How the Newly Sworn-In Women of Congress are Transforming Our Country's Future

On November 6, 2018, history was made across the country. The 2018 midterm elections will go down in history for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most notable aspects of the election is that a record number of women were elected to Congress. In case that wasn’t enough history-making for one election, many of those women were also of color, making this the most diverse class of Congress in history.

In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress. In the last election, 131 women were elected to Congress. From here, we will only move forward. Ideally, men and women would hold an equal number of seats in Congress, and I believe we will get there someday. A future in which men, women, and non-binary people are treated and represented equally is possible, and I cannot wait to live in that world.

The newest members of Congress were sworn in on January 3, 2019 – just days after the longest government shutdown in history went into effect. Even before they were sworn in, a few members of the new class began making waves on Capitol Hill and in the media after being elected as members of Congress.

 

 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - often referred to as AOC on social media - is serving the Bronx and Queens district of New York. In the short months since the election, she has become a force to be reckoned with. Although many have tried to tear her, she takes each hit with stride and even embraces them whenever she can.

Her background is one that resonates with a majority of people living in the U.S., which only makes her more relatable for people of all kinds. Since taking a seat in the House, she has shared her journey on social media, making Instant Pot mac ‘n’ cheese on Instagram live streams and Tweeting about her struggles to afford interim housing in Washington D.C. immediately following the election.

Just a few days ago, AOC shared some self-care tips on her Instagram story. From skin-care routines to encouraging her followers to buy matching pajamas, she never fails to highlight the fact that she is just like the rest of us. One of her answers to a question asked by a follower included tips on helping lessen stress by focusing on what really matters instead of trying to tackle every issue at once. If it works for a U.S Congresswoman, it’s bound to work for the rest of us, right?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of my biggest inspirations. Her hard work ethic and strong personality shine through in everything she does, and she is setting a wonderful example of how to handle negativity with grace while still remaining true to herself. From her presence on social media to her plans and goals for her time in office, she is everything that I aspire to be.

Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland

Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Davids is representing Kansas in the House, and Haaland is representing New Mexico.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

These women are the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, and will be representing Minnesota and Michigan respectively in the House. Omar also became the first woman in Congress to wear a hijab, as well as the first Somali-American woman to hold a seat in Congress.

 

 

Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar

Before this election, no Latina women had ever represented Texas in Congress. Considering that 40 percent of voters in Texas are Hispanic or Latinx, it is shocking that it took this long to elect Latina women to represent Texas in the House.

Kyrsten Sinema

Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual Senator in history. She was also sworn into office using a law book that holds a copy of the United States Constitution instead of a religious document, like most other representatives do. In addition, she is also the first female to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate.

 

 

Why representation matters

From magazines to TV shows to history books, it’s important that girls grow up seeing themselves represented in the forms of media that they are exposed to. Growing up, I never really had a connection to my political leaders because they were predominantly male. However, now, as women are winning more seats in the House and the Senate, and we have the opportunity to show young girls that they, too, can hold those seats one day. Right now – more urgently than ever – it’s important that we show children that no matter their gender, race, religion or sexuality, they are capable of achieving anything that they set their minds to.

Running for Congress is one of my life goals. My whole existence, I have struggled to find something that I want to be or do when I “grow up.” In recent years, I have finally discovered a path that I believe will serve others and myself well over the course of my life.

I have always had a love for helping others and fighting to make the world a better place, but I’ve recently discovered that I also have a heart for activism and want to make my voice heard. This is something that has changed in me since starting college, and I think it is one of the best things that could have happened to me. Now, if I have the opportunity to use my voice to initiate some positive change in the world, then I will stop at nothing to do so.

The midterm elections lit a fire within me. I practically shouted from the rooftops telling people to make sure they voted and make sure their voices were heard. It’s our civic duty to exercise our right to vote, and I made sure to remind everyone (and I mean everyone) to do so.

Not only that, but the number of women of color that were elected showed me that nothing is impossible. Although we are well past the time that diversity should naturally occur in the government, we must continue to work toward ensuring that government officials accurately represent the people of our country.

At one point, white men overran every branch of the government. Now, while some may argue this is still the case, I see the amount of diversity within the government as a beautiful opportunity and a road to change. Our leaders must represent the people of the United States, who are all incredibly diverse and unique. Let’s just say that white men will no longer suffice when it comes to all of our decision-making. We need people of all qualifications, upbringings, backgrounds, genders, religions and ethnicities in order to truly meet the needs of the American people. 

This new group of Congresswomen possesses all of the aforementioned qualities, and they are doing so with poise and passion. They are not allowing their voices to be silenced in this world where women are still often seen as inferior, and they are setting the standard for what it means to be a woman in office. It is truly empowering to be able to witness this incredible moment in history where diversity is finally making its way to Capitol Hill. As a young Latina woman, I only hope to be able to add to the diversity in Congress myself one day.