Boston’s storied political history includes a long line of mayors, many of whom came from humble origins to rise to a place of great governing power. Tonight’s Dr. Jim O’Connell honoree, Martin J. Walsh, Boston’s 54th Mayor, shares both a unique and common story that is part of the American narrative. As the proud son of immigrants from Ireland – John and Mary Walsh – Martin “Marty” Walsh, was born and raised in the neighborhood of Dorchester. In a country that has been, and still is, the birthplace of aspirational dreams, and especially in “the City on a Hill” that itself, for over 200 years, has offered a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking to build a better life, Mayor Walsh’s life story attests to the power of the human spirit, as well as to the capacity of that same spirit to give back, selflessly, inspired by gratitude and purpose.
Marty Walsh’s lived experiences broaden and shape his capacity to govern Boston. As a child, he was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma; the extraordinary care he received at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute during those formative years reinforced his deep commitment as an adult and public servant to Boston’s medical institutions. Mayor Walsh’s dedication to protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of every Bostonian focuses on providing everyone with access to top-quality healthcare, especially the most vulnerable. We applaud his belief that healthcare is a human right.
As a young adult, he battled alcoholism and today, he publicly shares his recovery story so that he might be an inspiration to others suffering from addiction. As our mayor, he is an active proponent of prevention and recovery programs – aligning his personal passions with those of local nonprofits serving people in need…in effective and often life-changing ways. Mayor Walsh’s leadership in the fight against the national opioid epidemic, both nationally and within our city, is exemplary and we are grateful for his genuine compassion. As the co-chair of the US Council of Mayors Task Force on Substance Use, Prevention and Recovery Services, Mayor Walsh shares his priorities to build a healthier and more inclusive America.
He has prioritized addiction services here in Boston, especially for those most in need. We support his advocacy of the rebuilding of the Long Island Bridge, to make way for a regional addiction recovery campus. For many years, BHCHP staff delivered health care services on Long Island.
Mayor Walsh embodies what we at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program feel is a noble response to service – compassion-in-action, where his vocation and avocation have become one; where his self-discovery through personal trials informs daily his boots-on-the-ground political agenda.
As a sixteen-year veteran of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1997-2014), he tackled infrastructure that weren’t sufficiently addressing the needs of those living in poverty, of those among the working poor, as well as those of the middle class – itself facing instability in the face of income insecurity, poor transportation, rising housing costs, insufficient health care and weak educational services. Those years as a State Representative launched him into the mayoralty, attuned to-and well-equipped for-addressing systemic problems head-on.
As Mayor of Boston since 2014, he continues to address the city-wide challenges – many of which mirror the needs of BHCHP’s patient population – with programs and services in which BHCHP is proud to partner to deliver our skilled health care. He ushered in programs that work to engage people into treatment and hopefully to eliminate the cycle of chronic homelessness, like the Engagement Center, where we also provide health care. He created the nation’s first municipal Office of Recovery Services to prevent and, as necessary, treat substance use disorder. These initiatives complement the ongoing and complex, multi-layered work of BHCHP – including our substance use disorder programs like our innovative SPOT (Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment) and our Suboxone clinic, our immediate access behavioral health services, and our case management program that helps our patients with their most basic, life essential needs.
In summary, this year, we can think of no more deserving recipient of our Dr. Jim O’Connell Award than Mayor Martin J. Walsh. As Jim makes his rounds to meet his patients “where they are” in both place and in times of great challenge, so too does Mayor Walsh make his rounds – every day and night of every week of the year – in both the strong and struggling neighborhoods, in the halls where legislation is astutely crafted and enacted, in the communities where profound needs meet practical solutions, and in his one-to-one individual interactions with the people who elected him. Dr. O’Connell attends to the physical and emotional needs that can burden the soul of the individual; while Mayor Walsh attends to the vast needs and collective hopes that define the soul of our great city of Boston.
Today, authentic leadership is needed more than ever. Mayor Walsh’s leadership has helped Boston be a strong city that cares about ALL its members, and is committed to leaving no one behind. With gratitude for Mayor Walsh’s belief in and support for the work of BHCHP, and in recognition of the Walsh Administration’s and our shared passion to care for the most vulnerable in the city we love and serve, we are proud to bestow the Dr. Jim O’Connell Award on Mayor Walsh. Back to top
The Tenth Annual Tim Russert Award Recipient - Paul English, Local Entrepreneur & Chief Technology Officer of Lola
Eleven years ago at the BHCHP Gala, we were fortunate to have Tim Russert honor us with his presence – just weeks before his tragic death. At the time, we were in the throes of renovating the Mallory Institute of Pathology, a process that gave way to the beautiful Jean Yawkey Place at 780 Albany Street that we call home today, a place of hope, healing, dignity, and love. Tim Russert was a rare, generational talent, and he spoke with intelligence, humor, and genuine passion about the need for politics and health care to remember our most vulnerable and excluded neighbors. He shared a quote from a letter written to his son Luke upon his acceptance to Boston College: “The best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone up.”
In many ways, the legacy of Paul English as a philanthropist and a human being is one of a person unable to reconcile the fact that he found himself with more wealth than others who are no less human than he, no less deserving of love, dignity, or health care. Faced with this grave injustice, Paul has chosen time and time again to do what he sees as the only choice: he reaches down, and he picks up as many people as he can, over and over again. Whether it’s creating The Winter Walk to raise awareness and support of those experiencing homelessness or spearheading the King Boston effort to create a new memorial and programs about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King and their time and work together in Boston, Paul English prioritizes those who are too often left out of the narrative. Tonight, we award Paul English with the Tim Russert Award, honoring his leadership as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, a tribute we know that Paul would much prefer we announce in a whisper.
Paul English is known worldwide as a co-founder of Kayak, the Chief Technology Officer of Lola, and a continual entrepreneur. Since his days at the prestigious Boston Latin school, he has made use of his brilliant engineering mind and his keen eye for gathering a strong, trusted team to carry out work that aims to make people’s lives better or easier in some way. This winning formula has seen him through to financial success that has enabled Paul to pursue a robust and wide-ranging philanthropic agenda. Empathy has long been the cornerstone of Paul’s process, whether in the form of the red customer service phone he answered personally at Kayak, or his longstanding tenure as a supporter and volunteer for Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, and The Pine Street Inn.
Many have accompanied Dr. Jim O’Connell on his “street rounds,” including so many of our friends here with us tonight. We are touched to hear how the unique experience inspires those who witness Dr. Jim’s deeply empathetic relationship with his patients, who live precariously at the margins of society, relying on Dr. Jim and his team for vital health care services and a sense of human warmth and connection. But Paul English saw Dr. Jim in action and went a step further: he founded The Winter Walk, an annual event to raise awareness and funds in an effort to end homelessness. The Winter Walk gathers over 1,000 Bostonians, housed and unhoused, arm in arm, on Copley Square Plaza for a two-mile walk followed by storytelling and a community breakfast. Now entering its fourth year, the event benefits five local homelessness organizations, including Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.
Paul’s passion for change, and thus his impact, is not limited to the United States. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, fellow Boston philanthropist Tom White, Paul was pulled toward Haiti. There, Paul co-founded Summits Education to ensure high-quality, free, public education in Haiti’s Central Plateau, for and by Haitians, in Creole. Paul also serves on several boards of esteemed organizations carrying out meaningful work to serve those in need: Humanity Rises, a refugee humanitarian aid organization in Bangladesh; Partners in Health global health system; and Village Health Works, providing quality, compassionate health care in one of the poorest regions of Africa.
In recognition of his remarkable commitment to the most vulnerable, underserved members of our community of Greater Boston as well as across the globe; for his philanthropy as well as his personal dedication to compassion-in-action and social justice; and for his long-time support of the needs of the homeless community in a variety of ways; we at BHCHP are pleased and grateful to honor this evening PAUL ENGLISH with our Tim Russert Award. Thank you for being our dear friend…we could not be more grateful.