Beto O’Rourke: Fighting for True Democracy

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Kathleen Stoker

Shannon Clark '23 had the opportunity to zoom with Beto O'Rourke through the Headliners in Education program.

Note: WHS freshmen Shannon Clark had the opportunity to zoom with Beto O’Rourke on April 29 as part of Headliners in Education–a non profit organization that creates opportunities for journalism students.

Beto O’Rourke….the name sounds familiar, right? The former presidential candidate from El Paso, Texas made an impact upon Americans across the country through his strong morals and remarkable political achievements.

Born and raised in El Paso, O’Rourke found his way back home after briefly attending Woodbury Forrest High School in Woodbury Forrest, Virginia and Columbia University in New York.

From 2005-2011 O’Rourke served on the El Paso city council and in 2012 ran for Congress. As a democrat, O’Rourke won and took office in the one hundred thirteenth district in January of 2013. The Congressman served three terms in his district and also served on the armed forces committee.

In 2018, Congressman O’Rourke campaigned against incumbent Senator Ted Cruz for a seat representing Texas in the Senate. During his campaign, O’Rourke travelled to every one of the 254 counties in the state of Texas to personally meet and converse with his potential constituents. Despite his sedulous efforts, O’Rourke was defeated by Cruz by about 2.6 percentage points. Texas is known to heavily veer in the conservative, republican direction, so the fact that a democrat came so close to defeating an incumbent republican is a significant historical event.

The Senate’s larger-scaled election process helped prepare Congressman O’Rourke for his presidential campaign. O’Rourke ran as a candidate for the democratic nomination until November 1, 2019.

Despite his similar path, O’Rourke is quite different from many modern politicians. The former congressman finds his passion for politics from connecting with individual people. O’Rourke makes it a point to meet, listen, and care for each person.

Congressman O’Rourke said he wants to know, “What’s the person in the town hall saying? What’s the story they want to tell?”

When running against Senator Cruz, he was less popular amongst people, he was in a geographical location in Texas that was not as much a part of the typical Texas culture as other areas, and he was liberated of expectations going into the race. O’Rourke stated he preferred elections this way as opposed to being in a room filled with as much press as potential constituents.

“It’s hard to have honest, authentic conversations,” admitted O’Rourke.

In addition to the burden of attempting to live up to such high standards, the debate stage was a struggle for the former presidential candidate. O’Rourke remarked that he was not extremely strong on the stage. Though his campaign workers helped him discover some of the other candidates’ weaker areas, O’Rourke did not want to pursue the race that way. Instead, he wanted to focus on what he was going to do, not what the others were or weren’t. The congressman also mentioned it is difficult to get meaningful responses in 30 or 45 seconds.

Currently, O’Rourke is working on his newly founded organization Powered by People. This organization was created shortly after O’Rourke’s presidential candidacy ended. Its goal is to increase the number of volunteers in 21 Texas food banks. Particularly in the midst of this pandemic, the need for volunteers is great as thousands more people are desperate to feed themselves and their loved ones.

Along with helping the organization grow, O’Rourke enjoys helping there himself. The former presidential candidate also recommends that anyone volunteer in some way and become involved as much as possible.

O’Rourke said, “There’s no limit of things we can do…lend support: it is gratefully received and it feels great.”

O’Rourke’s dedication to serving others is vividly demonstrated through his actions and supports his continuous belief in democracy.

Sources:
Powered by People: https://poweredxpeople.org/

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: https://bioguideretro.congress.gov/Home/MemberDetails?memIndex=O000170