“There are as many ways to make a difference as there are people in the world,” says Eric Luedtke, a Maryland State Delegate and the Spring 2019 commencement speaker for the Department of Government and Politics. Luedtke, a GVPT alumnus, has dedicated his career to helping others through education and public service.
After earning a degree in history and government and politics in 2002, Luedtke began working in the field of electoral politics. However, he soon realized he wanted to have a more direct impact on his community, so he returned to the university and earned a master’s degree in secondary social studies education in 2004.
Luedtke began teaching social studies at a high-needs middle school in Montgomery County and worked to improve the students’ experiences and the school community.
“Many of my students were immigrants and minorities. Some didn’t have enough to eat; some of them had parents who worked three jobs just to get their kids through school,” Luedtke explained.
In hopes of advocating for his students and making an even bigger impact on education policy, he got involved in the teachers union. He also made an effort to support government officials whom he believed were doing the right thing and aligned with causes close to his heart, such as education reform.
Eventually, Luedtke decided he wanted to make a bigger change. “I realized there were needs far beyond what was in the school,” he said.
So, when a spot opened in the Maryland House of Delegates, Luedtke went for it. He said it was difficult to raise campaign funds, but he went knocking on doors and raised enough money to run. He won the spot in 2010.
For the next five years, Luedtke worked as a teacher and as a state delegate. His contributions to legislation regarding marriage equality, education issues and ending the death penalty in Maryland are some of his proudest accomplishments.
When he was re-elected for a second term and as his responsibilities grew in Annapolis, Luedtke left his teaching position seeking work with more flexibility. However, he still uses his extensive teaching experience to inform his work on education issues in the state. He said his colleagues look to him as an education expert.
Luedtke also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, chairs its Education Subcommittee, and is a member of the Maryland Commission on Disabilities as well as the Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention. In January 2019, Luedtke was elected by his colleagues to chair the House Democratic Caucus.
“We put a high premium on civility in the Maryland House of Delegates,” he said.
Luedtke, who returned to the university as an adjunct instructor in the School of Public Policy in 2015, said he is excited to return to the University of Maryland to share his experiences and insight with government and politics graduates.
“Being an elected official is just one of many paths to being involved in government,” Luedtke wants to advise graduates interested in pursuing a government job. “And it’s just one of the many ways you can help others.”