Unconventional Teen

Clinton? Trump? How does the name “O’Dea” strike you? Meet a local student who seems destined for the political arena.

Photographed by Shane O’Donnell

With a friendly smile and a slightly awkward half-boy/half-man demeanor, Jack O’Dea comes off like a typical 18-year-old. But ask him about politics and anything that hints at “boyish” vanishes. “It is really shocking that Trump has gotten this far,” he says with the piercing look of a seasoned political operative.

He may not be an operative, but Jack seems well on his way to being an integral part of the Democratic Party. The 2016 Oakwood School graduate was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention this past summer. “I was the second youngest delegate. The youngest, from Texas, was six months younger than me,” he explains.

Jack, who is currently a freshman at Northwestern University, has a pretty good idea why Bernie Sanders delegates voted for him to represent the 30th Congressional District (comprised of Sherman Oaks, Encino and Northridge). “I’m not what you’d think you’d see at these kind of events. You usually see older people and the same people again and again.” That, coupled with the fact that Jack is adept at social media, clinched the deal. “They really liked that,” he concludes.

Jack’s dad, a food consultant, traveled with him to Philadelphia; his mom, who works in labor relations for Disney, stayed behind at the family’s Sherman Oaks home.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I felt privileged to be there,” says Jack.

Jack’s interest in politics was first sparked watching the protests in the Ukraine, the ousting of its president and the ensuing rebellion. “I got deeply embedded into that story. It made me realize the importance of politics. I realized I could get involved to make sure that something like that never happens here.”

He volunteered at a Bernie Sanders fundraiser in June of 2015 and became active in his campaign. “Bernie was able to be a strong and passionate voice for what the youth—and so many of the disillusioned—felt on the left of the political spectrum. He matched me policy-wise, from health care to foreign policy and economics/trade and was able to get things done.”

At Northwestern, Jack plans to major in International Studies. “Do I want to get involved with voter registration? Ballot initiatives? Run for office? I might like to work in a congressional office or at the State Department. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do. But I’m pretty certain I’ll be involved.”