Do Not Go Gentle, Jay



I’m not a late night person, and therefore don’t watch much late night television. What I saw in clips on daytime television of Jay Leno’s parting moments on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” did not appear to me to be of a man choosing to retire. In my opinion, they were more of a man who was mourning his forced retirement. Even the talk show pundits seemed perplexed at the fact that a top-rated show would eliminate its host until the rationale was given that he was being replaced by a younger person. That seemed to be acceptable to them.

The media was highlighted in the Anti-Ageism Taskforce’s report written by the late Dr. Robert Butter, “Ageism in America,” as one of seven areas where ageism is prevalent. In fact, so much so, that there was a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing held on “Ageism in the Media” featuring actress Doris Roberts from “Everybody Loves Raymond,”Dr. Robert Butler and more.

Despite the in-depth research and subsequent report written by Butler in 2006, his “quintessential and urgent” cry to educate society and put an end to age discrimination has all but fallen on deaf ears. When Butler was alive to promote the work of the Anti-Ageism Taskforce, there were two Senate Special Committee on Aging hearings on ageism. But, to what end?

There may be more and more people who are challenging age discrimination in the workplace, but even that can be difficult to prove. Anyway, back to Jay Leno.

As I said, I’m not a fan of late night television. I’m an early-to bed, early-to-rise kind of person. However, I was struck by Leno’s parting words and choked-back tears as he said his farewell.  It was not the demeanor of a man eagerly looking forward to his retirement or even choosing it. It was, in my opinion, that of a man forced out of his job in favor of a younger person (no offense meant to Jimmy Fallon).

As I watched one more unchallenged example of age discrimination in the workplace – media to be specific (double whammy!) – I am more convinced that something must be done about this scourge on society. Like him or not, Leno appears to me to be a victim of ageism in both the workplace and media.

If I could have talked to him prior to signing any retirement contracts, I would have pleaded with him, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” (A poem by Dylan Thomas.)


  1. New Horizons AZ

    Every actress over the age of 30 could probably tell you some stories about being “too old” for the part. . . .


    • I’m sure they could. People who are older are not fairly represented in the media, whether that be “getting the part” or in how they are portrayed. Leno could do much to move the cause of ageism forward if his retirement was not by choice, just like Philip Seymour Hoffman is bringing heroin addiction front and center since his overdose. Not only is our society youth-oriented, but it is celebrity-oriented. By their status and familiarity to all sectors of society, celebrities can do much to further a cause. Kathy


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