Ady Barkan speaks at a red carpet event

Remembering Ady Barkan, Healthcare and Human Rights Activist

November 1, 2023, saw the passing of an important voice for healthcare and human rights in the U.S. Ady Barkan was just 39 years old when he died from complications related to ALS. He is survived by his wife and two children and leaves behind a powerful legacy of fighting for justice.

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Ady Barkan was trained as an attorney and worked for the organization Make the Road, empowering low-wage workers. He also brought scrutiny to the inequality within the Federal Reserve. His campaign Fed Up worked to bring transparency and diversity to that important economic institution that is below eye level for most Americans.

Barkan is best remembered for his work advocating for universal healthcare. He drew on his experiences to call for a radical overhaul of the healthcare system. In his own life, Barkan was denied access to medication and healthcare equipment he needed to live, leading him to launch a class-action lawsuit against the insurance company. Barkan was arrested numerous times for his activism.

Ady Barkan’s advocacy work went viral when he publicly confronted Arizona Senator Jeff Flake on a commercial flight and asked him not to cut funding for healthcare. While Flake earned consternation for his dishonesty in that exchange, Barkan’s courage won the admiration of many.

Barkan worked as an organizer for the Center for Popular Democracy, a nonprofit group dedicated to democracy reforms and investment in grassroots organizing for local progressive change. Barkan co-founded the Be a Hero political action committee, which has worked on a variety of campaigns, many centered around justice and public health. The Be a Hero Fund has taken on GOP leaders, worked to support nurses’ rights, and made masks more accessible during the height of COVID-19. 

Barkan’s words and vision are preserved in his memoir, Eyes to the Wind. In the book, he describes his experience of being diagnosed with a terminal illness and how it led him to deepen his commitment to working for justice. Barkan’s life story has also been memorialized in the documentary, Not Going Quietly, which was produced in 2021.

Ady Barkan recently received one of the Four Freedom Awards from the Roosevelt Foundation to commemorate his work in defense of “freedom from want.” His passing was commemorated with words of admiration and respect by many, including President Joe Biden and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez, who provided a foreword to Barkan’s book.

(featured image: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Greenwich Entertainment)


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