On the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made waves when he opened his speech with the line: “My name is Marty Walsh, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Walsh, who is perhaps the most prominent elected official who is open about his recovery, recalled a more hopeless time. “On April 23, 1995, I hit rock bottom,” he told the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. “I woke up with little memory of the night before and even less hope for the days to come. Everybody was losing faith in me, everybody except my family and the Labor Movement.”
From there, the mayor credited the labor community with getting him the help he needed and giving him a second chance. “Eighteen years later, I became mayor of Boston, a city of big dreams and big hearts.”
He went on to endorse Hillary Clinton, whom he called “the champion American workers need.” Though Walsh’s DNC speech was ultimately more about Clinton than his alcoholism, he made national headlines for invoking his story of redemption at the convention.
This seems reflective of America’s growing acceptance and the decreasing stigma associated with people in recovery. In a 2013 profile of the then-newly elected Walsh, who took office the following year, Fix writer Meg Williams explored the significance of the progressive Democrat's groundbreaking approach to his mayoral campaign—through which he publicly related to and advocated for the recovery community. As a state senator, he advocated for more recovery services. As a mayoral candidate, he made no effort to hide that he was a recovering alcoholic. On top of that, he is known for personally helping people find treatment.
“I don’t really care who knows I’m an alcoholic because if it helps someone else … then they’ll ask me for help if they need it,” he said in a 2014 interview. Walsh is now about 20 years sober and as of 2013, he was still a regular at AA meetings.
“Marty Walsh managed to turn his biggest liability into his biggest asset,” wrote Williams. “It is actions like this that are changing the face of addiction in America.”
Check out the full speech below: