Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Elena Hung
January 24, 2019
Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I am a mom, a lawyer, and as I like to refer to myself, an accidental activist. Like so many across the country, I started speaking up and becoming involved after Inauguration Day in January 2017.
In response to threats of health care repeal efforts, I became very concerned about what would happen to my family and families like mine if we were to lose the protections for pre-existing conditions, ban on lifetime limits, and guaranteed coverage for essential health benefits like emergency care, hospitalizations, and prescription drugs. I co-founded Little Lobbyists, a family-led group advocating for children with complex medical needs and disabilities, and showed up on Capitol Hill with our children to tell our health care stories.
I am also a co-chair of Health Care Voter, a national campaign to hold elected officials accountable for their votes on health care.
How did you first learn about NETWORK and what inspired you to get involved?
I heard Sister Simone speak while she was with the Nuns on the Bus, and I was hooked! I loved her message on the fight for social justice and for the common good.
What issue area are you most passionate about?
For the past two years, my public advocacy has focused on health care and disability rights. However, at the core of everything I do and believe is that we are only true advocates if we engage in inclusive advocacy.
When I advocate for health care for those with complex medical needs and disabilities like my daughter, that includes immigrants with disabilities, LGBTQ people with disabilities, people of color with disabilities, people of all faiths with disabilities, those living in poverty with disabilities. And when I say disabilities, that includes all disabilities whether it be mobility, sensory, mental health, intellectual or developmental disabilities. It includes our friends with chronic health conditions, in recovery from substance abuse, and those living with trauma.
How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?
I have worked really hard to put the stories of medically complex and disabled children front and center. This includes empowering families with the tools to share their stories and working closely with a number of organizations to build a platform to make that possible. Little Lobbyists families across the country have shared their stories at press conferences, rallies, town halls, social media, local and national media interviews, published op-eds and articles in digital media, and other public events and forums.
How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?
I believe in the power of stories to change hearts and minds. I also believe that these stories bring us together, for we have more in common than not.
How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?
I feel a great responsibility and an even greater honor to be part of something so much bigger than myself.
Who is your role model?
In the past two years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team. She is simply amazing. Her record speaks for itself — she is a master legislator, a talented leader, and a fierce advocate — but what you don’t hear in the news often enough is that she is also incredibly warm and kind. She’s a living example of how you are never too important or too famous to be kind to someone. I have introduced her to countless families and children and the respect she shows them is mesmerizing. She takes the time to listen — and somehow remembers everything!
She is also really tough; I am so inspired by the way she is able to shrug off the constant public attacks against her and focus on doing her job. She is a one-of-a-kind role model not just for me but also for my daughter.
Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?
“Go big or go home.” This is what I kept saying at the beginning when I first started speaking up and what I say to this day. Every act, every message, every plan — I want to reach as many people as we can in the most powerful and authentic way possible. I believe in dreaming big dreams and aiming high … and surrounding myself with people who aren’t afraid to do the same.
What social movement has inspired you?
The leadership by young people has been incredible. Whether it is the March of Our Lives students against gun violence or Dreamers for a path to citizenship, their voices have been life-changing. I too believe the young people will win.
What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?
I co-founded and led an organization that was often credited with helping put a face on health care. I am so proud to have helped educate so many on the needs of medically complex children by empowering families to speak up and normalize disability.
What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?
There is so much work to do! I look forward to growing the Little Lobbyists community, helping more families share their stories.
I want to highlight the intersections between disability and all the social justice issues; There is not a single issue — whether it be health care, immigration, climate change, criminal justice, education, gun violence, employment, or voting — that does not impact the 1 in 5 Americans that lives with a disability.