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Actor Bruce Willis, a native of Penns Grove, New Jersey, at Comic Con International in San Diego in 2018. (Photo: Gage Skidmore).

The O’Toole Chronicles: It’s a Wrap

By Kevin O'Toole, June 14 2022 12:01 am

I was a little saddened to see the announcement that Bruce Willis was stepping away from acting and retiring. The reason given by family members was that he had been diagnosed with aphasia, a progressive brain disorder that affects an individual’s ability to understand and speak.

Following the shocking announcement, we heard from many supportive colleagues and loving family members. We also witnessed some in his industry suggest he has had this affliction for a while, and it was known in Hollywood for a few years, but kept under wraps.

Bruce starred in 144 movies and produced 8. We all have our favorite roles – some say any of the Die Hard movies (NOT a Christmas movie), Armageddon, Pulp Fiction, Moonlighting, Motherless Brooklyn, Surrogate, Expendables and on and on.

I still chuckle every time I watch Blind Date – one of his earliest and funniest films.

Bruce is a member of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, having been raised in Salem County and graduating from Montclair State University.

Is there a political bend to this somewhere?

Here it comes.

I recently read some particularly critical reports from the San Francisco Chronicle detailing troubling allegations about California’s senior Senator, Diane Feinstein, and her mental state and ability to serve. I am not here to take a position on either end of this delicate situation.

Stepping back, Senator Feinstein started her remarkable and record-breaking political career in 1969 as a Supervisor for San Francisco. Senator Feinstein was selected as Mayor of San Francisco after the horrible assassination of Mayor George Moscone. She served as Mayor from 1979 to 1988. After a failed run for Governor in 1990, Senator Feinstein was elected to the United States Senate in 1992 where she has served for the last 30 years.

Irrespective of health issues, you do have to ask yourself is there time when you need to move along.

I know that I have written about this sensitive topic before, but this social dilemma appears to be coming into our orbits more frequently. Mental acuity aside, I have long maintained that elected officials need to know when to say when. Absent term limits, the hard question to confront is how many years should one serve? Granted this academic query does not take into account age of office holder, but is 10 years enough? 20? Perhaps 30 years? Surely 50? Is there a time that we willingly and voluntarily step aside and allow the next generation to have their time?

As a young candidate, I made a promise to myself to run for a limited amount of time locally and statewide. Twenty-two years in the legislature was perfect for me. I loved the 11-year run in the Assembly and cherished the 11-year run in the Senate. After my election in 2013, I knew in my heart that 2017 would be my last year in the Legislature.

Regardless of age, I submit that you need to serve your time and move on.

With regard to this societal sadness, I have seen it up close where “Father Time” starts to change a person and their mental state starts to fail. It is painful to watch a parent(s) slowly slip into that decline.

Startling facts regarding dementia, 13.9% of our population in the US over 70 years of age have been diagnosed with dementia. That is over 3.4 million individuals. 8.8% of those over 65 years have dementia. Countries that have the highest percentage of elderly with dementia are Finland, United States, Canada, Iceland, Sweden and Switzerland.

Returning to New Jersey, and without naming names, since 1986, I have seen quite a few elected officials in Trenton who desperately hang on beyond their shelf life. In some cases, the staff prop up the office holder and I am convinced in those circumstances perhaps the state and their constituents are not well-served. These are conversations never easy to have when it happens in your family, it’s even harder to do as a political leader or supporter – but sometimes they just have to happen.

Let me finish by stating the obvious, the new map is here and 2023 is fast approaching. Perhaps it’s time for a few individuals to look in a mirror and realize it time to move on.

Maybe take a lead from New Jersey’s Bruce Willis and enjoy your next phase of life.

 

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