"Alcibiades, when I was your age, I talked just the way you are talking," – Pericles.
"How I should like to have known you, Pericles, when you were at your best." – Alcibiades
If instead of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, or any of the other likely 2012 presidential contenders, Americans could pick any historical figure (in their prime) to be president, the minimum age requirements for the office (you have to be 35 or older) would bar some of the favorite choices, including Alexander the Great, King David, and Jesus. It would also bar some of today's young Americans whom future generations may come to admire for their creativity, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.
The rationale behind minimum age requirements is that people (usually) get wiser with age, pick up real-world experience, and gain a mastery over a range of subjects. Young people, it is said, are more likely to excel in one specific area. In the U.S., the ages deemed mature enough for political office are: 25 for the House of Representatives, 30 for the Senate, and 35 for the White House.
It does, however, seem undemocratic, and even un-American, to limit voters' choices in this way: Why not let them decide if they want the "wise" 45 year-old or the "inexperienced" 32 year-old? And while it may be true that in the conventional sense you become wiser with age, perhaps to deal with today's problems we need youthful enthusiasm and a willingness to challenge the status quo and take risks. (Being risk-adverse, while often seen as an attribute, can be a hindrance when facing big challenges.)
Take the famous historical figures mentioned earlier: It was as a youngster that David had the courage to take on a giant problem (think trim the deficit); by age 33 Jesus had performed all his miracles (think health care crisis); and by 32 Alexander had conquered most of the known world (think the still ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya). Alexander and Jesus both died before they were 35, so if their admirers had waited until they were "old enough" to lead – severe disappointment would have followed.