Newton Resident, Longtime Activist Heads to Democratic National Convention
Heyman, a local realtor, is a member of the Newton Democratic City Committee. This is her first Democratic National Convention.
Newton Centre resident Susan Heyman has been around politics her whole life -- before she could even vote, she was helping her family pass out leaflets and listening to the political discussion around the dinner table.
After moving to New York City with her husband, Martin Heyman, Susan became politically active in her community of Greenwich Village, including in the opposition to Tammany Hall.
Active in civil rights issues, her and her husband also stood with Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C.
Susan and Martin eventually left New York City for Boston's Back Bay, where they continued to be involved with local ward politics and worked on Barney Frank's first campaign (for the Mass. Legislature). They then moved to Newton in 1973 where they started a family and joined the Ward 6 Newton Democratic Committee.
Earlier this year, Susan was elected as one of eight Fourth District delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and Martin was elected as an alternate. Newton Democratic City Committee Vice-Chair Sharon Stout was also elected as a delegate.
Patch recently had a chance to chat with Susan to hear more about her political influences, experiences and what she's looking forward to at the DNC:
Name: Susan Heyman
Village: Newton Centre
Q. Is this your first Democratic National Convention? What is your motivation to attend?
A. This is my first time. We're been a little more involved [in campaigns] over the last couple of years and I'd like to gain more knowledge. [My husband and I] do a lot of volunteering and canvassing and it's helpful to get as much information as you can, meet as many people as you can and get their experiences from different parts of the country.
Q. How did you get started in politics? What are some other organizations/political events you've been involved with?
A. When I was a little girl, way before I could vote, I was handing out leaflets with my family. My family was always very interested in politics and, growing up in New York, we read three newspapers a day.
When [my husband and I] moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, we got involved with the village politics and ran a slate to oppose the old Tammany Hall. Then, we moved to Boston and did some work with our ward committee and worked on Barney Frank's first campaign.
Q. What are you looking forward to at the convention?
A. I'm looking forward to the big speeches and just being a part of it. It always makes you feel good when you're right there and involved.
There are also a number of caucuses on all different subjects to look forward to.
Q. Do you have a political hero or major political influence?
A. I suppose that because people are kind of flawed, it's hard to say I have a "hero", but there are people that I greatly admire. The Roosevelts were pivotal people in our lives...and Eleanor [Roosevelt] was such a symbol for women in what she did.
One thing that I always found very interesting -- [Martin and I] lived abroad at various times in our lives and when we traveled to Africa in 1968, you could go to some far-removed village in India and Africa and there would be a picture of John F. Kennedy -- it was amazing.
Hubert Humphrey was a person that I also admired -- he was an inspirational hero.
Q. What fires you up? Why are you involved in this election year?
A. We see a lot of injustices and things that are wrong and I think the Democrats just have a better take on it -- not that everything they do is perfect.
Q. What do you believe is the most important issue this election year?
A. The people who are running this country are so intolerant and so far right...there is this enormous feeling of intolerance. When you think about the Democratic Party and you look up the word "liberal" it means there is a tolerance, which is something I feel strongly about.
The economy is very important...but, the level of small-mindedness is troubling. This [presidential election] is such an important decision. The president has done an awful lot to promote levels of tolerance and having respect for people who are different than us.
Q. Do you have any advice or motivational words for people who may be thinking about becoming more active in politics?
A. When I went to the Massachusetts Democratic Convention, where we nominated Elizabeth Warren [for the Senate race], I brought my sister-in-law, who is not as politically active. She loved the process. I wish more people could see that process because I think they would get more involved.
Our problems are big, complicated and are not going to be solved easily. But, if someone is really interested, there are so many things to be done and so many ways to get involved. Even if you don't get to your goal, you've tried and made a little bit of difference.
Anyone who is interested in any way, go to your local ward committee and get involved. You will see the government working -- it's a wonderful thing to observe.
Watch the process...changes happen all the time, and someone's responsible for it. It might as well be you.