This week I read about a new survey that found that U.S. adults under age 40 of all parties and races report having a pessimistic view of the current and future state of our nation. A significant portion feels frustrated or angry that the federal government is not working on the issues that are important to them, and that politicians in D.C. focus only on the wealthy.

Now, as someone who has run for office and seen campaign politics from the inside, I can understand those feelings of pessimism. And as Deputy National Political Director for American Promise, I agree that we must create a government that addresses the needs of all—not just the wealthy. But I also believe that action is the best antidote for pessimism. The idea that every person’s actions count may feel a bit saccharine, maybe even quaint, but I’ve seen from experience that it is true.

Consider the stories we’ve seen here at American Promise in just the past few months. In Massachusetts, citizens gathering the signatures of their neighbors a few years back led to a ballot initiative to form a Citizens Commission to study the problem of money in politics. Its work in turn led to the introduction of statewide legislation and, just last month, an online hearing of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. Meanwhile, citizen action across the nation over the past year has led to everything from conversations at the County Fair to formal legislation supporting the amendment in states including Maine, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Ohio.

The American people have long shown that in the face of big challenges, we don’t sink into despair. Instead, we come together, overcome our differences, and take action. And the actions of every single one of us do mean something—as the American Promise community and the American people have proven time and again. I know the challenges we face are daunting. But when a sense of hopelessness comes over you, I urge you to connect with others who are working to make a difference and counter that feeling of despair with the empowering feeling of taking action together.

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