In Chapter 1 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, New York City Council candidate and public relations executive Ken Biberaj answers "What is the Source of Your Passion for Public Service?" Biberaj shares what he learned from his parents' immigration story, including his father's public service as a radio broadcaster for "Voice of America" in Albania. This teaches Ken that public service matters and informed his education and career decisions to fulfill this intention. Ken Biberaj is currently a 2013 Candidate for New York City Council for the West Side of Manhattan. He is also a public relations executive for the Russian Tea Room restaurant at One Fifty Fifty Seven Corporation, a family business focused on real estate development, investment sales and retail leasing. Previously he was Florida Research Director for the Kerry-Edwards for President Campaign. He holds a JD from New York Law School, a Masters in Public Policy (MPP) from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and a BA in Political Science from American University.
Erik Michielsen: What is the source of your passion for public service?
Ken Biberaj: Well, my parents emigrated from Albania and we ended up in the Bronx. And my dad worked 3 jobs while learning English. He was the oldest of 8 kids. He worked as a pizza man, a doorman, and a cab driver, and went to Columbia. And he got his PhD at Columbia and then came back to get a job for the government in DC at Voice of America. While he was there, he was the head of the Albanian service so he was on-air broadcasting into a communist country and we had no idea if anybody was ever listening to it.
As communism began to crumble in Albania, turned out that everybody was listening to my dad on the radio, so we kind of grew up seeing our father as somebody who had had such an impact on an entire country. So what he was able to do as just one person has always been a source of inspiration for me in understanding that public service matters. You can actually have a real impact on people’s lives.
And because of his work and you know, he’s my dad, and I’m the oldest of 4 kids, I always wanted to kind of emulate what he had done. So I went to American University in DC and tried to get involved locally there. Went on to the Harvard Kennedy School and then worked on a presidential campaign and all the while trying to do what I could to make my community better, but always in the back of my head understanding that we all kind of have an obligation to do public service.