Harvey Weisenberg―a lifeguard, teacher, policeman, and eventually a New York politician, who quietly made a difference in the lives of millions of children and adults with special needs. In the summer of 1965, Harvey, a lifelong resident of Long Beach, New York, met two people who would make a profound impact on his life: Ellen Laufer and her seven-year-old son, Ricky, who had been born with cerebral palsy and was severely disabled. That day at the Coral Reef Beach Club in Lido Beach, where Harvey worked as a lifeguard, was the beginning of a love story that continues to this day. Not only did Harvey fall in love with Ellen, he also fell in love with Ricky, who introduced him to the challenges of both children with special needs and their families. Through this relationship, Harvey found his life’s mission.
“I was brought up surrounded by a loving family who taught me these values:
to be healthy, to be fair, and to give happiness to others.”
“I don’t think of myself as a politician. In fact, I hate politics. I don’t have the patience for how government works. When I see a situation where the government clearly has an opportunity—and an obligation—to fulfill a need, then I think we should provide money to satisfy that need. I don’t worry about whether it’s going to get me more or fewer votes. I’ve been elected time and again because the people who vote for me see that I fight for what’s right.
“What I learned about Long Beach and myself during all those years working multiple jobs with people of all ages was the ability to understand the diversity of people’s needs... I had direct contact with the diverse population of Long Beach. This awakened me to the priorities of what is really necessary to have a happy life... Every person that I met in Long Beach was like a person in my family. They became a part of my life and to this day I still feel that way.”
Lifeguard and Police Officer
“Lifeguarding requires the ability to understand what the ocean is all about and to treat it with the respect it deserves... From all this comes an intimate knowledge of the ocean and the beach as a source of beauty, power and even of life itself.”