Oh my gosh! Oh my goodness! Thank you all so much.
[Unintelligible] round of applause to the incredible activists – Alexandra Gomez, [unintelligible] Lopez, and Mrs. Jo-Ann Whitehead. [Unintelligible]. Thank you all so much!
I almost cannot believe it, but it is the honor and privilege of my life to be able to say, and to thank you and to thank all of our supporters and organizers, and the people that are residents of the Bronx and Queens, for electing me as your next congresswoman.
We have made history tonight. We have made history on multiple levels. We have elected the first campaign and the first member of Congress from this district to not accept any corporate lobbyist funds, in a generation.
In addition, that 70% people of color, half of them overwhelmingly working class, we have elected the first person of color to ever represent the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District.
And lastly, it is a privilege and an honor to say that we have also elected the youngest woman in American history to serve in Congress.
This is what is possible when everyday people come together in the collective realization that all our actions, no matter how small or how large, are powerful, worthwhile and capable of lasting change.
Words cannot express my gratitude to every organizer, every small dollar donor, every working parent and Dreamer who helped make this movement happen. And that's exactly what this is – not a campaign or an Election Day but a movement, a larger movement for social, economic and racial justice in the United States of America.
When I started this campaign a year ago, I was working in a restaurant in downtown Manhattan, and it wasn't because…and we didn't launch this campaign because I thought I was special or unique or better than anyone else. We launched this campaign because in the absence of anyone giving a clear voice on the moral issues of our time, then it is up to us to voice them.
We launched this campaign because no one was clearly and authentically talking about issues like the corrupting role of money in politics, about the disturbing human rights violations being committed by ICE, by the fact that we had no one was giving voice to the idea and the notion that an entire generation is graduating with crippling loads of student loan debt, a ticking time bomb for our economy.
No one was talking about these issues and when no one talks about them, we have the duty to stand up for what is right.
I think about often times that incredible day on June 26 when despite no attention, despite no media fanfare, despite the fact that no one wanted for us to get the word out on what was going on, we were able to organize everyday people, knocking on our neighbor's door and despite being outspent $4 million – 18 or 13 to 1 – despite the fact that we were running against a 10th term incumbent, despite the fact that it was our first time running for office, despite the fact that we didn't have the money, despite the fact that I'm working class – despite all those things we won.
I think about the excitement that was unleashed on that day, not just in our community, not just a sense of hope, not just a sense and realization that we can organize to enact change – not that it just got unleashed here but it got unleashed across the nation and to our down-ballot candidates to September.
I think about that excitement because what was so interesting to me was that it was not a partisan fight that led to that. It was not a partisan victory that led to the unleashing of that excitement.
Because I think we all know deep down here and across the country that our deepest challenges are not left and right, they are not red and blue – they are top and bottom, they are right and wrong. And that if we are going to turn this ship around as a country, it is not good enough to throw a rock at our neighbor's yard. We need to clean up our own house. That's what we gotta do.
There is nothing inherently noble about protecting a status quo that does not serve the needs of working class Americans. And when we talk about the relentless pursuit of a more perfect union, that in and of itself is a basic commandment to evolve as a nation – to grow better and to be better.
And right now we are, as a nation, is that we have a crooked path and it is time to make that crooked path straight. Right now, it is not good enough and we cannot tolerate the fact that we’re a nation that grows our jails faster than we grow our schools. That we are a nation that builds more empty homes than the people in houses. That we are a nation that fears others more than we welcome them, that we destruct more in conflict than we construct in peace, that we neglect more than we heal. We can do better and we can be better, because a better world is possible.
If we continue to believe that we are a threatened, scarce and limited nation, then that is exactly what we will become. Because right now, in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, our greatest scarcity is not a lack of resources. [crowd groans] Our greatest scarcity is not a lack of resources…. [Ocasio-Cortez sees on a television that Beto O’Rourke has lost his Senate race in Texas]. Oh. I’m sorry, guys. I was like, whoa. Room turned fast. [laughter]
What we need to do as well is realize that these short-term losses do not mean that we have lost in the long run. In 2018 we turned the state of Texas purple. That's what we did this year. That's what we did this year and that is what Beto O’Rourke accomplished this year and that is a great position being going in to 2020. We are going to flip that state in our generation, I’ll tell you that much right now. We will flip Texas – it’s just a matter of time.
We should not be scared. There is never any fight that is too big for us to pick. We proved that this year. Because when we advocate and champion the causes of our neighbors and our economic dignity and come up with an ambitious and innovative plan for our future, there’s no state beyond our grasp and no community beyond victory.
We just need to keep at it, because in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world our greatest scarcity is not a lack of resources, but the absence of political courage and moral imagination.
It is a hollow goal to simply be a rich country that seeks to concentrate wealth. We must also be a good nation, too. We must be a good nation that seeks to invest in and expand the potential of all human beings that live in our borders. We can be that. We can be that country.
In order for us to do that, what we need to do is…. It is not enough to reject the notions of this administration, it is not enough to reject that with which we disagree – we must advance our values and create the world that we seek to live in.
That is why we say, health care is a right. That is why we seek and chart our North Star tuition-free public colleges and universities for all Americans. That is why we say in our lifetime we will dismantle a system of mass incarcerations that target the black and brown. And that is why we say unequivocally an agency that systematically and repeatedly violates human rights cannot be reformed – it must be abolished.
We can be confident that what we are standing up for is what is right, and we will never be ashamed for fighting for what is right. We will never be ashamed for losing in the short term or having a short-term loss in order to have a lifelong gain. We will never be ashamed of that.
These struggles that we are taking on are generational. These struggles that we are taking on are long. These struggles will not be solved in two years or four years. It will take our whole lives. But this is the fight for our lives. This is the fight of our lives.
We need to put everything on the line. We need to make sure we get to 100% renewable energy within 10-15 years. There’s no question about it.
And we don’t ever, ever have to look our grandchildren in the eye and say, “We did not fulfill our potential as a nation and our obligation to future generations because we were too scared.” We cannot do that.
Or because we couldn’t figure out how to pay for it on Day One. We will get there. When we chart our course, we will figure it out. That’s how we got to the moon. That’s how we electrified this nation. That’s how we established Social Security. That’s how we created Medicare. We have done these things.
They will always call the ambitious naïve. They will always call the ambitious uninformed, and radical, and marginalized.
Because we are engaging in a change of the balance of power in this country. And there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. We are fighting to put more power in the hands of everyday working Americans, where it belongs.
And I am so proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you all in that fight. Because today is a milestone, but it is really a beginning. It is truly a beginning. And in order for us to get there – and I believe that we can always get there faster than we think – we have to keep organizing. We cannot stop. Electoral politics is just a tool in a larger toolbox of this movement.
We accomplished something beautiful and great tonight, but we have to keep engaged in our activism, in our organizing, in our educating, because that is what it is going to take. But I believe we will come out of this a better nation because I know that when we look our grandchildren in the eye, we will say, We established a single-payer health care system. We created tuition-free public colleges, and we saved this planet in order for them to live.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.