The year 2008 set a lot of things in motion for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
As the financial world crumbled, and she was studying international relations and economics at BU, Ocasio-Cortez (CAS’11) lost her dad to lung cancer and saw her family devastated by financial hardship. It would prove to be a pivotal time in her life, one that ultimately played a role in her election a decade later to the US House of Representatives and led to Time magazine naming her to its 2019 list of the world’s most influential people. At the age of 29.
“She watched as our government bailed out Wall Street while it ignored families like hers,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) writes of Ocasio-Cortez in Time. And referring to the college debt the freshman congresswoman had accrued: “She learned the hard way that in America today, Washington protects the powerful while leaving hardworking people behind.”
As hard as AOC, as she is now commonly known, has worked since her election last November, the first-generation Puerto Rican American has also been a lightning rod for criticism from the political right, and even from some in her own party. She’s been chided for “fuzzy math” and mistakes on budgetary numbers, she’s acknowledged that she rolled out a plan for what she called the Green New Deal too quickly, and she’s been criticized by fellow Democrats for failing to fall in with the party line and for touting her democratic socialist views. Gaffes like incorrectly describing the branches of government didn’t help her either.
And yet, Ocasio-Cortez was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and she ran a campaign that didn’t take corporate money. She pushed forward the Green New Deal and has taken on huge issues, from social injustice, sexism, and Medicare for all to criminal justice and immigration reforms.
Partly because of her aggressive use of social media, Ocasio-Cortez has become somewhat of a media darling, appearing on a previous cover of Time and making Vanity Fair’s New Establishment list. Her activism dates back to her days at BU, where she was a leading student ambassador for the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground. She returned to campus last October to speak to students, urging them to become activists for social justice despite the odds.
One thing seems certain: the Democrats will need her as they head into the 2020 election. “She reminds all of us that even while greed and corruption slow our progress, even while armies of lobbyists swarm Washington, in our democracy, true power still rests with the people,” Warren writes in her essay. “And she’s just getting started.”
The Time 100 list is broken into five categories: Ocasio-Cortez is among those in the “Leaders” section, along with President Trump and Robert Mueller; “Pioneers” includes actress Sandra Oh and model Chrissy Teigen; “Artists” contains Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke; “Icons” includes names like Michelle Obama and Christine Blasey Ford; and among the “Titans” is Tiger Woods and Lebron James.