If you are someone who pays attention to politics, you’ve heard her name. And even if you aren’t following along with all the political happenings in America, there’s a good chance you still know who she is. She’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), and she has quickly been making a name for herself in Washington D.C. for good reason.
Born in New York to a mother from Puerto Rico and a father from the Bronx, AOC is a democratic socialist representing New York’s 14th congressional district. She began gaining widespread recognition after she defeated Congressman Joe Crowley in the 2018 midterm election primaries. Crowley was the district’s 10-term incumbent, so it was a huge shock when Alexandria earned more than 57% of the vote.
Following her midterm win, she went on to defeat Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the general election, winning 78% of the vote. At age 29, she became the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. Her platform is considered unconventional by many, and includes Medicare for all, fully funded public schools, housing as a human right and more.
AOC has turned into a beacon of hope for many young women who dream of getting into the political world. Her passion and strength is second to none, and she continues to fight for what she believes in despite opposition. We can all learn a thing or two from her, so we’ve rounded up some of her best life lessons to date.
Lessons on being a powerful woman
There’s a lot that goes into being a successful woman, and we’ve witnessed AOC do it with class and determination. She’s fighting through a tall glass ceiling, all the while not forgetting where she’s come from. As a role model and a successful woman in government, Alexandria has taught us a lot about what it truly means to feel powerful.
Power doesn’t mean putting yourself first
“My job is to put other people’s needs before my own, not the other way around.”
There’s a saying that goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and Alexandria does not take that responsibility lightly. She does not come from a wealthy background, and prior to beginning her grassroots campaign for Congress, AOC was working as a waitress and bartender to make ends meet. Now that she has the power to make a positive difference in the world, she is determined to do everything that she can to put the people of her community first.
Strive to leave a positive long-term impact
“Our goal is to leave no person behind as we venture into a secure and better future.”
Alexandria is passionate about leaving the world a better place than the way she found it. She has reiterated the fact that any policies or legislation introduced now will take years to go into effect, so she is constantly thinking ahead to how it will impact people in the future.
AOC posted on her Instagram saying, “our goal is to leave no person behind as we venture into a secure and better future,” also mentioning her desire to open the figurative door now so that future generations can walk through them. She’s standing up for the people who have less power than her and is doing hard work now to set them up for success.
Don’t be afraid to lean on others
“Darkness taught me transformation cannot solely be an individual pursuit, but also a community trust."
There were plenty of non-believers when Alexandria started her 2018 campaign. She faced a financial disadvantage and wasn’t taking money from corporations, was challenging a long-time incumbent, and she’s a woman of color that was running for a role in government that has predominantly been held by white males. In her own campaign videos, she even stated, “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” proving that she was aware that the odds were against her.
But that didn’t stop AOC. With the support of her community, she overcame that adversity and won the election. Now with every decision she makes in office, she carries her community with her, sharing that in tough times she leans on them figuratively for strength. Alexandria shared on social media that “darkness taught me transformation cannot solely be an individual pursuit, but also a community trust. We must lean on others to strive on our own.”
Challenge the status quo
“Say out loud what everyone is thinking quietly. Be brave. Shake the table.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is unabashedly herself — she brings a passion about issues to the House of Representatives with a level of enthusiasm that is unmatched. She doesn’t apologize, she doesn’t hold back and she definitely doesn’t take the backseat even when things get uncomfortable.
AOC is challenging the Washington D.C. status quo by being a strong and outspoken woman. Even if it upsets the other side of the aisle and even fellow Democrats, she continues to fight for what she believes in. “Say out loud what everyone is thinking quietly. Be brave. Shake the table,” AOC begins, “And most importantly, stick up for yourself — it’s a service to all who will come after you. Sitting pretty has never gotten us a better world.”
Lessons on being relatable
Even when you hold a position of power, it’s important to remain human. Now that she is an elected member of Congress, Alexandria is still as humble as ever, and shows everyone that it is okay to be vulnerable and ask for help.
Don’t pretend to be perfect
“I keep things raw and honest…I believe public servants do a disservice to our communities by pretending to be perfect. It makes things harder for others who aspire to run someday if they think they have to be superhuman before they even try.”
Often times politicians and other authoritative figures seem to be out of touch with their constituents, and carry with them a persona of perfection. AOC is challenging that norm by showing it is okay to not be perfect all the time, even if you’re constantly in the spotlight. Her hope is that by showing her true colors and self, it will inspire other leaders to do the same.
Be there for the people you care about
“You show up. You give unconditionally.”
There’s been a time in all of our lives where we’ve had to show support for our loved ones. Whether they were going through a rough time, or you stood by them to celebrate momentous occasions, part of life and relationships is standing by someone’s side. That is exactly what AOC does every single day. She stands by her constituents through the good and the bad, and shows all of us what it means to be a compassionate leader.
Even if it’s the unpopular thing for someone to do, she says that no matter what: “You show up. You give unconditionally. You show up when no one is looking and the cameras are off. You offer support when it’s risky, but necessary.”
Always make time for self-care
“We live in a culture where [a nonstop] lifestyle is subtly celebrated as ‘working hard,’ but I will be the first to tell you it’s NOT CUTE and makes your life harder on the other end.”
It seems that everyone is talking about self-care in some capacity these days. Self-care is any activity that takes care of you mental, emotional and physical health, and also is connected to lowering levels of stress and anxiety.
Despite her seemingly impermeable exterior, AOC also understands the importance of taking time for one’s self. Back in December, she tweeted that she was going to be taking a few days to take care of herself before an eventful term in Congress. Not only does she recognize the importance of self-care, but she is also working to destigmatize taking time off or mental breaks in a culture that celebrates hard work and even burn out.
Lessons on being confident
As the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, AOC wears a large target. Politicians tell her not to make waves during her freshman year in the House, and she admits that there are days that she wonders if the haters are right about her. But she has learned a few things on how to stay confident and keep your cool from being thrust into the political spotlight.
Use fear as an advantageous tool
“I’ve used fear as a guiding light instead of a reason to turn off...Fear tells us how to grow. Fear, like a lot of discomfort, forces us to choose: ‘Do I do this, or not?’”
Being the youngest woman ever elected to Congress definitely comes with a fair amount of pressure. Those who serve as members of the House have strict guidelines that they must follow, including rules of decorum which dictate how representatives address other committee members. AOC said that while it can be scary, she has overcome that fear to guide her decision-making. If you ever face a situation that makes you scared or worries you, let that fear help you grow.
Stand up to the people who doubt you
A now-viral video emerged on social media of AOC in her college days at Boston University, where she and classmates are dancing in a Breakfast Club kind of way. Many politicians, particularly those on the other side of the aisle, attempted to embarrass and mock AOC for the old video that resurfaced.
Rather than sweeping it under the rug, Alexandria played to her social media strengths once again to clap back at those who tried to villainize her dance moves. She tweeted saying “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they found out Congresswomen dance too! Have a great weekend everyone :)”, with a video of her dancing to War by Edwin Starr into her new office in Washington.
Never be afraid to be yourself
“Rule number one is to be authentic, be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone that you’re not.”
AOC is known for being both savvy and sassy with her social media accounts, with nearly seven million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram. She shares relatable content, such as cooking dinner on Instagram Live, while talking about issues that her near to heart. She also shares content documenting her political life as a U.S. Representative. Alexandria is so dialed in with social media that she will actually be teaching her fellow Democratic colleagues how to be relatable and engaging on social media.
Her advice to them, which she shared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, is simple. “Rule number one is to be authentic, be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone that you’re not,” AOC explained. While she might be talking about social media personas, it’s definitely a bit of advice we can carry into our everyday life!
Despite becoming a figurative political punching bag, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won’t let anyone stop her or slow her down. Even with what feels like constant criticism from her opposers, AOC stays focused on her goals, representing her people and fighting towards her goals. She is a wonderful role model to women and people everywhere, and we can’t wait to see what life lesson we learn from her next.
Alter, Charlotte. “‘Change Is Closer Than We Think.’ Inside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Unlikely Rise.” TIME, 21 Mar 2019. http://time.com/longform/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-profile/
Bever, Lindsey. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she’s taking a ‘self-care’ break. Here’s what that means.” The Washington Post, 18 Dec. 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2018/12/18/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-says-shes-taking-self-care-break-heres-what-that-means/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bde2a05f524a
Georgiou, Aristos. “Video: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Shares Social Media Rules with Stephen Colbert.” Newsweek, 22 Jan. 2019, https://www.newsweek.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-late-night-stephen-colbert-twitter-instagram-1299677
Ma, Alexandra and Relman, Eliza. “Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the millennial, socialist political novice who’s now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.” Business Insider, 8 Jan. 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/all-about-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-who-beat-crowley-in-ny-dem-primary-2018-6