Guest Op-ed: Front Lines Not Headlines

By State Rep. Dan Ryan

In the very near future, I will be announcing the kick-off of my 2020 campaign for re-election.

This is a campaign for which I was readying. I had collected twice the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot by the first week of availability. I greeted voters at the Presidential Primary polls on March 3. This was the day that Secretary of State Bill Galvin gave the first government directive toward how the public should interact with one another in a COVID-19 world. Although the eeriness of social distancing and hand sanitizer was foisted upon us, even that day, the majority of the electorate still did not fully understand what was about come. 

A few days later my children’s school would be the first in Boston to temporarily close its doors for deep cleaning due to potential COVID-19 exposure. I am finally getting a grasp on 4th grade math, as we have been homeschooling ever since.

My wife, Kara, and I have the ability to work from home. We are grateful for this luxury. I could fully quarantine and handle most of my State Representative work from the comfortable confines of a shoebox size ‘home office,’ which technically, is a converted storage closet. But, it has a window. This does not make working from home in a five person domicile optimal. However, it is a workspace for which I am grateful. We do not take this for granted.

Why? Because, I understand my district. Kara and I understand that many families are facing financial ruin and/or have loved ones exposed to unhealthy conditions because of the work they do. I have spent the last eight weeks working on hundreds of unemployment cases, business closures and pushing government to move resources where they are most needed at any given time.

I have spent a lifetime in a family of frontline workers. I know what it is like to have loved ones punch a clock and venture into workplaces that most of society are avoiding. My previous life’s work at the Boys and Girls Club, delving into community health studies, helps me to know and understand the families and faces behind the statistics. I know what ‘social determinants of heath’ are. I understand it. I have lived it. I can read heath data. 

But, that is not what motivates me. When times get tough, I, like the many people in our district, do our best work by getting out from behind a keyboard. We, as a society, as a district, as two communities that have had our fair share of setbacks, jump right in. We help our neighbors. We have open, honest dialogue with decision makers. Force their hand if we must. Work hand-in-hand when we can. I have been an eyewitness to that history.

This is where my research lies. On the front lines. Using the five senses to determine if what I am reading and watching on a screen is reality. By the way – it is! I have worked my adult life working to correct an unbalanced society’s past and present sins. Workers who cannot afford to stay home, or, cannot properly quarantine when they are, have been disproportionately affected by this wave of epidemic. As have the elderly and infirmed. Particularly, those in long-term care facilities. Places that, until now, were considered safer accommodations for our loved ones to age rather than at home. They will be again. In an interconnected society, we must look at all the data. What affects one group could and will eventually affect others. Comprehensive data analysis, to support what we are seeing and hearing, is the only way to properly marshal resources. It is the only way to rebuild justly and effectively. This why the Legislature has pushed for and achieved more robust data collection.

There will be time for me to campaign on the streets, or in a virtual campaign reality. I will tout my record, of which I am proud. I will have to pat myself on the back for all the great things I have done. I am easing into that campaign role with this writing. I will have to fight for my share of headlines. But, for now, I am focused on the job I was elected to do. I will get re-elected with the support of those on the frontlines, because I have always had it, and in return, have always reciprocated that support. Most of the work of an elected official, is by nature deliberative and bureaucratic. Most of that work does not generate headlines. It is just the right thing to do in a sometimes unjust society. I look forward to discussing that record. For now, be safe, cover-up! You are not alone! 

Dan Ryan is the State Representative for the Second Suffolk District.  For assistance with a government agency or other questions he can be reached at (617) 722-2370 #2 and/or [email protected]

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