I was escorted by City Councilor Michelle Wu’s media manager, Cassie, to a hallway surrounded by offices. There, Wu showed me to a somewhat large room, pushed a chair out from one of the rows, and sat down across from me. I could clearly tell she was very down to earth, as she sat by me like we were two friends talking. And it really felt that way.
Wu has been an active city councilor for six years now. She is from Chicago, Illinois where her parents owned a small business. From there, she journeyed to Boston for college, where she attended Harvard Law School (and, fun fact, was a former student of Sen. Elizabeth Warren). In 2012, she was elected to city council, and as of 2016, is the president of the council.
However, she didn’t really have much of a relationship with public speaking before then. “I’m not naturally very outgoing or loud and never met anyone in politics. I think a lot of what I work on now, it just comes from the sense that I want to help you.”
As for Wu’s road to success, the journey was not easy. From her mother battling mental illness to having to raise her siblings to working at the family business, her life was constantly in motion. But, defying all odds, she graduated as valedictorian from Barrington High School, which led her to Harvard Law School and in the long run her election to the council.
Wu has proven countless times that she regards community engagement highly. “It's the most important part of being a counselor and trying to make a change,” she says. “What I have learned over my time in government is that you can write laws that change the policies on the books. But unless you're connecting with communities on those issues and empowering people to advocate and then implement the solution, you're not actually changing much.”
As important as it is, community engagement is only the beginning of Wu’s struggles when it comes to Boston’s problems. Currently, Wu is working on getting people active in the Boston Community, such as protesting the new MBTA prices.
“[R]ight now, the traffic is so bad around Boston almost any time of day, any day of the week, that we should be trying to get as many cars off the road and people onto the T as possible.”
Going back to community engagement, she explains, “we are trying to engage riders. Let people know they can have a voice it's not hopeless and here is very specific things that you can ask for.”
Her focus on Boston’s problems span far past the MBTA. “I focus on three big issues: income inequality, racial disparities and climate change.” She assures me that the way to solve this problem is yet again the engagement with the affected community.
“The way to fix all of those three is what we were just talking about; getting people involved to implement the changes that they are already making in their part of the city,” she explains. “[A]lso certain communities in Boston have a much harder time getting to where they need to go, and often the neighborhoods are of the working class and color.”
Once we finished up, she led me out where a man was waiting for her. After we said our goodbyes, she left with him to possibly and probably engage more people in their communities. Although most of Wu’s current and public political standings were presented in our interview, there is much more to her than what met this interview’s eyes. With a promising future in politics and supporting base that is only growing, more and more Bostonians are becoming confident in her capabilities as a city councilor.