Congressmen and women gather at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., Jan. 2. Front row, from left to right: Rep. Antonio Delgado (D–NY), Rep. Deb Haaland (D–NM), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–MI), Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R–PA); Second row, from left to right: Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D–NM), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–NY), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D–NJ), Rep. Max Rose (D–NY), Third row, from left to right: Sen. Josh Hawley (R–MO), Rep. Carol Miller (R–WV), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–MA), Rep. Katie Porter (D–CA); Fourth/last row, from left to right: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D–VA), Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R–TX), Rep. Lauren Underwood (D–IL), Sen. Kevin Cramer (R–ND)
Jeff Brown for TIME

America's Most Diverse Congress: Meet the Class of 2019

January 10, 2019

The record number of women sworn into Congress on Jan. 3 included a 68-year-old bison farmer from West Virginia, a 29-year-old progressive upstart from New York and a 58-year-old ­Native American single mother from New Mexico. Each had broken ground in her own way, but in the Capitol building where they now work, that’s less likely to make any of them terribly distinctive. The newest members of the 116th Congress made the legislative body the most diverse in U.S. history not only ethnically and racially but generationally as well. More than 20% of the new lawmakers are millennials, making this a particularly fresh-faced freshman class. A handful of them express their determination to make a difference in Washington by restoring a level of co­operation, effectiveness and mutual respect to the work they were elected to do. —Reported by Abigail Abrams, Alana Abramson and Charlotte Alter

Watch: Meet the Freshmen

Jeff Brown for TIME

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Democrat, New York’s 14th District

“The experiences that shaped my political ideology the most are my life experiences as a vulnerable working-class American … When you really understand and internalize the intensity and the urgency that most Americans are going through, you approach this job totally differently.”

Jeff Brown for TIME

Josh Hawley
Republican, Missouri’s junior Senator

“Younger folks don’t hear anybody talk about the future anymore. It’s all about battles of the past … They want to know how are they going to be able to afford college, how are they going to get a good job, what kind of future is there going to be for them in this country?”

Underwood, Reschenthaler
Jeff Brown for TIME

Lauren Underwood
Democrat, Illinois’s 14th District

“We have this huge influx of new voices, new ideas and perspectives that have not really ever been heard in this body in the centuries that the United States has been on this earth … We are going to see changes in process, we’re going to see changes in policy. And hopefully transparency and productivity.”

Guy Reschenthaler
Republican, Pennsylvania’s 14th District

“The top legislative priority for me in the first term is definitely job creation and economic growth. I don’t think that there’s one silver bullet that we have in terms of public policy, but I think that a growing economy is the closest thing we have.”

Jeff Brown for TIME

Rashida Tlaib
Democrat, Michigan’s 13th District

“It’s O.K. that I hate it a little bit here. I think that’s important. People think it’s crazy when I say it. But I’m like, If I’m too much in love with just being here … then I’ll be disconnected and I’ll forget why I ran in the first place.”

Delgado, Spanberger
Jeff Brown for TIME

Antonio Delgado
Democrat, New York’s 19th District

“The job is to act, to do … We’ve got children and generations coming up behind us who need answers, they need solutions. They don’t need bickering, they don’t need arguing, they don’t need headlines. They need actual substantive critical thought.”

Abigail Spanberger
Democrat, Virginia’s Seventh District

“Issues of infrastructure—for some people like my district it’s broadband, for some people it’s roads and bridges—I think that’s an area where we see a common need to really find solutions and … can work across the aisle to help our communities and improve the way of life for so many Americans.”

Deb Haaland
Democrat, New Mexico’s First District

“I want my constituents to know and realize that the door is open, the ceiling is broken now. So I intend to leave the ladder down. I want other Native women, women of color and women to run for office … And I’ll be there to make sure that they do.”

Sherrill, Porter
Jeff Brown for TIME

Mikie Sherrill
Democrat, New Jersey’s 11th District

“I’ve been a working mom for many, many years, so having that pressure in my life … has always been there. But I think it’s changed now because I’m really modeling for my kids what it means to stand up for your values. What it means when you’re concerned about your country, that you stand up and do something.”

Katie Porter
Democrat, California’s 45th District

“So many of the problems and challenges people told me about are not going to be solved without tackling campaign-finance reform first. So the high cost of prescription drugs, health care, consumer protection, a lot of these issues we can’t make any progress until we do meaningful campaign-finance reform.”

Max Rose
Democrat, New York’s 11th District

“The problems that we face in my district are quite simple. Takes people two hours to get to work. People are dying from overdoses. Kids are afraid to go to school because of gun violence. And I don’t believe that shy incrementalism is necessarily the answer here. We have to be responsible, but we need to be bold.”

Carol Miller
Republican, West Virginia’s Third District

“The first eight years I was in the state legislature, I served in the minority. That’s when I learned that you take it by the issue and you make friends and you meet people and you understand where you come together and you get things passed.”

Crenshaw, Torress-Small
Jeff Brown for TIME

Dan Crenshaw
Republican, Texas’ Second District

“I think what people in Congress maybe need to do is to just put their good relationships in public every once in a while. It wouldn’t be that hard because they’ve already got them. People don’t realize that … There’s plenty on the other side I could be friends with.”

Xochitl Torres-Small
Democrat, New Mexico’s Second District

“Growing up [in New Mexico] lots of people felt like they had to make a choice between the home that they loved and their best opportunities. We shouldn’t have to make that choice. … So we have to make sure that we’re investing in our communities and being a voice for rural communities.”

Kevin Cramer
Republican, North Dakota’s junior Senator

“The Senate is the great equalizer for a small state. In the House, you’re an at-large member … political capital takes longer to build up … In the Senate, you wake up in the morning with a great deal of political capital, but you still have to be judicious about how you spend it.”

Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com and Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.