My Pledge for A Day for Democracy

Oct 01, 2020

By Robert K. Coughlin, President & CEO, MassBio

I’ve devoted much of my life to public service and was actively involved in school and town politics at a young age. At age 20, I became the youngest member of Dedham’s School Committee. A few years later, I became the youngest member of Dedham’s Board of Selectmen and served as both Vice Chair and Chair of the Board.

Town politics came naturally, and I knew I had found my calling. With two little children and one on the way, I decided to run for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, vying for my chance to represent the 11th Norfolk District, including my hometown of Dedham. Life was good. I was leading the race and nothing could get in my way. Then I got some news that changed my life forever – the baby my wife was carrying was going to be born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a rare and fatal genetic disease. I had a decision – either leave politics and find a steady job to support my family or stay in politics and do what I could to improve the chances of a healthy life for my son.

I stayed in the race, won, and committed my term to doing what I could to strengthen the life sciences ecosystem in Massachusetts so that the companies who were researching and developing therapies and cures for patients like my son, who had little or no treatment options, could thrive. As a three-term state representative, and then Undersecretary of Economic Development for Governor Deval Patrick, I prioritized both healthcare and economic development issues and was an advocate for the life sciences industry in Massachusetts. I realized quickly that government could play a major role in fostering or hampering innovation – so I fought for sound policies that could support the growth of the industry. And it paid off. Seventeen years later, there is now a treatment that works for my son, and Massachusetts is unequivocally the best place in the world for the life sciences. 

My story is an example of the power of civic participation. It is an illustration of the influence one can have by simply using their voice to create change. And it’s not about partisanship or left versus right, it’s about supporting our democracy by exercising your civic duty in something as involved as running for office or as simple as voting in our upcoming elections.

This is why I took the pledge for A Day for Democracy, a privately funded, non-partisan initiative to bring together a coalition of CEOs to promote democracy. This initiative joins a growing number of non-partisan efforts lead by businesses and employers across the U.S. that recognize the importance of encouraging civic engagement and voter participation across all levels of government. For me, that means making it as easy as possible for my employees to vote so that they can be active participants in our democracy, which is why I’m closing MassBio for Election Day. It’s an effort to ensure there are no barriers to voting and although it’s a small step, it’s also a meaningful one.

I encourage every CEO to consider taking the pledge for A Day for Democracy. Our future is only as bright as we make it. Learn more:

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