues to captivate me.
When you get to be 97, you can reflect on the lessons you’ve learned in almost a century of life. Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
I won’t pretend that getting older is easy. But I find that it’s given me a perspective that I lacked when I was younger. I was always running everywhere — from meetings to movie sets, from shooting films all around the world to serving as a goodwill ambassador for the State Department in over forty countries. Staying still was something I did not do well.
Now, I treasure the quiet times: reading books that make me think about new ideas; watching my roses bloom; gazing at the palm trees shimmering against the afternoon sky; seeing the simple path of a cloud across the sky; and especially sitting with Anne in front of the fire at sunset — the Golden Hour.
So I asked myself, what do I want for my birthday? There’s nothing I need, other than good health for my wife and my family.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I knew exactly what I wanted — a better world for my grandchildren.
But have you ever tried to put 97 candles on a cake? You can’t. So I put 10 candles to represent the 10 decades of my life. Here are my birthday wishes:
- A world where weapons, big and small, are symbols of weakness, not strength
- A world where religion informs values, not governments
- A world where the air is breathable, the water drinkable and the food is healthy and plentiful
- A world where poor people are the smallest percentage of the population
- A world where education and health care are available to everyone
- A world where prejudice based on race, religion and nationality is non-existent
- A world where smoking tobacco is considered a ridiculous practice from a bygone era
- A world where all diseases are curable and physical pain is no longer a part of life
- A world where we control technology, not the other way around
- A world where greed is never considered good
Excuse me — I have a lot of candles to blow out.