Inspiring Thursday: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office. I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. Mother from Puerto Rico, dad from the South Bronx. I was born to a place where your zip code determines your destiny. My name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I’m an educator, an organizer, working class New Yorker. I’ve worked with expectant mothers, I’ve waited tables, led classrooms, and going into politics wasn’t in the plan. But after 20 years of the same representation, we have to ask: who has New York been changing for? Every day gets harder for working families like mine to get by.”

This was the speech Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote herself to announce that she’d be running for Congress. She also ran a low-budgeted campaign, where she raised around $200,000 mainly through small contributions and videos shot with the help of her family and volunteers. A year before, she was working tables. That was the only thing to do after her family went through an economic crisis due to the death of Alexandria’s father, made it worse by the 2007- 2008 financial recession.

But that wasn’t the only hard time for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: for her and her people even getting an education is not guaranteed. She could get to the Boston University thanks to scholarships, student loans and work-study income that she collected. This required of course a lot of hard work, but looking back we can be so inspired by the kind of scholarships she earned: Intel awarded her for her strong performance in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, then she received a John F. Lopez Fellowship from the National Hispanic Institute (NHI).  Ocasio-Cortez became involved with the NHI since high school and her leadership potential and commitment to serving the Latino community was rapidly acknowledged.  What she did was contributing to this nonprofit organization that provides learning experiences to students to shape talents and create future leaders for the Latino community in the United States.

During college, she was already doing politics, working for Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts on immigration issues, and she was an organizer for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. In the meantime, she was completing her studies successfully, and graduated “cum laude” in International Relations and Economics.

In 2018, the year where she presented herself as a “woman who wasn’t supposed to run for office”, she unexpectedly won the Democratic Party’s primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district on June 26. She became the youngest women ever elected to Congress.

Getting more recognition, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought to the spotlight serious issues relating human rights, such as the horrifying conditions immigrants live in facilities at the US-Mexico border. Immigration rights, alongside Medicare for everyone, universal jobs guarantee and criminal justice reform are at the center of her campaign. And there’s even more: a Green New Deal legislation involving drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ambition, transparency and real commitment make her our inspiring woman of this Thursday!

Written by WAVE intern: Fabiola Adamo