American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched her bid for Congress while tending bar. She kept her campaign supplies in a paper bag behind the bar and canvassed the neighborhood on breaks. In November of 2018 she won the election and prepared to move to Washington, D.C. to represent her constituents in the Bronx and Queens.
Early Life and Education
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born October 13, 1990, in the Bronx, New York. She was a first-generation Puerto Rican American. Her mother was from Puerto Rico, while her father was from the South Bronx.
Ocasio-Cortez attended Boston University, studying economics and international relations. In college she was active, serving as president of the Latin American student organization Alianza Latina. She also served as a student ambassador at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, which works to develop inclusiveness among varied members of the student body. She studied abroad in Niger, and from 2008 to 2009 worked in the office of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. During this time, she also worked multiple jobs in restaurants to help her family pay the bills because her father was ill with cancer. He died in 2008. As a senior, she gave a speech at the campus's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2011.
Activist and Entrepreneur
She founded the Brook Avenue Press, a literature publishing house, in 2011 through the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, a local startup network. She worked as the educational director of the National Hispanic Institute (NHI), which named her its social entrepreneur in residence. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Ocasio-Cortez worked as an organizer for candidate Bernie Sanders. She also worked as a bartender at Flats Fix near Union Square.
Threw Her Hat into the Ring
In 2018 she used the skills she developed working on campaigns to challenge U.S. Democratic Representative Joseph Crowley for his seat in Congress. Ocasio-Cortez, who ran as a Democratic Socialist, defeated the ten-term Congressional member in the primary. Her progressive platform advocated for Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, and free college for all. She also called for gun control, an end to private prisons, and the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
Ocasio-Cortez opposed ICE because she saw it as a military unit that treated immigrants as criminals. "What we're basically saying is that the structure of ICE--in a similar manner as the structure of the Patriot Act--is kind of built on a scaffolding of questionable civil liberties infringement and abuse," she told NPR. "So what we're really talking about is reimagining immigration to be humane, in a way that is transparent and accountable." Weeks after the primary, she was in Texas joining a protest at an ICE child detention facility.
In November of 2018 Ocasio-Cortez defeated Republican Anthony Pappas, a professor, in the election. She was elected to represent New York's 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. With her victory, the 29-year-old became the youngest woman elected to Congress.
Continued to Speak Out
With the notoriety she gained from her win and outspoken ways, Ocasio-Cortez was targeted by many conservatives. Some ridiculed her when she said that she could not afford an apartment in Washington, D.C., when she was preparing for her new position. Housing affordability was another pillar of her platform, and she spoke about the housing struggles of ordinary people, including her neighbors.
Ocasio-Cortez noted that throughout much of her campaign, she was tending bar to support herself and saving as much as she could. In November of 2018 she said that she hoped her savings would carry her through until she was working in Congress. According to CNBC, she said, "Many members of Congress were born into wealth, or they grew up around it. How can you legislate a better life for working people if you've never been a working person? Try living with the anxiety of not having health insurance for three years when your tooth starts to hurt. It's this existential dread. I have that perspective. I feel like I understand what's happening electorally because I have experienced it myself."
Addresses: Home--NY. Web site--ocasio2018.com.
- "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Championed Social Justice at Boston University," Boston Globe, https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2018/06/27/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-championed-social-justice-boston-university/hijSs266a6aQe6cSR1E1uI/story.html (December 10, 2018).
- "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is the Youngest Woman Ever Elected to Congress--She Still Can't Afford an Apartment in D.C.," CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/08/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-cant-afford-to-rent-an-apartment-in-dc.html (December 10, 2018).
- "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Biography," Vote Smart, https://votesmart.org/candidate/biography/180416/alexandria-ocasio-cortez#.XASEmoFKg3E (December 10, 2018).
- "Conservatives Fear Latinos and Socialism. They Are Terrified of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," New York Magazine, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/11/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-latina-socialist.html (December 10, 2018).
- "Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Defeats Republican Anthony Pappas in NYC," ABC7, https://abc7ny.com/politics/democrat-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-elected-to-house/4635069/ (December 10, 2018).
- "The Surprising Entrepreneurial Roots of the Democrats' Rising Star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," Inc., https://www.inc.com/zoe-henry/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-surprising-entrepreneurial-roots-run-for-congress.html (December 10, 2018).
- "Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?" National Public Radio (NPR), https://www.npr.org/2018/06/27/623752094/who-is-alexandria-ocasio-cortez (December 10, 2018).