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Guest- Michelle Wu (00:01):

… because multiple generations of my family had fled the political situation, that was never going to be what I was supposed to do. My life changed suddenly when my mom had a mental health crisis and the bubble that my parents had constructed around, trying to keep our heads down, that’s impossible when you’re struggling, trying to access services.

Speaker 2 (00:27):

All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation, and social justice, with Jay Ruderman.

Host- Jay Ruderman (00:38):

Hello, welcome to all inclusive. I’m Jay Ruderman. Today we’re thrilled to have Boston’s Michelle Wu with us for a conversation. Michelle was the first Asian-American woman to sit on the Boston City Council, and the first woman of color to chair the council. As a young woman, Michelle had to overcome challenging personal circumstances before attending Harvard Law School. Currently, in addition to juggling a family and her responsibilities on the city council, she’s launching a campaign for the office of mayor of the City of Boston. Michelle’s going to talk with us about her ideas and plans for the future of Boston.

Host- Jay Ruderman (01:16):

Hello, Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today on All Inclusive. We are living through really trying times with COVID and racial inequality and so many things going on, and you are a candidate for mayor of Boston and a member of the Boston City Council. And you have a young family and let’s just start off by saying like, how does your day go? Because you’re not in a normal campaign mode out there in the streets most times, although I heard that you are doing that, but just juggling your family, your spouse, your children, your extended family. How does your morning start and how does your day look?

Guest- Michelle Wu (01:58):

Yeah, it’s a lot. I think there’s so much on the shoulders of all families right now, and I am incredibly blessed and privileged to be in a two income earner household. And my partner is working and we are able to share and juggle some of these responsibilities, but it’s so much right now. So for example, why we are starting our conversations later the week, scheduled today is because things just can shift sometimes, I usually try to wake up, get a chunk of work done early in the morning. That is things around my team and different individual responses that I should be turning my attention to, planning, thinking, that kind of stuff before most people are awake. And then shift to getting the family ready for the day. My five-year-old is on remote learning, so having him all set up and breakfast done and in the right mindset to be able to do remote kindergarten.

Guest- Michelle Wu (02:56):

Getting the three-year-olds organized on his activities. Sometimes follows along, sometimes he’s doing other things with me or my husband, and then some of my own switching off during the day of when can we be in meetings? When do I have to be out of the house and therefore arrange for some other childcare situation? And I think there’s a reason why we sometimes as a society, don’t always associate professionalism with being a working parent, right? There’s this mindset that, “Oh, it’s so unusual to see moms with young kids or dads with young kids in positions of leadership.” And that is because we have made policy decisions as a society, not to provide the support and to in some ways to put up barriers to that. So I also see my role as being fully transparent about how hard all of this is, how it’s not graceful so that we can change that.

Host- Jay Ruderman (03:50):

Right. And I think that it’s normal. I think so many people in Boston and around the country are going through this right now and it’s admirable that you’re very open and honest about it and not trying to play a role that’s not exactly what you’re living day-to-day. So thank you for being so open. I want to talk to you about, you wrote an op-ed back in May and in The Boston Globe that really touched me and talked about your life. And you were open about your life, which is admirable because I think it touches so many people. You spoke about your mother and you spoke about her issues with mental health and psychosis and how at 23, you left your job and essentially, you were back at home raising your younger sisters and caring for your mother, and that really had a transformational impact on your life. So I’m wondering if you can just talk about that and what that was like and how that led to you being more interested in government?

Guest- Michelle Wu (04:45):

I’m someone who growing up never, ever thought about running for office or being in government, I didn’t see people who looked like me. And I realized later on that my parents had intentionally shielded my siblings and myself from getting involved in politics that in our family’s, multi-generational immigration story politics was associated with fear and famine and corruption. And so we never talked about it because multiple generations of my family had in some ways fled the political situation and what was happening, that was never going to be what I was supposed to do, what the kids in this next generation were supposed to do.

Guest- Michelle Wu (05:28):

My life changed suddenly when my mom had a mental health crisis. And the bubble that my parents had constructed around trying to keep our heads down and not worry about government politics, stay out of trouble, that’s impossible when you’re struggling, trying to access services, trying to make sense of the supports that are available. Taking care of my sisters and trying to get them into the right school placements, with the trauma happening at home, my mom and her healthcare situation, opening a family business.

Guest- Michelle Wu (06:01):

And so it was emotionally… For a long time I couldn’t even talk about what was happening at home with even my closest friends, just such stigma and such shock at what was happening. And I’ve now seen and heard just how frequent that is the case, just how many families are going through this. And again, we’re making choices as a society, as an economy, of what to make possible for people. And what people feel comfortable talking about, mental health and mental illness is such a central part of what I’m trying to increase access to and to take down barriers around.

Host- Jay Ruderman (06:42):

Well, you had a really, really trying time and you handled it from what I know admirably. And still went to Harvard Law School and moved your family to Boston. And I understand that your mother still lives in your home with you and you still play a caretaker role. So you have a lot going on, but I want to talk a little bit about stigma because you mentioned stigma in the Chinese immigrant community. But I think we find stigma throughout society. We’ve done a white paper on the first responders and the stigma that it plays because they’re afraid to come out and talk about stresses in their job. But everyone I think is facing some sort of stigma. So thank you for speaking up because so many people don’t address it. And I think so many lives can be saved and helped by talking openly about stigma. And I understand that you’ve made this a big part of what you talk about in your campaign and in your service on the council.

Guest- Michelle Wu (07:38):

That’s right. And in fact, I’ve actually through the process of sharing my family story and how difficult so much of that was, had the privilege to connect with so many folks who have gone through similar experiences and are doing a lot of work on it too. There’s some incredible research happening out of Mass General, for example, where the role of stigma as it affects, not just individuals decisions, but policy decisions and how much of a barrier different types of stigma are to changing this is huge, right?

Guest- Michelle Wu (08:11):

So one fact that was shared with me, from someone on this research team is around the changes over time in how we’ve seen health disparities close, right? And that over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen advances in many, many realms. And that gaps have narrowed when it comes to racial disparities, even though they are still way larger than they should be. We have seen some progress in narrowing, most types of gaps when it comes to life expectancy, when it comes to geography. The one place where there has been a very persistent gap that hasn’t changed almost at all over time is the life expectancy of someone who’s living with schizophrenia. And so you see how with all of our advances, with all of the outreach, with all the research and resources poured in, there’s still something about mental illness and how someone is perceived in society, particularly a certain set of symptoms that continues to be huge barriers that impact everything about their daily life and survival.

Host- Jay Ruderman (09:17):

Right. And I actually had a good friend in high school, there are certain points in people’s lives where schizophrenia will really come out and transitioning out of high school is one of them. He was housed at a state institution, which was terrible, and this institution has been done away with, but he ended up committing suicide. So people, I think are scared of mental illness and tend to shy away from it. But I think the more that we deal with it openly people will be able to get the help that they need. What do you think government can do better than they’re doing right now in order to alleviate this problem, or at least help do a better job in addressing it?

Guest- Michelle Wu (09:57):

Yeah. There’s different layers of where I think the responsibility and action lies. And we often think about this as a federal state issue, right? And it’s true that a huge part of why people are not able to access treatment and why we don’t think of mental health the same way as physical health is because the policy, when it comes to reimbursement and insurance, simply are different. It is that much harder to find treatment that works to be able to pay for it without going through all sorts of hoops and stresses and this and that. And we went through that with my mom too, especially because there was an additional language barrier and cultural considerations. Then to have a harder time getting that covered in a narrower pool of providers that we could work with. It was so difficult, even as someone who speaks English fluently.

Guest- Michelle Wu (10:47):

And so I think that’s the other piece when I think about particularly local government’s role in this, is that the accessibility so often is tied to zip code, wealth and English fluency. And when we think about the choices that families who are multi-lingual, or would like to see a deeper cultural connection, you receive better treatments when you feel comfortable and can identify with and have more options in terms of the representation within the provider field as well. And so that’s a huge part of it is supporting and encouraging mental health providers of color, especially multilingual providers, and then making sure that we’re making that financially feasible for all families access as well.

Host- Jay Ruderman (11:35):

Right. Right. That sounds right. Let me just ask you, on a personal level during COVID, where you’re responsible for constituents, for policy, looking at the local policy, but also state and federal, and yet having young children and a spouse and family and neighbors and so forth and seeing the impact and the anxiety that it’s… What is the situation for you? How do you deal with all of this? How has your mental health, because it seems to me a little bit overwhelming?

Guest- Michelle Wu (12:10):

Yeah. Well first, thank you for asking, I think it’s sometimes when we’re trying to do so much, I’m always trying to remind activists, advocates, those who are toiling away for social justice, it is exhausting and self-care is as important a part of what we need to be thinking about as the policy battle and trying to provide relief wherever we can. Early on in the pandemic I had tried to, through my own thinking about this also provide, if possible, a platform to being transparent and engaging others in this as well. So we had hosted a series of live streams on all different parts of the pandemic first, what is COVID? In one of the earliest sit-downs with an epidemiologist in the area, and probably did a couple sessions specifically related to mental health to budgeting your time in this onslaught of no boundaries between work and home and everything else. And raising children in this environment too.

Guest- Michelle Wu (13:13):

So the learning that I do, I try to make as public as possible. And then of course, when it comes to my own family time and schedule, a lot of that is just built in over time. I need space to be a way sometimes with my kids and my husband, we went to the Apple Orchards a couple of weekends ago, and we find time to have my sisters come over and make sure that we’re taking care of our mom in a way that provides her a certain level of stability. It’s a lot to balance, but I will be the first to say, it’s not easy and it’s an ongoing effort.

Host- Jay Ruderman (13:49):

I’m sure it’s not. And thank you for what you do, not only for the community, but also for your family. I want to say Michelle, you were the first Asian-American woman to serve on the Boston City Council and the first woman of color to serve as the President of the City Council. And I want to talk a little bit about diversity and why diversity is important in American politics.

Guest- Michelle Wu (14:13):

I never thought when I was younger, that this could be a pathway that I should be on or involved with. And so much of that was simply not feeling connected in any way, not seeing people who look like me, being in these spaces. But what I’ve realized from being on the council is that it is both the importance of folks feeling like they are [inaudible 00:14:40] and reflected in our structures of decision-making and leadership, but also the type of leadership that then results.

Guest- Michelle Wu (14:49):

When I first ran for the city council, I launched my campaign in 2012, the election was in 2013 and I was trying to double the number of women serving on the council then. Out of 13 councilors, one was a woman. Pretty incredible one, her name was Ayanna Pressley, and she continues to be a leader for us. But when I joined Ayanna on the council, we went from one to two and in the year, since then, just four election cycles later, we have now in 2019 for the very first time elected the city’s first ever majority women, majority people of color, majority progressive council, and the entire atmosphere of politics and political involvement in the city has changed. People are feeling more connected to the issues, having an impact, see the council as a place where community can partner and push for accountability, push for action. And that’s something that’s really important.

Guest- Michelle Wu (15:49):

When I became the first sitting councilor to be pregnant on the council, my first year, I was pregnant with my son Blaise. We got paid parental leave done, right? We were the first out of anywhere in Massachusetts, the city council passed an ordinance for paid parental leave. First that ended up translating into some state agencies following. And so there was much more momentum because of it. We didn’t get it done because I was pregnant and I needed parental leave and therefore I was going to take this on. It was because as I was going out to my community meetings and doing my duties as a councilor and people saw this unusual thing of a pregnant councilor, I had the chance to hear and collect the stories of so many community members. What was it like for them when they had to go back to work? How hard was it and how unfair the policies are for that we don’t have paid parental leave in so many places. And it was really the flow and the flood of stories that I received about how urgent this issue was in our communities that gave me the ability to help prioritize this for the council and get it done.

Host- Jay Ruderman (16:53):

Right. I know you received some advice when you first ran, that you were too young, being Asian-American, having grown up in the city, that they were all things working against you, and yet you still move forward because you believed in what you were advocating for. I grew up in greater Boston and historically Boston has been an extremely segregated city with a long history of racism, to the point where there were neighborhoods that if you were not of that neighborhood, you did not walk into that neighborhood. And Boston has really, really changed in my view for the better, it’s much more inclusive, but how would you continue to bring these issues of diversity and inclusion to the forefront as potentially next mayor or on the council?

Guest- Michelle Wu (17:39):

We have to recognize just how persistent, just how deep and prevalent racial injustices are all across city, even today. I think sometimes there’s a tendency to say, “Well, Boston’s not as X, Y, Z as some other places.” Or, “We have been at the forefront of this or that.” And we want to celebrate the ways in which our city is progressing and making huge strides while also centering the continued lived experiences of black and brown residents in Boston who continue to be the stories behind the statistics and the numbers that I think we hear. That we know to this day, that median net worth of a white family in Boston is around $250,000 compared to $8 for a black family. We know that the life expectancy between Back Bay, a more affluent disproportionately white or neighborhood, life expectancy drops by 30 plus years when you go that one mile down the street to Roxbury, disproportionately, lower income neighborhood and a majority people of color, black and Latinx.

Guest- Michelle Wu (18:54):

We know that even in our transportation system, black bus riders spend 64 hours more per year on our buses compared to their white counterparts. Even though demographically, everybody is riding the bus in similar rates, except the buses running through communities of color are more often delayed, have longer routes, require more transfers. And to say that we are serious about the Black Lives Matter Movement and racial justice and economic justice means that we are directing the full force of our policy and decision-making to that end.

Guest- Michelle Wu (19:32):

And so I have put forward a couple of different proposals that are meant to really show how city government in very doable, immediate steps can make a huge dent on these issues. Rethinking our city contracting and how we spend our dollars, how currently we are in low single digits for the percentage of contracts that go to businesses owned by people of color in the city of Boston. When it comes to city spending where 660 plus million dollars a year. And as of 2018, it was less than 1% went to businesses owned by people of color, just about 3%, 4% during the emergency spending of the COVID pandemic.

Guest- Michelle Wu (20:08):

We need to push for a structural change that starts with the structures of city government, as part of my Green New Deal, proposal and plan. I put forward the commitment to do a justice audit of the city. How are each of our departments making their spending decisions, policy decisions, and public engagement decisions in a way that either is maybe unintentionally exacerbating gaps that we need to change. And how can we really redirect our efforts to closing those gaps? And then so much of it is the team, making sure that staff and leaders and the people who all will go into an administration together really represent and reflect the full inclusion of Boston and all of our communities.

Host- Jay Ruderman (20:53):

Right. I think what people don’t get sometimes is that they think of themselves and think of, “Oh, we’re doing okay. And I’m doing okay financially, and I’ll be all set.” But what they don’t think about is that when you live in a society that has deep inequalities, that is not a healthy society.

Guest- Michelle Wu (21:09):

That’s right.

Host- Jay Ruderman (21:10):

That is not a society that anyone rich or poor is going to be happy with in the future.

Guest- Michelle Wu (21:16):

That’s right.

Host- Jay Ruderman (21:18):

I’ve had the privilege to visit other countries around the world. Some of them who have deep racial inequalities and they’re not comfortable for anyone. And I think if we let Boston or Massachusetts or America get to that point, it’s not going to be a healthy society for anyone and no one’s going to feel comfortable. So I think the idea of taking populations that are really been disenfranchised and helping to level out the playing field is smart for everyone, that’s my [crosstalk 00:21:48].

Guest- Michelle Wu (21:48):

Absolutely. And I hope that that’s one of the lessons coming out of the pandemic too, that in this once in a generation moment, everybody sees just how vulnerable and fragile the status quo had been, just how disproportionate the outcomes are and how so much of our burdens sit squarely on the shoulders of the very same residents who have borne the public health burden of this crisis. The economic burden of this crisis continue to bear mental health burden disproportionately in this crisis.

Guest- Michelle Wu (22:19):

And if we take away from this COVID-19 situation, two things, I hope it is at one how interconnected we all are, that every one of us, our health and safety depends on the health and safety of workers who turns out, were essential all along who we had not been supporting and didn’t have access to paid sick time and other basic necessities. And then secondly, when we do decide to confront a serious crisis, we can mobilize tremendous resources and change systems. We’ve seen so much of that happen during this pandemic.

Host- Jay Ruderman (22:58):

Right. I had a conversation with Peter Slavin and who is the President of Mass General Hospital and someone I know well, and I asked him about COVID at Mass General right now. And he said, “Listen, a lot of the patients are Hispanic and African-American.” And I said, “Why is that?” And he said, “They’re living in communities that are much more crowded. A lot of them are forced to go to work, even when they’re sick in order to earn a paycheck. And that’s what we’re seeing the outcome is that more of these people in these communities have COVID. And also the health coverage that they had is not the same as a more affluent white community.” So we just don’t want to become that country. And I think to be complacent at this point in time is not the patriotic way to go. Again, that’s my two cents, but I know that you feel passionately about these issues.

Guest- Michelle Wu (23:49):

Yeah. And I would say the flip side is also that there’s more at stake than just avoiding harms and avoiding the negative impacts of what will happen. In fact, as you’re saying, when we move to a society where everybody is lifted up and everybody has opportunity, that is the best future for all of our kids as well. And so I think about one other way that communities of color in particular have been impacted during COVID and it’s the exposure and everything you just mentioned, as well as the climate impacts that, communities who have been exposed to more air pollution to begin with, more likely black and brown communities who had been living near environmental hazards like highways or waste treatment plants, all of that. It turns out that if you are exposed to COVID, it’s more likely a more serious case as well. And so there it’s layer upon layer of the same steps we need to take to undo these harms. In fact are the same steps we need to take to eliminate poverty, and that will lead to the brightest future for everyone.

Host- Jay Ruderman (24:55):

Right. So let me ask you a question about racial inequality. We’re going through a very trying time in America, where we saw very stark issues of racial inequality with police brutality and the murder of George Floyd and others. How is Boston doing in terms of racial inequality and how they’re dealing with it?

Guest- Michelle Wu (25:17):

We’re often hearing that Boston is not X, Y, Z other city because we have not had a particular incident that has sort of rallied everyone around a single case of injustice. We hear often that Boston is the home of community policing as well. And it’s important to mark that stake in the ground, that this is a city that first and has been held up as a national model for emphasizing building trust with communities rather than a draconian arrest and punishment model. However, the reality on the ground is still that when you look at the data, when you look at which people are stopped from what backgrounds, more than 70% of the stop and frisk interactions in Boston are black and brown residents, right? A way disproportionate number compared to the size of the population.

Guest- Michelle Wu (26:13):

I was just appearing on a different podcast yesterday and in the community. And after the recording, the host wanting to show me a different part of the facility and that several bullets had come through the window and were so large, and they were still damaged to that building that was not covered because although it wasn’t captured in the statistics because no one was hit, the damage, the harm, the mental health stress was still sitting very much on that family who is thinking about that now constantly.

Guest- Michelle Wu (26:46):

And we still have far too many residents in Boston, in black and brown communities who are living with the daily feeling of exposure to gun violence, of food insecurity, of needing to fight for access to quality schools. And we are a city that has the resources to address all of these issues, we just have to recognize the ways in which everything is interconnected, cannot keep siloing off this community versus that one, this issue versus that, and act with the bold urgency that matches the need out in our communities.

Host- Jay Ruderman (27:23):

Right. Well, you seem to have the passion and the urgency to really address these issues. What do you think has been the greatest accomplishment that you’ve had serving in the Boston City Council?

Guest- Michelle Wu (27:35):

I hope that I can objectively say we’ve really transformed how people think about city government. That when I ran the first time again, to just double the number of women from one to two, that most of the questions I got on that campaign trail, the very first election were to kind of place me within certain tribes and how people thought about Boston politics and which tribe do you belong to? Where did you grow up? Where does your mom live? What school did you go to? Where does your partner do? This last election cycle, I’m not sure people could have named what neighborhood any of the candidates lived in because the questions were about what issues you are going to champion. What communities are you going to bring to the table? What specific steps are you going to take to bring about change? And a lot of that has been in showing that the city council can make a difference in passing ordinance, after ordinance, piece of legislation, after a piece of legislation to really make an impact, bringing together coalitions, and then showing them that at the city level, you can get things done quickly.

Guest- Michelle Wu (28:42):

And I’m really proud of changing the conversation in so many ways, for example, on public transportation, I took a little heat when I first took a position about a year and a half ago that we should no longer be haggling every few years, about how much the fare increase would be on the MPTA our public transit agency. Instead, we should set a goal of fair, free public transportation, and then take steps in accordance with that, that public transportation is a public good, and we should treat it and fund it the same way we think about education or our parks or libraries that everyone benefits when everyone has access.

Guest- Michelle Wu (29:24):

And at first that seems high in the sky. And I got a lot of criticism about how this would be feasible. How can we pay for any of that? And just a year after that, some cities in Massachusetts had already started moving in the direction, implementing it because of the conversation that Boston was having. We’ve changed how we think about the way that we offer and provide access and how fundamental that issue is to everyone, in all manner of accessibility. And so that’s the difference that leaders can make when really center, the lived experiences of people who are most affected and think about what we should be aiming for and not just what is immediately in line with what we’ve done in the past.

Host- Jay Ruderman (30:11):

Right. And you still think the economics are there, that it can work?

Guest- Michelle Wu (30:13):

We have to, in this moment rethink the financing of our transit systems overall, right now, the ridership levels are down so much, many companies still working from home. Ridership is down so far that we are not able to fund even basic maintenance or service relying just on riders. And so there’s been some talk about whether the T will have to cut service at a time like this. That means cutting the supports for essential workers, right? If you look at which bus lines have not seen that dip in ridership, which train lines have not. It’s the blue line that runs from East Boston, heavily immigrant community, essential workers working in our hospitals and our food sector. It is communities of color who rely on the bus. We are now having larger conversations about how we fund system as a whole. And so I was proud to partner with Ayanna Pressley as she incented her Marquis before the federal bill called The Freedom to Move Act, which would generate $5 billion annually when it comes to how to fund fair, free transportation for local transit agencies and expand service with an equity lens.

Host- Jay Ruderman (31:22):

Right. Let me ask you, your platform, which is very detailed and has a lot of issues that you’d like to tackle. How does it speak to you personally? How does it reflect who you are as a candidate?

Guest- Michelle Wu (31:36):

I’m only in this, because I know what it means when government works and when it doesn’t work and how big the gaps are, especially when you need the most help for certain communities. Thinking about my mom’s experience and raising my sisters and what it means now to be in this middle generation of taking care of my mom still has her up and down days. And my voice, this is a city with so much potential. We have financial resources, we have activism, we have the smartest people and the best ideas in the world from folks who are just digging in and doing it in every community. We really just need to connect those resources with the real experiences and the struggles, the dreams of residents in our neighborhoods today.

Guest- Michelle Wu (32:27):

And so I live that every day and always am driven by not what we need inside city government and what is feasible within the matrix of our current city hall decision-making process. But what is it like for people outside city hall, who might not ever have the time to come to city hall because they’re working multiple jobs, caring for their kids, trying to take care of loved ones. And how do we make sure that we are going out to those families and getting them the supports, the services and the ecosystem of community building that will allow them to do everything that they need to do.

Host- Jay Ruderman (33:07):

Right. Well, it sounds like you’ve thought long and hard about why you’re doing this and you’re serious about it. Without getting political, we’re two weeks before the election, what do you think is the most important issue facing our country at this time?

Guest- Michelle Wu (33:23):

Trust. I think we are a country with deep divides right now, deep disparities. So many issues feel like we’re at a breaking point, whether it’s a crisis of our democracy or localizing cities, a housing crisis, a climate crisis, a economic crisis to get through this pandemic. And we’ve gotten further and further away from people feeling like government is a place that they can reach out to, to get involved and to make a difference. It’s not all because of missteps and harms that government has perpetuated. Although for a long time, now, many of our policies have begun to strip away supports and make it harder for working families to get by.

Guest- Michelle Wu (34:18):

But in general, we are lonelier as human beings, in this generation, we have on average, fewer close friends and confidence than two generations ago, we spend less time with our neighbors. We’re less likely to know our neighbors names, even who live on either side of us. And so, so much of what I relished about the local level of government is that because we’re so close to people, we have the most potential to earn back that trust, to foster that trust in communities and to build community in a way that roots people in a support network all around them.

Guest- Michelle Wu (35:00):

So I had said at least locally, if there were one thing that we could do to save our democracy, I think Boston should find a way to pay for, organize a block party on every single block in our city. And give people a chance to connect with folks around them who might think differently, believe differently, subscribed to a different set of political partisan beliefs and ideologies. And yet you share an important stake in your community together, we’ve gotten further and further away from having that kind of trust, which is essential to the trust that we can then make changes and improve our communities together.

Host- Jay Ruderman (35:42):

And Mayor Menino was particularly good at that, and having those personal gatherings. And I think it was part of his appeal for a long time to the people of Boston. Michelle, I know you’re super busy, so I just want to end and say, is there something during this time of COVID and an election and everything that’s going on, is there something that you do that you just enjoy for yourself?

Guest- Michelle Wu (36:04):

Let’s see. I think it varies by season for me. And so much of it has to do with my kids and making sure that we’re giving them the joy and the right to have a childhood and in such really crazy times. So the little joys of reading to them a little bit every day, or playing and drawing with, just the funny bunny things that come out of that. The other day we were reading Boxcar Children together. And there’s not that many pictures in the book, but there’s pictures here and there. And it was talking about apart where the children were going out and doing something. And my three-year-old then, he got a very furrow brown, he was very pointed an accusatory finger at the picture and said, “Why aren’t they wearing masks when they’re outside?” And so it’s a very different life that these kids are living.

Guest- Michelle Wu (36:56):

I love being out in nature as well. And so whenever we can combine the two, whether it’s apple picking or hiking or picking a different part and sport outside, that’s my time to feel centered in the larger world, and to feel small in this beautiful, amazing planet and entity that we have. And to know that we can all do our part in trying to support the entire ecosystem of everyone having a shot and everyone having opportunity.

Host- Jay Ruderman (37:28):

Right. That’s beautiful. And one piece of advice as a father of teenagers, avoid giving them cell phones, as long as you can.

Guest- Michelle Wu (37:36):

It’s so hard. They’re doing remote learning now. So now they’d know all the passwords to access all the laptops, constantly confiscating all of those.

Host- Jay Ruderman (37:45):

Well, it’s been such a pleasure speaking to Michelle. I wish you a lot of luck. I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but I really enjoyed speaking to you.

Guest- Michelle Wu (37:54):

Thank you so much Jay, for all that you do. And it’s just been such a joy to talk with you and looking forward to partnering on many things ahead.

Host- Jay Ruderman (38:02):

Thank you. Thank you. Have a great day.

Guest- Michelle Wu (38:05):

You too.

Host- Jay Ruderman (38:05):


Guest- Michelle Wu (38:06):

Bye everyone.

Speaker 2 (38:08):

All Inclusive is a production of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Our key mission is the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can find All Inclusive on Apple podcast, Google Play Spotify and Stitcher. To view the show notes, transcripts, or to learn more, go to Have an idea for a podcast? Be sure to tweet @jayruderman.