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So autumn is upon us and I find myself in a reflective mood. It was a very busy summer for my union, United University Professions.

In June, we successfully concluded negotiations with the State of New York on a new collective bargaining agreement. That was followed by a July tour of the campuses, conducted by UUP Chief Negotiator Bret Benjamin, Elizabeth Hough, UUP Counsel to the President, and yours truly.

Finally, in August, UUP members voted overwhelmingly—96%! That’s overwhelming!— to ratify the contract. As UUP’s president, I’m very proud of this contract. It’s good and well earned, given what our members have accomplished over the past several years.

Even with such a packed calendar, I was able to get away to unwind and recharge. One of the best days of the summer was spent with my wife at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts one sunny afternoon in July for the Willie Nelson-led Outlaw Tour.

Though it did rain during the 6-hour long parade of musical acts, we were lucky to be in the shed. It is an amazing facility and the setting is beautiful and historic. It’s on the grounds where Woodstock happened – the first and only real Woodstock, that is.

As for the music, no surprise that I was most impressed by Government Mule, an outrageously gifted collection of musicians led by the amazing Warren Haynes.

There were others that were nearly as good, but the crowd was really there to see and hear Willie, who had just turned 90. And having seen him in concert going back to the 1980s, I have to say it was good to see him on stage, still able to bring the crowd to life.

But….but… he’s 90. HHe had a very bad case of COVID over a year ago, which has limited his ability to move around the stage. And his voice just isn’t what it used to be.

We all get old. I know that in my 60s I can’t do what I could do in my 30s, 40s or for that matter, my 50s. And though it was memorable to watch Willie play, there comes a point when you have to wonder: Why not step away from the stage and call it a career?

I guess the easy answer is, as long as people like me are willing to pay, why not keep touring? Perhaps my response might be that having seen Willie in his prime, it was sad at times to see how weak and limited he’s become.

All I could think was that everyone faces a time to move on, artists, athletes…and politicians.

Which brings me to the central point of this commentary. Not only do I feel that it’s time for Willie Nelson to move on, so do I feel that it’s time for President Joe Biden to announce that he will, in fact, not be a candidate for president again.

Joe Biden has done an outstanding job during a tumultuous time, staking out historic gains in addressing the climate crisis, rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, being the most pro-union and pro-labor president in the modern era, and leading the free world in supporting Ukraine’s courageous fight against Russian aggression.

But Joe’s closing in on 81, with some hard miles behind him. My fear is that the public may not respond as they must next year in supporting Biden—thereby ending Donald Trump’s efforts to take back the White House.

Our constitutional democracy would be seriously endangered if Trump is elected president in 2024.

As for Trump, by the way, he would be the oldest president in U.S. history if he wins the election. So, he’s too old as well. And given his recent statements in the media and at his rallies, it’s evident—certainly to me—that he’s unfit to be president and arguably disqualified from the presidency for his involvement in an insurrection.

But the fact is Joe Biden does not energize voters in the ways that they must be energized to win in 2024. He will be judged extremely well for his four years as president.

But stepping away from this race now would allow a younger, more energetic candidate—one who can inspire and excite voters—to finally and conclusively reject Trump.

So, to Willie and Joe….thanks for the great memories and the many ways that you both made our nation better.

And you can continue to do so, but perhaps not on the main stage.

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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