Representatives Ann McLane Kuster, (D) New Hampshire, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D) New York, Barbara Lee, (D) California, Jahana Hayes, (D) Connecticut, Lauren Underwood, (D) Illinois, and Sheila Jackson-Lee, (D) Texas, sit for a photograph on the House Chamber during the opening of the 116th Congress in the House Chamber in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Grammy award-winning singer Sly Stone said it best, when he sang, “I like everyday people.” And just as this once homeless song writer turned the tide and challenged the music industry, everyday women and men challenged the political system and overwhelmingly won seats in the U.S. Congress and were sworn in this month.
Stone won lawsuits for publishing and composing his own music, after a 25-year battle with the record label, which caused him financial hardships and physical pain. Much like how America has suffered in the past decade, everyday people decided to fight for American’s rights for a better country and opportunity to experience the American dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about in his many speeches and books.
That dream was visualized when an Illinois policy specialist and registered nurse, Lauren Ashley Underwood, 32, was the youngest African American woman ever sworn into office. The Naperville resident has a pre-existing health condition and campaigned on the affordable health care act, paid family leave, and mental health coverage for patients, among other issues. She beat her opponent, Randall M. Hultgren, a four-term congressman, with 52.5% of the vote. The city of Naperville is 86% white. Underwood said she was representing the middle class.
National media covered every step of this former President Barack Obama health policy member. Underwood began working for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010.
Underwood was also one of 55 members sworn-in at the Congressional Black Caucus ceremony on Jan. 3rd, the largest caucus in recent history. Last year there were 49 members. This is the 47th year of the caucus. The group’s focus is to help Blacks, women and people of color to achieve the American dream of success.
Illinois also welcomed freshmen congressmen Sean Casten from Downers Grove and Chicago’s Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. There are now 13 Democratic seats from Illinois in the most diverse congress ever elected in America. There is diversity among races, ages, relationships, professions, religions and cultural beliefs.
Other outstanding women who were highlighted for representing diversity in America’s new congress include:
National Teacher Winner –
Jahana Hemming Hayes, 45, was pregnant at 17 years-old and struggled to support her family for many years. She became a history teacher and won the National Teacher of the Year award. She was motivated by her student’s aspirations and dreams to run for office. She felt a kinship with her neighbors from the housing projects and the working and middle-class communities who face an uphill battle in today’s economy. She is the first African American woman to represent Waterbury, Connecticut.
Community Activist and Grassroots Educator –
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, 29, is a Latina from the Bronx and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Deb Haaland, 58, is a Native American attorney from Arizona. She reigns from the Pueblo of Laguna Tribe and wore her traditional dress and moccasins.
Sharice Lynette Davids, 39, is a Native American from the Ho-Chunk Nation and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent the state of Kansas in Congress.
Former Refugee –
Ilhan Omar, 37, is a Somali-American, representing Minnesota. Her fairy tale life involves having lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years, before coming to America.
Rashida Tlaib, 42, hails from Michigan and her heritage is Palestinian. She was sworn in using her personal Quran.