Sam Bernstein staff writer
Adults love to tell young people that they can be whatever they want to be in life. Often times that advice is overlooked and deemed as cliché; however, the success of Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) seems to be the prime example of how a little self confidence can go a long way. Regardless of how you feel about a 70 percent marginal tax rate, abolishing ICE and library tumblers, her election to Congress is a win for America’s youth.
Ocasio-Cortez, who is commonly known as “AOC” on social media, is the Representative of New York’s 14th congressional district, which includes the eastern part of the Bronx and north-central Queens. She is the youngest current member of Congress at the age of 29, as well as the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress.
She ran in the Democratic primary against incumbent Joe Crowley (D-NY). Ocasio-Cortez was a relative unknown to the American political scene, and Crowley was projected to win the election by a landslide. She only accepted small, mostly local donations, and was outspent by Crowley by over 5-1. On top of all of that, throughout the campaign, she worked a day job as a bartender and canvassed whenever her shifts were up. Overcoming these hurdles, she was able to beat Crowley, who had been serving as the Representative of the 14th district since 1999, in one of the biggest primary upsets in U.S. history. Ocasio-Cortez would go on to win in the general election, getting almost 80 percent of the vote in the traditionally Democratic district.
Ocasio-Cortez’s victory against a battle-tested establishment Congressman proved that anyone can run for office one day. Her compassion and genuine interest in her community and her willingness to put her life on hold to follow her dreams is something that every teenager in America can learn from.
Ocasio-Cortez’s perseverance might be the most inspiring part of her story. Her adult life has been riddled with setbacks, from her dad’s death to legal battles over the home she grew up in, and she fought through them to ultimately become the youngest congresswoman ever. She was outspent by millions of dollars by an incumbent who had been re-elected to that seat 10 times and hadn’t been primaried since 2004 and still beat him by 4,000 votes. Her ability to overcome setbacks and stay motivated is exactly the right message for those who are struggling with their own demons.
Even if you aren’t running for Congress, her election into government represents that even as a young person you can make a real impact on the world and that your age can’t dictate the amount of success you have or the impact you can make on your community.
Ocasio-Cortez’s story embodies the world’s changing attitude toward young people. Millennials and Gen-Z’ers are often branded as dependent and lazy, and have often been left out of the political world; but recently, young people have taken the political world by storm. MSD shooting survivors, most notably David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Kyle Kashuv responded to a tragedy by organizing one of the largest protests in U.S. history. Nineteen-year-old Gavin Grimm, a transgender student from Virginia, gained fame through his lawsuit against his school district over their refusal to let him use the men’s restroom. Grimm took his case to the Supreme Court, and won.
Her successful campaign is very representative of how millenials operate. Like the MSD survivors, Ocasio-Cortez utilized social media throughout her campaign, growing her twitter account (@AOC) from 400 followers a year ago to 2.7 million. She has done a lot of good with her Internet platform, as she constantly brings attention to issues that seem to get swept under the rug by the media or ignored by the public. One notable example is when she recently called into a charity Twitch stream with famous video game streamer Hbomberguy to help raise money for Mermaids, a U.K. based charity that supports transgender youth. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to use the platform you’re given. Ocasio-Cortez’s utilization of the Internet and her ability to affect people in real life through her Internet platform is a skill that teenagers should absolutely have.
The most valuable thing to take from Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to stardom is that she is normal. She is as ordinary as the man who fixes your television and the woman who bags your groceries. She is a hard working, truly authentic person who had a lofty goal and did everything she could to achieve it. Her success is a beautiful example of the American dream, and holds as inspiration for any American kid with lofty dreams and aspirations. A win for Ocasio-Cortez is a win for America’s youth.