Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), as you may already know, was the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
Like many people, I am completely in awe of this telegenic and photogenic, progressive superstar. As a matter of fact, I have never considered a politician “my hero” before she came along.
Sure, I liked a few in my life, but when Ocasio-Cortez defeated a 10-term incumbent in 2018, I could feel a stirring in the deepest part of my soul. She lit a fire inside of me that I was convinced had been extinguished two years earlier.
How do I love this Congresswoman? Let me count the ways:
She is super intelligent. Knowing full well that she didn’t have much of a chance at winning her election by trying to change the minds of New York’s moderate voters, she set out expanding the electorate. The plan—obviously—worked. To paraphrase Charlotte Alter in Time magazine, she wasn’t interested in “flipping seats;” she was interested in “winning hearts and minds.”
She is compassionate and wholehearted. As she campaigned in 2016, it was apparent that she was only interested in being a voice for the voiceless and a fighter for the marginalized. It was this authentic lack of ego that propelled her and inspired the cynical and disenfranchised to register to vote and put her in office. If you think about it, theoretically, it is what public office was always meant to be.
She’s a star (literally). You may not know this, but in high school, she won second place in the microbiology category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and because of this, MIT Lincoln Library named an asteroid after her. Not impressed? She also graduated Cum Laude from Boston University.
She has energized her peers. Millennials have taken the brunt of a lot of unfair press. Painted as entitled, lazy, and living on their parents’ couches by many political pundits, this group needed someone to stand up for them and declare how “badass” they really are. Even though Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (A.O.C.) created a media firestorm by doing so, she did it anyway.
The Bernie Sanders endorsement. Whether you agree with Sanders or not, her endorsement illustrated important aspects of her ideology: Ocasio-Cortez is about policy more than she is about gender, age, or reputation. Many of her followers were terribly upset about her choice. I think it proved where her heart really lies—healthcare for all, seriously addressing climate change, and a better quality of life for the working class. Optics be damned!
Possibility over practicality. After the 2016 election cycle, I am not so sure I believe that it’s safe in the middle of the road. Perhaps her ideas are impractical. Some may even argue that they are fiscally impossible; however, I have always been a firm believer that anything is possible when one is armed with the courage of their convictions.
She is the perfect role model for young women. During a talk to a group of young ladies at a “Girls Who Code” conference in New York, she explained that “being brave opens up way more possibilities than just being perfect.” As she explained her own personal experience of being scrutinized by the press since taking office, she went on to explain that she’s made a few missteps along the way, and little by little, she is starting to “roll with it.” Laughing, she expanded on this by joking, “Guess what…I made a mistake—deal with it.”
The Green New Deal. The importance of backing this piece of legislation can not be understated. In one respect, it addresses climate change more aggressively than it has ever been addressed before, and it incorporates the problem of income inequality. It hasn’t garnered much support from either party at this point, but who better to fight for an underdog bill than the world’s most famous underdog?
All in all, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is, what I would like to believe, a peek into the future. It seems like an understatement to declare that our democracy has reached a tenuous point. The basic foundation of our country’s constitution is being tested almost daily. Although there seems to be no shortage of people sitting behind computers typing mean things on Twitter, I’m not terribly certain that is helping right now.
I love this person because she is out there asking the questions no one else has the guts to ask, fighting the fight that no one else is fighting. Whether you agree with her ideology or not, you have to admit that she is doing something, and I find it…well, heroic.