Opinion: One Norwalk Boomer’s perspective on AOC

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (Wikimedia Commons)

How did a 29-year-old capture the curiosity of a nation?  A freshman congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, appeared on the covers of Time Magazine and Vanity Fair in her first semester in office. What is in us — and what is in her — to bubble into such controversies that catch our collective attention?  She, the communication virtuoso (Bloomberg Businessweek) of/for the millennium generation, is telling her elders something. We might want to listen.

Here’s one Baby Boomer’s perspective on what AOC is about.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2007 competed in the high school Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and placed as one of four second-place winners in the microbiology category. (Her research was on the effect of antioxidants on roundworms.)  Close to 1,500 students from 46 countries competed.  This academic excellence gave her a path to Boston University. At first, she majored in Microbiology and then, intrigued by larger biosystems and ecosystems, she skipped to economics, earning a degree in economics. While in college, she interned at Ted Kennedy’s office. In 2015-16 she worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The Democratic presidential defeat of 2016 deflated many young spirits. AOC and a few friends decided it was time for a road trip. They headed west, stopping at Flint, Michigan, and ending at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. In both places, she listened to folks who were experiencing injustices, which were tangled in environmental concerns of clean water. The experience at Standing Rock, where Native Americans and phalanxes of environmentalists pushed back to protect lands from oil pipes, stirred a sense of moral justice in AOC. She came home to New York, feeling she must do something.

Meanwhile, a group called Justice Democrats had put out a call for young progressives to nominate people they hoped might get involved in a political path to right injustices: economic, environmental and social. The request was that the nominees have a track record of putting the common good first. Social workers, nurses, doctors, community organizers. In sum, people lacking political connections but full of moral ideals. Alexandria’s brother Gabriel nominated her.

AOC went to the interviews and was accepted. Justice Democrats offered the nominees training in how to run a campaign on key injustice issues and on fundraising via small donations, bypassing the corporate PAC sponsorship trap. Justice Democrats had strategically identified primaries where moderate Democrats were at risk. The work was to increase the number of folks voting, not to convert voters for the incumbent. Door-to-door work. She wore out her shoes walking and talking in her district. She posted a photo of them on her Instagram account.

AOC has been interviewed tens of times, her comments revealing her deep affection for: Lincoln, FDR,and MLK Jr. What surprised me in the hours I spent viewing her interviews on YouTube was her working knowledge of history. She stands on the shoulders of Lincoln, FDR, MLK and Teddy Kennedy, and acknowledges them often. She aims for a moral society where dignity and “pursuit of happiness” abide; all mainstream in the American progressive political thread.

She is unswervingly dedicated to speaking up for the American working class and the poor. “Start the Green New Deal with fully funding the pensions and health care for the coal miners. Start something,” she says.  “An entire generation [hers], came of age and never saw [middle class] American prosperity,” she says. “I have never seen that, or experienced that in my adult lifetime.”

AOC sees through a Millennial’s lens the 2008 financial crash, soaring student debt, flat wages for middle and lower classes, and political priority differences – which she claims are not ideological but generational. Her generation feels an urgency to save the planet (Green New Deal) and an urgency to restore dignity for all Americans (Medicare for All and Economic Justice).

This young congresswoman’s articulation of governing priorities addressing social, economic, environmental, and medical injustices may be just the history lesson we Boomers need to hear.


Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig, a Norwalk native and resident, taught science at Ponus Middle School in Norwalk and Middlesex Middle School in Darien. Currently she mentors science teachers in the public K-12 Special Music School in NYC.







Bridget P April 21, 2019 at 3:19 pm

I am no fan of Ocasio-Cortes- she is a hard core socialist looking to uproot the free society and does not deserve glorification. Her climate change agenda is a means to expand government into every facet of our lives. One needs to look no further than Venezuela’s outcome if her governmental beliefs were to ever be implemented. . . we must cherish and protect our free markets and not model the country with proven and failed policies.

Norwalk Lost April 21, 2019 at 8:16 pm

AOC is perhaps one of the worst elected representative to ever serve and should resign. Her ignorance and stupidity about our capitalist system was underscored by her tantrum and ultimate harassment of Amazon which deterred one of the largest corporations from establishing a secondary headquarters. This would have undoubtedly benefited CT let alone her district.

The bigger question is why are educators holding her out in high regard and indoctrinating students with the propaganda she espouses? It is no wonder many of our young have become radicalized.

Steve April 21, 2019 at 9:34 pm

She’s the Horatio Alger story with a twist since she doesn’t shy away from the limelight. I sometimes get put off by her willingness to be in the klieg lights but she’s incredibly bright , hard working and doesn’t get intimidated . She wasn’t born on third base with a silver spoon in her mouth worked her way thru college, despite her youth she’s gotta strong resume. When they tried to make fun of her dance video, she danced, when a ky congressman tried to embarrass her by offering to have her meet coal miners she offered to come down and he ran off scared . Universal health care, why not? every other developed country In the world has it. 70% marginal tax bracket- yup that commie pinko Dwight d. Eisenhower supported it. Clearly fox likes her since she’s their favorite arch villain so that moves her up a notch or two in my book

Steve Mann April 22, 2019 at 9:37 am

The writer is urged to do as much research on the effects of socialism on a free society as she’s done on AOC’s background. All I see is a report about what she’s showed up for, not what’s she’s contributed.

She would do well to look below the surface at Justice Democrats, an organization with a highly socialist approach to reform. She might find that JD is a newly formed PAC, which seeks out legislative districts with weak voter turnout in minority areas, in order to advance progressive candidates to Congress. They succeeded with over 20 seats gained in 2018, with the help of a surpressed Mueller report, but failed to gain one swing seat, meaning that they failed to influence any seats in voter-active areas with strong party affiliation. Why? None of her plans are realistic in any sense. Bills don’t get paid by being “morally right”.

While Ocasio-Cortez has been highly vocal while campaigning, and thereafter, and managed to win a seat where her opponent was asleep at the wheel, the issuing of Participation Awards is largely to blame for a lost generation, of which she is a part. Please let’s not give her kudos for showing up and having spunk.

Claire Schoen April 22, 2019 at 10:45 am

Like her or not, she’s young, she’s passionate, and it’s time for the older generation to cede some room at the table. Let’s give the Millenials a chance to solve some of problems that we haven’t been able to. As one 30-something recently said to me “It would be nice to have people who will be alive in 2055 working on climate change policy.” Hear, hear.

John ONeill April 22, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Steven Mann: You are right on! Think about this – Bernie Sanders did not have a full time job until he was 40 Years old!! I give AOC credit for her passion and her ability to BS her way thru a job she’s not ready for. Holy Cow! She owes NYC $ 27 Billion Dollars over the next 10 years. How is she going to pull that off? A quick ride thru Long Island City will tell you all you need to know. It’s a dilapidated area that could’ve used Amazon effect. She may have deep affection for MLK,Lincoln and FDR…So what? So does anyone with half a brain. Her positions are headline grabbers, and not much else. One should realize Green Policies are not always Green. Geez,as a Science teacher I would think you would understand that..I can go on and on, but I actually have to get to work. It is my hope that millennials one day grow up and understand the life is all about getting back to basics..It is my hope I didn’t offend anyone, as it was not my intent. After all, it’s important to be politically correct in the current culture we find ourselves.

Peter Torrano April 22, 2019 at 5:43 pm

Interesting attempt to normalize AOC in the eyes of so many who think her the vapid soul she is. Lots of glowing words and name dropping.

So, she stands on the shoulders of Ted Kennedy. Had Mary Jo Kopechne done the same when Mr. Moral Justice left her to drown it might well have been she who lived and Teddy who perished.

Or, had the thousands of Japanese Americans the racist FDR imprisoned stood on his shoulders, they may not have been sent to camps away from their homes that were guarded by armed soldiers. But at least he kept the families together, as opposed to the policy initiated under Obama and continued under Trump.

Then our enlightened heroine stands with native Americans at Standing Rock and learns all about moral justice. As a way of leading in the effort to help those Americans why does she not do the right thing? Why don’t all people who give voice to their plight do the right thing. We, meaning white Americans of course, stole their lands and hunting grounds. Give it back. Lead the way. Move from your home, your town or city and hand the keys over to them. Go first, AOC and show us the way. Exhibit your moral justice for all to see. Don’t just moan about it. Do it. Then maybe all others will follow.

Lincoln is arguably the greatest president we’ve ever had, next to Carter and Obama, of course. However, even he suspended habious corpus during the civil war, going against what our constitution demands of our justice system. He also advocated for the repatriation of freed slaves to Africa. He did free the slaves and saved the Union, but wanted them back on a boat. He must have assumed they didn’t want to take any land away from the native Americans.

And she got her degree in economics. Wow! In her words: Like, I mean it’s not expensive to give away free things. That’s, like, what free means! No money! I, like got my degree in economics, so I, like know these things. And, I, like, always got the change right when I was, like, you know, tending bar.

As a Baby Boomer myself, I’m, like, you know, not impressed.

Jeffrey Miller April 22, 2019 at 7:23 pm

Long Island City is far from a dilapidated area. It is a very hot real estate market,even before Amazon . It has a very large and thriving arts community.Silvercup Studios is located in the former home of Silvercup Bakery’s.Brooks Brothers makes 1.5 million ties a year in LIC. Jet Blue is headquartered there.
Next time don’t just take a quick ride around LIC and declare it dilapidated. It’s a thriving area,Norwalk should be so lucky

Mitch Adis April 22, 2019 at 9:28 pm

She’s hot. That’s what matters most. Otherwise, she’s a train wreck of a politician. Dems like her will destroy the Democratic Party moving forward. That’s a good thing. Ultimately will save this country.

Christine A. Japely April 23, 2019 at 3:08 am

Excellent piece! I’m a boomer, too, and I agree completely. We are lucky to have AOC and other young progressive activists in congress.

Young people aren’t afraid of the word “socialism,” thank goodness.

Steve Mann April 23, 2019 at 6:03 am

Remember the scene in “Independence Day” when all the crazies in Los Angeles flocked to the roof of a high rise to greet and welcome the aliens? Going up?

John ONeill April 23, 2019 at 10:11 am

Regarding Long Island City, dilapidated may have been too strong of a word..Crime ridden/shootings/murders — a simple search on google news and Long Island City Crime will give you a sense of LIC. I’m glad Norwalk isn’t so lucky…

Piberman April 23, 2019 at 10:12 am

Once upon a time we sought to elect public officials with significant accomplishments in the private and public sectors well versed in politics. Now the media bereft of practicing old fashioned Journalism seeks out “newbees” who delight in expressing their lack of experience and knowledge. Lucky us.

Maybe AOC will become popular in Norwalk – CT’s only City that ever elected a former Police Chief as Mayor and college student as Common Council member.

chris redfield April 24, 2019 at 10:36 pm

Can all the old generation die off already? They are most resistance to any meaningful change. It’s whats holding back America. So out of touch in today’s world. All they do is rant on internet forums. Thanks.

John ONeill April 25, 2019 at 8:48 am

Chris Redfield: Your post if tremendous satire, I hope. You seem to be passively ranting and wishing old people ill will. Isn’t that politically incorrect? Or is it satire? The biggest mistake some of the older people have made is creating a soft culture that doesn’t have the patience to look past a headline to the root of a story or policy. To those who aren’t able to do that, I’d recommend less time with video games and more time with a book or two. I wish everyone a long life and well thought out tantrums on forums. The key three words here are “well thought out”

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