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Activist With ALS Ady Barkan Endorses Elizabeth Warren in Video Letter to Baby Daughter

Activist and outspoken advocate for Medicare for All policies in the U.S., Ady Barkan, released a devastating video letter to his baby daughter on Wednesday as he announced his endorsement of Senator Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic presidential primary in 2020.  

“My dear little Willow, you are so new to this world, but I already adore you with my entire being and so do your mom and your big brother, Carl,” Barkan, who has been left nearly paralyzed due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), narrates in the video addressing his infant daughter. “…You have arrived in this world at a profound and poignant moment — for our family and for our country.”

Through the video (titled “Dear Willow, Love Dad”) he tells a shortened version of his story: How, in October 2017, he was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurological disease that slowly causes nerve cells to break down and die, eventually causing disability because of severe weakening of muscles; how he now relies on caretakers, machines and the fortitude of his wife, Rachael, to navigate his disease; and how the two of them needed to think long and hard about the decision to even have their second child due to his condition and the chances that he might not live to see his children grow.

“We knew that you would not have a carefree childhood, that the coming years will be very difficult, that I might not be around to watch you grow,” Barkan says. “And we knew that your generation would have to fight to keep this world alive. But we decided to be hopeful and brave. We decided to believe that our family can be joyful and happy and at peace. And we decided that there’s reason to be hopeful for our nation, too.”

It’s a short, poignant message from a father to his family (and other families) about the difficult times they’ve been through and the harder times ahead. But it also exemplifies so much of what Barkan’s work in the healthcare advocacy space has been about: How activism can(and should) be a service for the next generation, an opportunity to spare them pain and injustice where we can — even (and maybe especially) if we’re not able to reap the immediate benefits.

Barkan previously founded the Be A Hero Pac following a viral confrontation with Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake on a plane shortly after his diagnosis. He delivered a powerful opening statement at the first congressional hearing on Medicare-for-all in spring 2019, advocating for a single-payer healthcare system. His choice to endorse Warren in the Democratic primaries also comes after his most recent project, Uncovered had him interviewing nearly all the candidates seeking the nod. 

Expanding on his reasons for endorsing Warren in an op-ed published early Wednesday in The Nation, Barkan cited that he supported her plan for funding a single-payer system in the U.S. and why he also supports her transition plan. The latter had earned some criticism from progressive activists as it only called to introduce a full-blown Medicare for All policy by her third year in office, despite the ever-shifting winds of majority power in Congress doing little to guarantee success in that timeline. He also notes that choosing to endorse Warren over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was, for him, “a difficult and wonderful choice to have.”

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