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Maxwell Frost on becoming the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Not long after progressive Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost was elected to the House, he got a call from the president. You see; Frost is 25 years old, and he is the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress. President Biden wanted to congratulate him and to share that he was also in his 20s when he won his first Senate seat.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I have no doubt he's off to an incredible start in what I'm sure will be a long, distinguished career.

CHANG: Next year Frost will represent a central Florida district, including parts of Orlando. But before he heads to Washington, D.C., he joins us now. Maxwell Frost, welcome.

MAXWELL FROST: Thank you so much for having me on.

CHANG: Well, you know, when I was 25, I was still living in a dorm room, so congratulations.

FROST: Nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with that.

CHANG: So what do you see as the most urgent legislative priorities facing your generation?

FROST: I think there's so much that we have to tackle, but I think the economy is the top one right now. As far as my generation is concerned, we know that there are so many people who are dealing with crushing debt. We know there are folks who are not making enough money. We need to have a thrivable (ph) wage. We know that people deserve to have health care and to be healthy and not worry about whether or not they're going to spend their money on rent or medicine, right? And I think it's building an economy that works for everybody. And, you know, we as Gen Z know that we're not in this debt because we live beyond our means, but it's because we've been denied the means to live. And we're interested in fixing those problems.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you - you know, you've been an organizer for the anti-gun violence group March for Our Lives, but now you are going to be a lawmaker from a state with a Republican governor, two Republican senators, a state legislature which will have a Republican supermajority. How do you see yourself working with all of them to achieve your agenda?

FROST: Well, for me, it's about sitting down and having conversations in the first place - right? - to talk about, what are the problems that we agree on - because we have to agree that there's a problem in the first place - and how do we move forward? But what we're seeing is there's this increasingly divided atmosphere, especially with folks like Governor Ron DeSantis, who are leaning into this far-right MAGA messaging, which is dangerous, right? He doesn't want to sit down with people. He doesn't want to talk with folks.

That's why there's a video of me talking with him at an event. I had to do a direct action - interrupt him at something to ask him what his plan was going to be on gun violence. And he said, no one wants to hear from you. But then a few months later, I was elected to Congress in that district. So, you know, I'd say I'm interested in sitting down with folks. But unfortunately, I think with this new far-right MAGA movement, we're seeing a lot of people not wanting to sit down anymore. So we have to bring voters together to pick leaders who are willing...

CHANG: Well...

FROST: ...To work together.

CHANG: You know, that said, you are very likely going to be entering a Republican-led House next January. Like, how do you realistically see yourself advancing your platform in that chamber?

FROST: Well, we know that, you know, there was a predicted red tsunami, red wave. That didn't happen. And so I'm still confident that Democrats can hold the House. But if Republicans do take it, it looks like it'll be a very, very slim majority. And there are Republicans out there who had very tight races who know that in order to hold their seat, they're going to need to work in a bipartisan way to keep the trust of their constituents and make sure that they deliver. We're just coming off of two years. We've signed major bills into law - the infrastructure package, the bipartisan bill on gun violence. And so there's a lot there that was delivered, and people are going to expect that to continue. And I know there's going to be Republicans out there who want to work with Democrats to ensure that we do that and that we send things to the president's desk that he will sign.

CHANG: Maxwell Alejandro Frost, representative-elect from Florida's 10th District and the first member of Gen Z to win election to Congress. Congratulations, and thank you so much for joining us today.

FROST: Of course. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.