Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) being interviewed by activist Ady Barkan during a campaign stop in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: NowThis News/Youtube Screengrab)

Watch Dying Activist Ady Barkan's "Heartfelt" and "Moving" Conversation With Bernie Sanders on the Fight for Medicare for All

"You have been an integral part of the struggle to make clear that healthcare is a human right," Sanders told Barkan

Jake Johnson, staff writer

Progressive activist Ady Barkan didn't let losing his voice to ALS stop him from launching a new series of interviews with presidential candidates that seeks to go beyond "debate stage quips" to highlight the deeply personal impact of American healthcare policy.

On Tuesday, Barkan—who relies on a computer that tracks his eye movements and converts selected text to speech—released his conversation with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and lead sponsor of Medicare for All legislation in the Senate.

During the interview, Sanders thanked Barkan for his tireless work for healthcare justice, which in April brought the dying activist to Capitol Hill to testify in support of Medicare for All.

"We talk to people who have lost loved ones because they could not afford the medicine or healthcare that they needed."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"You have been an integral part of the struggle to make clear that healthcare is a human right, and that every person in our country is entitled to all the healthcare they need regardless of income," said Sanders. "I know it's not been easy and it takes a lot out of you, but I do appreciate the struggle that you're waging to improve this country."

Barkan connected the fight for healthcare justice to his own personal story and the struggles of millions of Americans to afford life-saving medicine and treatment.

"Because I was diagnosed with ALS only four months after Carl was born," said Barkan, referring to his young son, "the two experiences are very intertwined for me."

Barkan asked Sanders how the death of his mother when he was 18 years old helped shape his views on the necessity of guaranteed healthcare for all.

"It is not only my family," said Sanders. "I go around the country and every day... we talk to people who have lost loved ones because they could not afford the medicine or healthcare that they needed."

When Barkan asked Sanders how he wants to be remembered, the Vermont senator said he hopes "people will remember me as somebody who had the courage to take on virtually all of the powerful special interests in this country, in the fight for economic, social, racial, environmental justice."

"In terms of your legacy, Ady," Sanders added, "I think it will be very clear that even with the terrible illness that you're struggling with right now, that you didn't give up, that you understood that, especially given your illness, that you could play a significant in rallying the American people toward a sane and humane healthcare system. And I think you will be remembered in very, very wonderful ways as a man of great courage in doing that."

Watch the full interview:

Kenneth Zinn, political director for National Nurses United, applauded Barkan and Sanders for their "heartfelt conversation about an issue that is affecting every single person in this country."

Others echoed Zinn's gratitude, calling the interview "moving" and "powerful":

Barkan on Tuesday also released his conversation with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), in which the activist pressed Booker on his position on Medicare for All and his ties to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries:


According to CNN, Barkan has taped interviews with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro.

In an email to supporters on Tuesday, Barkan said the goal of the conversations is to "get the answers I believe we as Americans deserve to know before we vote next year."

"If we start focusing the conversation on healthcare in this country around people instead of 30-second soundbites, we can shift the debate and enact policy that puts people before profits," said Barkan. "I'm proud and honored to use my voice to share the real-life stories of people who are living with the real consequences of a system that is not designed for us."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Progressives, Big Tech Critics Celebrate Confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC Chair

"Her presence on the FTC marks the beginning of the end of an era of lawlessness for powerful corporations that they've enjoyed at the expense of workers, smaller businesses, and democracy."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·

'Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance': Calls Grow for Justice Breyer to Retire

"Democrats could lose our razor-thin majority in the Senate at any moment," warns Rep. Mondaire Jones. "It would be irresponsible to leave the future of our democracy up to chance."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·

Latest Nina Turner Ad in Ohio Highlights Working-Class Need for Medicare for All

"Wealth should never dictate whether you are able to see a doctor or live a healthy life."

Jenna McGuire, staff writer ·

Biden Admin Urged to 'Prevent a Historic Wave of Evictions' by Extending CDC Moratorium, Speeding Up Aid

"Far too many renters are struggling to access emergency rental assistance programs and are at risk of losing their homes when the moratorium expires," said the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·