Alexander Philiphose M’74
The oldest volunteer currently in the Peace Corps Response Program discusses service.
AS TOLD TO
Alex Gray '06
The Boston policy manager, who is blind, talks about the importance of representation in government.
I had a fairly typical childhood growing up in the Greater Boston area, spending far too much of my time at Fenway Park, the Boston Garden, and Alumni Stadium. Until I began losing my vision at the age of 8, I wanted to be a professional athlete. I was involved in student government at BC, but the service trip I took to rural Virginia with the University’s Appalachia Volunteer Program was probably the biggest turning point in my life in terms of recognizing the needs that our society has and starting to think about how to address those needs in a legislative way. It was that trip that motivated me to apply for an internship at the State House, and then continue to work in public service. What I’ve learned is that so many people just want someone to listen, and to be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone has the potential to contribute.
For the past five years, I’ve worked for the Boston Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, and prior to that, I was a policy analyst for former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. When you work for a mayor and a governor and sit a few steps away from their offices, you get a direct sense of what goes into being an elected official. You also get invited to participate in a lot of panel discussions and working groups, and oftentimes it was clear to me that if I wasn’t there, disability wasn’t going to be brought up. Before the pandemic, that was frustrating and annoying, but then in the midst of COVID-19, when there were limited resources and decisions had to be made quickly, it became downright dangerous. And that’s when I made the decision to run for an at-large seat on the Boston City Council this year. Even though I lost the election, I will continue to be an active listener, problem solver, and voice for the voiceless.
We talk a lot about affordability, but a very small percentage of affordable housing units nationally are accessible for people who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments. Unemployment is also huge. Roughly eight out of ten people with disabilities are out of work in America. How do we find pathways for folks with disabilities to get involved in their communities in a meaningful way?
In talking with voters, special education is something that comes up a lot. Twenty-one percent of Boston Public School students have an individualized education plan, meaning they’re in the special-education system. Sometimes they’re struggling to get the accommodations or the resources they need. My campaign put out a proposal to have a dedicated special-education seat on the Boston School Committee representing the interests of people in the special-education community.
It’s about having someone in your corner who’s going to stand by you. That’s why I ran for a council seat and why I will work with our future mayor to give a voice to the approximately 140,000 Bostonians who have a disability and make sure their concerns are part of the conversation.