When you catch the political bug in third grade and start attending national leadership conferences in sixth, it should not be a surprise when both sides in one of the of the country’s hottest Congressional campaigns are bidding for your services as a high school freshman.
That is what happened to Deerfield High School sophomore Lily Zacharias.
Earlier: Patch Blogger Heads to Inauguration
Not only were the teams of Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) and former Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) trying to get her aboard, but all of that experience gave her an opportunity to be part of history today as she attends the inauguration of President Barack Obama for a second term.
Zacharias will be participating in the festivities as part of the Presidential Inaugural Leadership Conference put on by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council. Her father sparked her interest in politics when she was in third grade.
“My dad got me interested in politics,” Zacharias said. “I always read about it and I learned (in sixth grade) people could be nominated to the Junior National Leadership Conference. I’d never been to D.C. before and thought that would be very cool.”
Since then, she has attended two more conferences in Washington, one in Boston and one in Chicago. In the summer of 2011, she caught the attention of members of Dold’s staff when she was at a conference.
“People from Dold’s staff met me and said ‘we have an office in Northbrook. You should stop by,’” Zacharias said. She went to Dold’s 10th District Congressional District office and was offered an internship.
Zacharias was thrilled with the opportunity but disagreed with some of Dold’s positions on issues. Then, she fell into a conversation with a friend during chemistry class. His family knew the Schneiders.
“He said his family could get me an internship there,” Zacharias said. “I felt I should go with someone I believed in.” She made calls, knocked on doors and did anything else asked by the campaign. She will also have the opportunity to see Schneider while she is in Washington and he is impressed with her achievement.
“I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Lily Zacharias on her remarkable achievement,” Schneider said. “I'm so pleased to welcome her to Washington for the inauguration and wish her the best moving forward in what's sure to be a career filled with success. And as a fellow Deerfield resident, I'll add that you're making your hometown very proud."
Though she is excited about attending the inauguration, she is also looking forward to the conferences and education that await her there. She will hear from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark.
The real magnitude of the event is what she expects from the president’s second term. “I think there will be significant social change in the next four years,” she said.
Zacharias hopes to run for office one day. She has already learned one important skill. She raised money for the trip from Big Machines of Deerfield and its president, David Bonnette, as well as Wildfire, Footloose, The Law Offices of Morton Rubin, the Law Offices of Aric Simons and others.