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7th Grader Earns Seat in Chamber for Pope Address

Lopez, far left, and Clark, right, will attend Pope Francis' address together. (Photo courtesy of Clark's office)

Dylan Lopez earned his seat in the House chamber for Pope Francis' address to Congress Thursday. And he'll be among the youngest in the room.  

While some lawmakers opted to invite their spouses or hold a lottery for constituents to select their one guest to the much-anticipated speech, Rep. Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., decided to hold an essay competition , urging constituents to describe, in 500 words or fewer, why they should attend the address. Clark was hoping to bring as her guest someone who embodied Francis' message of social justice. And Lopez’s letter stood out among the several dozen entries.  

“My dream is to help Hispanic immigrants who are discriminated against on a daily basis, which hurts my soul,” the 12-year-old Waltham, Mass., native wrote in his essay. Along with his passion for an immigration overhaul, Lopez has something else in common with the pontiff: Argentinian roots.  

Lopez’s parents hail from Buenos Aires, and, for Clark, his family’s struggle and sacrifice was indicative of her constituents' pursuit of the American dream.  

“The Congresswoman chose Dylan because his story represents the hope of many living in her district,” Clark’s spokesman Justin Unga wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “Dylan’s family came to this country willing to sacrifice everything in order to make sure Dylan could grow up and become successful. Dylan wrote in his essay that, like the pope, he wants to help people.”  

Clark made a surprise visit to Lopez’s middle school on Sept. 16 to announce he had won the competition.  

“It’s a real dream come true to do this,” Lopez said at the assembly .

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