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For all you middle-school presidents, secretaries and treasurers that aspire to lead the country some day, here is some encouraging news - Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever to be elected to the US Congress started the same way. The 30-year-old who defeated Democratic incumbent Aaron Woolf in New York's 21st Congressional District in the November 4th midterm elections, began her political career in sixth grade, as student council secretary.
The newly-elected Republican Congresswoman says that her first campaign was run on the promise of a snack machine on school premises. Not surprisingly, she won! Then came the difficult part - convincing the administrators at Albany Academy for Girls to agree. For that she teamed up with eighth-grader Melissa DeRosa, and the two managed to get the machine installed. Turns out, it was a win-win for all. The kids loved the snacks and the school received a share of the profits, which helped pay for extracurricular activities like dances.
Stefanik has come a long way since. After graduating from Harvard's Institute of Politics, the then 22-year-old joined the White House as a staff assistant under the administration of President George W. Bush. On her first day at work she met with Karl Zimsmeister, the incoming head of the President's Domestic Policy Council and impressed him so much, that he immediately hired her as one of his staffers! After spending a year in the position, the young girl joined the office of the White House Chief of Staff.
Following President Obama's election, she left the White House but remained in Washington and co-founded Defending Defense, a group of think tanks that opposed the across-the-board spending cuts that were proposed as part of the deal to increase the nation's debt ceiling in 2011. During the 2012 Presidential elections, Stefanik worked for the Republican Party in various capacities including leader of debate preparations for Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.
The trailblazer says that though she enjoyed politics she did not think of running for office until the 2012 elections. Stefanik was disappointed at the results and believed that the country was in dire need of new leaders with positive visions about reinvigorating the economy. The issue was especially pertinent in her district where young people were leaving in droves due to lack of jobs. The young Congresswoman who ran with a campaign slogan "New Ideas. New Leadership", hopes to shake things up in Washington, by bringing in a new, younger perspective.
Only time will tell if Stefanik will be able to fulfill her promise like she did in sixth-grade. But for now, the young woman who is being touted as the US Republican Party's brightest and fastest-rising star, sure seems to have brought hope to the nation's youth.
Though Stefanik is the youngest woman ever, she is not the youngest member of Congress. That record is still held by William C.C. Claiborne of Tennessee, who was just 22 - three years younger then the constitutionally required age of 25 - when he got elected to the Fifth Congress in 1797.
And in case you are wondering, the eighth-grader that helped Stefanik convince school officials about the snack machine also ended up with a political career - as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Communications Director - just shows that the early political exposure does pay off for those that are aspiring to become future leaders.
Resources: politico.com,dailymail.co.uk, businessinsider.com