From a young age, I have always been involved with things that make my community and the people around me better. Making a difference and doing something bigger than myself is one of my passions.
My first involvement with government was with the former governor of New York, George Pataki, when I was 9 years old. I was selected to represent my elementary school for a New York state education program. Since then, I have been very active in both local and national governments. It’s my mission to educate congressmen and senators from all over the country about disabilities, access to complex rehab technologies and financial issues surrounding the disabled community. I am very fortunate to have worked closely with former Speaker of the House and Senator Harry Reid, as well as many other congressmen and senators. The efforts of advocates like myself have led to over 18 legislative bills being passed through the House and Senate in Washington, D.C. Even during COVID-19, I am still actively involved with legislature and government.
I serve on the board of a political club in Manhattan. We have monthly meetings to discuss issues in the NYC and Metro areas. Every month, a local congressman or mayor attends our meetings to discuss change in the community. My role is to educate and suggest accessibility options for Manhattan. During COVID-19, our meetings have shifted to virtual meetings. While virtual meetings are good because we can still discuss the issues our communities are facing, New York is a very social city and I’m used to talking to business owners and people on the streets face to face. This “street talk” is a huge part of making a difference in a community like Manhattan. Social distancing presents a challenge because it’s difficult to implement change in our communities when you can’t visit people to have face-to-face conversations.
This year, I was nominated to be a part of a New York senator’s reelection campaign. While I was honored to be nominated, I soon realized that it was going to be a serious challenge for me due to COVID-19, and social distancing and my health. A lot of voter feedback is based on face-to-face interaction. Originally, my plan originally was to visit all of the towns located in the senator’s district and speak to local business owners and people in the community and find out what they would like done in their community if the senator is reelected. I figured I’d give it a try.
I knew I would have to maintain social distancing during any discussions. The first two towns I drove to were complete ghost towns. About 90% of the businesses were closed and I only saw the mailman on main street. When I reported back to the campaign team, we shifted our plans to a social media driven campaign leading up to the polling. We also decided to hold weekly video calls with the senator where his constituents could speak directly with the senator via face-to-face chat and discuss what they would like to see different in their communities.
If there is one thing I learned from this experience, it is that regardless of the current situation with COVID-19, people want what is best for their families and for the communities they live in. They adapt in order to show or not show their support, no matter what. I definitely learned a lot. At some point in the future, I would like to run for mayor in a small town.
About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.