Berko Wins VP Holiday Card Contest
The Second Family’s 2022 holiday card features art done by a familiar hand: Alex Berko, the youngest son of Office of Human Resources Director Julie Berko. Alex, age 15, is a sophomore at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. His artwork was entered into a contest judged by Vice President Kamala Harris, with one crucial detail withheld: Alex didn’t know anything about the competition.
Julie said Alex’s art teacher told the 15-year-old about a summer project with a quick turnaround time back in July 2022. Alex was to create a holiday card for an unnamed client featuring a mysterious house (which turned out to be One Observatory Circle, the vice president’s official residence).
Alex also added small details that turned out to be references to the Second Family: a lotus (Harris’s first name means “lotus flower” in Hindi) hidden in one of the pinecones, a menorah and a Christmas tree. He submitted the card and heard nothing for the next four months.
In November, Julie told him he needed a suit to accompany her to a holiday party she was attending that was hosted by the vice president. But there was more to the story than that: on Thanksgiving, Alex learned that he first needed the suit to Zoom that day with the holiday card mystery client. When he logged on, he was greeted by Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. Harris explained the contest to Alex and informed him of his selection.
“All I could say was ‘whoa, oh my god, and that’s crazy,’” Alex recalled.
That wasn’t his last meeting with Harris; he, Julie and Julie’s husband Richmond were invited to one of Harris’s holiday receptions to celebrate in person.
“Meeting [Harris] and just going to that event was a really big prize for me,” Alex summarized. He did receive his own copy of the card signed by the Second Family, as well as an ornament that was inspired by his design. Alex’s card was distributed to about 30,000 people.
Alex’s interest in art stems back to his toddler years. He started drawing on the walls of his house when he was 3 years old.
“Alex was able to draw people in perspective at an early age, so I knew his talent was something unique,” Julie recalled. She and Richmond found a more appropriate artistic outlet for Alex in the Stone Branch School of Art in Rockville, and his art has flourished ever since. Now in high school at Duke Ellington, he is considering a career as an artist.
You may have seen Alex and his art before this. He has a painting in the Student Hall of Reagan National Airport. He was also featured in an NBC television show, where he was interviewed along with some of his classmates during a trip to the National Gallery of Art to view the Afro-Atlantic Histories exhibit.
Follow his artistic journey on Instagram at @alexseezart.