OMG, Julia. I wanted to highlight everything, finally gave up and just saved the whole story.
This encapsulates--and partially explains--so much of what is wrong with the US. Age can bring power and foolishness (witness our senile senate), but it is the only path to the perspective necessary for an understanding of what truly matters. "So soon old, so late smart."
By the time you've got things to say worth hearing, no one's listening.