Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Last Monday, on November 30th, potential Democratic House candidate Lindy Li visited Swarthmore to talk about her experience as a young Asian American woman running for the House seat in Pennsylvania’s 7th District.
Born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province China, and a first generation immigrant, Li attributes her success to the blessings and opportunities that the US provided, such as access to high quality education. At age 17, Li won her first election as class president at Princeton University, even when told she had no chance of winning. “At Princeton they told me that I couldn’t run for class president because I was too female, too Chinese, not funny enough, and not tall enough,” said Li. However, these doubts did not stop her. Li went on to become the only woman at Princeton University to hold the position of class president for four consecutive years.
Li is currently twenty-four years old and running for the Democratic nomination to be a candidate for Pennsylvania’s 7th District House seat.
Li rejects the label “politician,” due to its negative connotation, and instead prefers the term “public servant” because she wants to dedicate her life serving the nation. “I want to be the most accessible public servant of our time,” said Li.
The middle class is Li’s main priority, she said, because she believes the middle class is the foundation of the nation. “I wouldn’t be anywhere without access to high quality education,” said Li. As an immigrant, Li understands the struggles that middle class families face with access to higher education. She was appalled to find that the amount of student debt in the United States is $1.3 trillion. Li emphasized the need to allow students to pursue their dreams with affordable education and raised the question: Why is Wall Street paying better interest rates than we are?
“There are so many cowards in Congress,” said Li referring to Congress’s tendency to submit to the National Rifle Association. “More people die from gun violence than they do from terrorism. We’re fine with spilling blood abroad but when it comes to gun violence, we’re just completely straightjacketed,” said Li. She pointed out that hypocrisy plagues the American government because all politicians say, “Enough is enough,” after every mass shooting, but nothing gets done on the federal level to resolve the gun control issue.
For Li, the NRA’s prevention of gun control mirrors the same way that big oil companies get in the way of climate change. “I’m a strife environmentalist,” said Li. She believes the best way to get the public to pay attention to climate change, is to incentivize it. “Carbon tax is looking like our most feasible option. Fear mongering can only go so far.”
Li actually led the divestment movement during her time at Princeton. “Where we spend our money sends a message to the rest of the country where our priorities are,” said Li. “In order to reach that two Celsius mark, that threshold, we have to keep some of that (oil) in the ground.” She believes that elite colleges like Swarthmore should prioritize the issue of climate change by divesting in oil companies.
If elected, Li will be the youngest member of Congress as she just meets the minimum age required to run for the House of Representatives. Though the media has often used Li’s age as headlines to attract readers, Li has never used this quality to gain traction in her campaign. “I’ve never actually said ‘I want to be the youngest woman elected,” said Li. “My campaign is so much more than just being young. It’s about serving the people regardless about what age you are. I don’t just want to be the millennial candidate. I want to be an American candidate.”
Featured image courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com