Activist brings progressive 'Be A Hero' campaign to Philly City Hall

Ady Barkan is engaged in what he considers to be an existential fight for democracy.

Paul Kurtz
July 31, 2018 - 9:38 pm
Ady Barkan, who lives with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, delivers remarks during a rally organized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol December 19, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A progressive activist who is dying from ALS stopped in Philadelphia on Tuesday as part of his 22-state cross-country tour.

Ady Barkan brought his "Be A Hero" campaign to a packed City Hall chamber for a wide-ranging panel discussion that included District Attorney Larry Krasner.

"So glad to see that there is standing room only in the fight for justice," he said, addressing the assembly. “When I speak alone, my voice is weak. But when we bring our voices together, we can be heard loud and clear."

He launched the initiative to confront lawmakers who supported the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, arguing that the changes negatively affected American health care. Barkan made headlines in 2017 when he confronted Republican Sen. Jeff Flake on an airplane about his support for the bill.

Barkan, diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease two years ago, is a leader of the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy. Among the many issues he's advocating for are free health care, a liveable wage for all, and free college tuition.

"Fundamentally what we have to do is change the way we talk about criminal justice," Barkan said, "from one that is anectdotal, based in fear, to one that is scientific and it is based in reality."

Despite his illness, Barkan isn't slowing down, preferring to squeeze every moment he has left into what he considers to be an existential fight for democracy.

"I am ready to revolutionize the criminal justice system."