The freshman member of Congress from New York City spoke at the Women's March in the city on Saturday, laying out what she sees as the game plan for taking the movement beyond the ballot box — last year's main focus. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Women's March speech spoke about turning the power of the march into policy in Washington.
"Last year we brought the power to the polls, and this year we need to make sure we translate that power into policy," Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd at the Women’s March Alliance near Central Park. "That means we will not let anyone take our rights away. In fact, we will expand them." Ocasio-Cortez also attended and spoke at the other rally, the "Women's Unity Rally" in Foley Square, and shared a similar message about "taking power to the policy."
Ocasio-Cortez went on to list a few of the policy measures that she supports passing in the new Congress, including an equal rights amendment that protects people from discrimination based on gender identity, equal pay for equal work, and parental leave for "all" parents. "This means this is the start of our advocacy because we just captured the House," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Now we have to show what we're going to do with it."
At her second speech, Ocasio-Cortez spoke about the concept of justice. She repeated some of her same focus on policy but framed it differently. "Justice is about the water we drink. Justice is about the air we breathe. Justice is about how easy is it to vote. Justice is about how much ladies get paid," Ocasio-Cortez told the second crowd. "Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet. In fact, oftentimes, the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table."
Ocasio-Cortez also addressed diversity and the importance of including different voices when making change, an issue for the national Women's March following allegations of anti-semitism, which the organizers deny.
"It is so incredibly important to uplift all of our voices," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And to make sure the least among us advocated the most. That means we will not be quiet when it comes to the rights of black women. That means we will not be quiet when it comes to the rights of trans women. That means we will not be quiet when it comes to the rights of poor women. And middle-class women. And working-class women. And all women in the United States and in the world."
The representative brought up Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is being celebrated on Monday, and said that she felt the current organizing in the country is picking up where the civil rights movement left off and incorporating more and interconnected fights for equality.
Though much of both speeches focused on policy, she did acknowledge that voting wasn't over yet. Taking the House was "just step one," she said. "This year we're going to organize, this year we're going to fight for voting rights," Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd. "Through 2020 we're going to take the White House and the Senate, too."
Ocasio-Cortez's Women's March speeches won't be the last before 2020; you can expect her on the campaign trail for Democrats when she's not busy focusing on bringing power to policy.