How a Santa Barbara man with ALS became the spokesman for Medicare for All

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Activist Ady Barkan during the "Summer of Heroes" bus tour, August 2019. Credit: WikiEditor727/Wikimedia Commons.

Ady Barkan has commanded the attention of the Democratic presidential candidates. Except for Joe Biden, they’ve all agreed to meet with him. 

Barkan lives in Santa Barbara. He’s 35 years old, and has a 3 year old and another child on the way.

He has Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS. Diagnosed three years ago, his condition is deteriorating quickly. He’s now paralyzed from the neck down and can no longer eat or talk on his own. Breathing is increasingly difficult.

But that hasn’t stopped him from speaking out on causes important to him,  like Medicare for All. 

Barkan was an activist before he got sick, but he cemented his status in a viral video two years ago, as the disease was taking over, when he confronted Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake on an airplane over the 2017 tax bill. Flake ended up voting for the bill. But he did not seek reelection.