Eric Lukas, 17, of Oakton, is one of 10 finalists for the Gavel In the Future essay contest, which awards two winners a chance to gavel open the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in July.
"I thought it was kind of a long shot when I entered, like the Publishers Clearing House," Eric Lukas said. "You'd win once in a million years. I thought it was a great honor to be chosen."
“When they called and said that he was a Top 10 finalist, we go, ‘Oh my gosh.’ We never expected anything of it when he entered,” said Eric's mother, Shawn Lukas.
Eric’s sister, Vanessa, saw an advertisement for the essay contest on MTV, as part of their Choose or Lose campaign.
“Vanessa first saw it on TV and said, ‘Oh, this is for Eric.’ She made him watch it and he said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’”
Eric’s AP History teacher at Oakton High School, Jackie Palton, said that Eric is extremely hard working. “He tackles everything he wants to do 100 percent. He’s incredible.”
THE ESSAY contest is part of the Democratic National Convention Committee’s (DNCC) youth outreach efforts. The 10 essay contest finalists were selected by 2020 Democrats, an organization formed to bring young Democrats together.
"I've had a lifelong interest in politics. I wanted to speak out for my country because I feel that teens today are naive about politics, and I thought it was a great idea to be able to express my ideas, even as a teenager," Eric Lukas said. "Teens are the voters of tomorrow. We'll be the ones making he decisions."
The essay question asked youth between 13 and 18 to write about how young people can use politics to improve their communities. Eric’s essay was titled “Teenagers in the Political Process.”
In it, Eric wrote, “Teenagers experience firsthand many problems in high school and in their communities that the country’s politicians do not regularly face, such as gun violence, abortion, gay/straight relationships. They are at the age when they are just beginning to notice the problems of the world and wish to solve them. By getting involved with the campaigns of candidates for political office, teenagers could provide their input on these issues so that they might be better addressed in the community.”
Though the group 2020 Democrats picked the 10 finalists, the real winners are left up to the public. The public was invited to vote online for their favorite essay. The local winner and the national winner are chosen by the number of votes they received.
“You don’t need to be a Democrat to vote. Eric’s essay is about how teens can get involved in politics and portrays no particular party’s views,” Shawn Lukas said.
ERIC'S LOVE for history and politics started when he was young.
“I bought him a book on the presidents when he was 6 years old,” Shawn Lukas said. “Now he’s the captain of the 'It’s Academic!' team at Oakton, and if you ask him who the 29th president is, he knows it.”
“He has a keen interest in history," Palton said. "If there’s ever a question that the teachers don’t know the answer to, Eric knows. I can honestly say he was the star of the class, largely due to his maturity and his enthusiasm for the subject matter.”
Two winners, including one from Boston, will be invited to gavel open then Democratic National Convention at Boston's Fleet Center. In addition to having a change to gavel in the DNC, the winner gets to spend two weeks in Boston, before and after the convention. More than 400 entries were received from nearly every state in the country. The DNCC will provide accommodations to the out-of-state winner and a traveling guardian. The winners will be announced sometime after July 15.
“If he wins, he would be very deserving,” Palton said.
Participating in the essay contest is only the beginning for Eric.
"Someday, I'd like to serve for my county's office and eventually work my way up to serving for the United States Senate," Eric said.