We all make plans for our early 20s. Maybe we want to have a great apartment, or we want to be working in the big city, or maybe we want to be in a serious relationship. And 24-year-old Lindy Li is certainly dreaming big. . . like, history-making big, because Li is running for Congress in 2016.
Li was born in China before, at two weeks old, her parents left to study in the UK. She was taken care of by relatives until she joined them in the US at age five. After living in New Haven and Boston for a time, the family eventually settled in Malvern, PA. Now, just three years after graduating from Princeton in 2012, Li has launched her campaign, Lindy Li for U.S. Congress, to land a congressional seat for Pennsylvania’s 7th District. If she’s elected in 2016 at 26, she will officially be the youngest woman to be elected to Congress. “It’s been a lifelong dream,” she told Huffington Post. “I have always known that I was going to do this, the only thing that was variable was when I was going to jump in.”
Li has always been determined, refusing to let anything stand in the way of achieving her goals. “She told me, ‘The seat is mine,'” her father, Richard Li, told The Washington Post of his daughter’s response to his concerns. “. . .I wasn’t surprised. . . [My children] have their own vision for the future.”
Her dedication to her campaign has cost her people along the way — including her first love, who doubted her and was intimidated by her passion, she told The Post. “They’d say, ‘You don’t know if you’ll want this in six years,’ ” she said. “But no! Let me do what I’ve always dreamed of. . .I want to make a high-level difference. I want to do something I’m infinity times excited about.”
Naturally, running for office can garner quite a bit of opposition and backlash, but Li’s is only increased due to her age, gender, and race. “[Originally], people were thinking, ‘What the heck?’ because my story is so unprecedented,” she told Huffington Post. “But after a while, they realized I was serious about this. I’ve received some cruel comments. I’ve seen more cruelty and pain in the past couple of months than I’ve seen all my life.”
Li highlights her diverse background as an incredible benefit, pointing out that Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state, but without a single Congress member who is a woman or of her generation. “We lack female representation, and we lack representation of the youth,” she told Huffington Post.
Despite what Li has to offer the state — and the country — she has faced a lot of sexist comments that focus on her appearance rather than her platform. “They think to change me,” she told Huffington Post. “They’re like ‘Oh, you should grow bushier eyebrows.’ [They say] that I should buy a new dress, random things like that. I’m like, ‘What about the problems with education infrastructure and college affordability? Should I tweak my platform? Do you have some substantive advice? You’re not going to elect me because you like my nose.'”
Although it can be difficult, Li focuses on the positives — the people who believe in her campaign. “If I talk about trolls, it gives them power,” she said to The Huffington Post. “People make up lies about me, but people who actually know me know that what [the trolls] are saying is so far from the truth. And the only way for me to prove people wrong is to keep on being who I am. At least with detractors there is a kernel of truth, distorted. Or there’s constructive criticism that I should take.”
If she gets into office, she plans on focusing on college affordability, though campaign finance reform, gun control, and women’s rights are issues she’s incredibly passionate about. And although she’s a Democrat running in one of the most gerrymandered districts in the country, Li’s confidence is unwavering. She is giving it all she’s got.
“They don’t know what they’re dealing with,” Li told the Post. “No one wants this more than me.”
And we have absolutely no doubt about that.
(Image via Twitter.)