“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I cast my first vote at age three.

My mother hoisted me up to the lever. I clasped it in my tiny hands and yanked it to the left, sending the blue curtains of the polling booth flying open behind us.

I knew from a young age that democracy was a privilege and that my family had sacrificed to earn it. My mother's grandparents, survivors of the Armenian Genocide, came to America through Ellis Island as refugees. My father, the son of a Scottish bricklayer, came to pursue better work. Both of my parents were first in their families to attend university. They taught me that America embraces those who seek a better life and promised that education and hard work would ensure future success. In the America of my childhood, openness and opportunity were inextricably linked.

Today that link feels broken. Economic inequality has driven our nation apart, pushed the American Dream beyond reach for too many, and polarized our national politics.

My dream is to engage in the work of repairing American democracy by bridging the chasm in our political discourse. I will strive to restore faith in our governing institutions so that more young people see value in entering public service. And in doing so, I will ensure that my family's story continues to be possible for others.

— Kate Aitken