Sitting at a desk with a serious expression is a seasoned campaigner who calls voters with an understated authority. However, Lorenzo Rivera is unlike any other volunteer in the room: he is just 12 years old.
Since entering the political scene six years ago, Lorenzo has campaigned for 14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke and U.S. Senator Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential bid. Now Lorenzo has turned his attention to city clerk candidate Susana Mendoza.
“Susana Mendoza has a lot of energy and a lot of good ideas. When you’re around her, she actually cares and she understands your problems, and she actually tries to do things about them,” Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo spearheaded a phone banking session for Mendoza Wednesday night in 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly’s campaign office, 372 W. Ontario St. Although his focus is on Mendoza for now, Lorenzo said he hopes to one day run for office.
“I’d want to help our city and I’d want to make it look better so maybe I’d be a mayor or a senator,” Lorenzo said of his career aspirations.
As treasurer for his student council at St. Benedict Preparatory Middle School on Chicago’s North Side, Lorenzo is incorporating politics into all aspects of his life, and people are taking notice. HBO filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams featured then 9-year-old Lorenzo phone banking for Barack Obama in their documentary “By The People,” about the 2008 presidential race. When asked about the film, Lorenzo said with a smile: “My friends thought it was pretty cool.”
Lorenzo stays informed by reading news websites and watching political debate T.V. shows. He cited his father, José Rivera, as a role model who encourages him to educate himself about social issues. The elder Rivera, an administrator with the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance and a financial adviser for Mendoza, said he is not surprised by Lorenzo’s interest in politics.
“The nation should find it natural that kids have high expectations for their country, and as a result, act from that expectation and that interest,” he said.
Rivera made it clear that Lorenzo only participates in politics because he sincerely cares about society’s successes and failures.
“I think he’s pointed in a direction where he feels he can fill a leadership void. My only aspiration is that he is a leader, no matter the field,” Rivera said.
Mendoza described Lorenzo as an “integral part of our campaign,” calling him an inspiration to her in the homestretch of the election.
“I see a little kid like Lorenzo who’s making calls on my behalf, and if that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will,” she said.
“It will be really exciting to see him 10 years down the line to say, ‘Hey, look. Remember that little kid who was phone banking for Barack and Susana? That’s pretty exciting that now he’s got a whole crew of people phone banking for him.’
“And I’ll be one of them.”