Ramos, who is recovering from a form of Hodgkin's Disease that forced him to miss a year of work, told platform committee members how important the Family and Medical Leave Act - which was shepherded through Congress by the Clinton Administration seven years ago - was to him. If the measure had not passed, the councilman says, his health insurance company might have been able to dramatically increase the premiums he paid due to his illness."After I spoke, [Al Gore for President Campaign Manager] Donna Brazil pulled me aside and asked if I would be interested in speaking in L.A. at the national convention," explained Ramos excitedly Monday morning. "She told me that she wanted me to say exactly what I said in Cleveland, only maybe expand on it a little. Because in Cleveland I had about one and a half minutes, but I might get a little more time at the convention."
The 26-year-old first term councilman said that he was passionate about this issue because it is an example of a political action that directly impacts his life and the lives of thousands of others Americans in similar circumstances.
"This is something that I directly benefited from and it probably would not have been around if it were not for the Clinton Administration," he explained.
Ramos was in Cleveland as one of five representatives from the state of New Jersey charged with adopting a formal Democratic platform that outlines the party's policy positions in anticipation of the November elections. The 4th Ward councilman said that he was tapped for the assignment by County Executive Robert Janiszewski.
Before passing the platform Saturday night, delegates debated the merits of 75 proposed amendments that tinkered with the party's policies relating to a wide variety of subjects ranging from missile defense systems to education.
"It was exciting because we were debating issues that Al Gore is going to run on," said the councilman.
Charter schools were a topic of hot debate. Ramos said that he pushed for language in the platform that would increase funding to charter schools, thereby decreasing the pressure that local municipalities face to contribute to their operating expenses.
"Even though we were debating national policy, I believe that these are things that will affect Hoboken," said Ramos. "One of the things that I found was that a lot of people in other parts of the country are dealing with the same sorts of issues that we are. I was talking to people in California who have a lot of the same difficulties that we have here."
Even if he does not speak at the convention, Ramos says that he is planning on attending the event. Other New Jersey platform delegates were Caren Rosenberg, an attorney from Montclaire, Michael Beson, the former mayor of Neptune, Michelle Everest, a campaign coordinator for Jon Corzine for Senate, and James St. Claire, a civic activist from South Jersey.
Quite a year
Twenty-six-year-old City Councilman Ruben Ramos Jr. has had a year to remember. Since last May he has been elected to serve on the City Council, developed cancer, undergone treatments for cancer, and become engaged to be married, and now he may speak at the Democratic Party's National Convention in Los Angeles.
"I'm 26 but I feel like I am 56 mentally because I have gained so much wisdom in my experiences on the council and fighting this disease," said Ramos this week.
After spending the last year at home fighting a cancer of the lymph nodes known as Hodgkin's Disease, Ramos says that he is anxious to get back his full-time job - teaching writing to eighth graders at the No. 15 school in Patterson.
In late July, the councilman got the word from his doctors that the tumors that had formed in his neck, due to the cancer, had been wiped out by the six months of aggressive chemotherapy treatments he underwent.
"I was very worried because even after getting my last chemotherapy treatment I still felt some lumps in my neck," Ramos explained. "But the chemotherapy still works for two or three months after you get your last treatment. When the bumps went down I was really relieved."
Now that his cancer appears to be behind him, Ramos says that he anxious to spend his time focusing on teaching, serving as a city councilman and planning his wedding to Hoboken resident Norma Parra. The couple has not yet set a date.
"I feel good," he said. "Really, really, really good."