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How one TV political speech galvanized at least one 8-year-old

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Next September, and in the year leading up to the convention, you have an opportunity to be a part of history and to be a part of our democracy. And you can do it right here in Charlotte, in your hometown. We want everyone to be involved in hosting this convention.

I know how easy it can be to become disenchanted with our political system when you see gridlock in Washington and special interests protecting the status quo. But by taking an active role in our democracy, we each have the ability to change our country, and ourselves, for the better.

When I was 8 years old, my parents insisted that I sit on our living room floor and watch Sen. Ted Kennedy speak at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. More than anything else, that speech inspired me to become involved in public service.

When I was a freshman in college at the University of Maryland, I could never have guessed that taking an unpaid internship with Sen. Kennedy would lead to 14 years working with the senator, and more than two decades working in public service.

I'm incredibly proud of the work that we accomplished with Sen. Kennedy and the groundwork that he laid for others to come. And it was Sen. Kennedy who called me in 2008, the day that I lost a primary for the Massachusetts State House, and encouraged me to go to Chicago and work for then-Sen. Barack Obama on his presidential campaign. His words to me: "There's no rest for the weary." Two days later, I packed up for Chicago.

Following the election I served as Chief of Staff for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and two years later I came to Charlotte to head up the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

It was that one simple decision in college — to play a role in our democracy by volunteering, for a U.S. senator — that opened up doors that I never would have imagined.

So with the 2012 Democratic National Convention coming right here to Charlotte, I encourage you to become involved. You never know where it will take you. You can take the first step by going to www.demconvention.com and signing up for our e-mail list to learn about how you can take part.

This is your convention. It's Charlotte's chance to show the rest of the world what you can do. For one week, the eyes of people all across the country, and the world, will be focused on Charlotte. We chose to host our convention in Charlotte because of the people of Charlotte, and the story the city has to tell. Charlotte is a dynamic, diverse and vibrant community that reflects America in the 21st century. The Democratic Convention offers a unique opportunity to showcase this city and its people on the world stage.

This convention is going to be about more than just political ritual and what happens inside the Time Warner Cable Arena — it's about Americans coming together to commit ourselves and our country to a path that creates more opportunity. The success of this convention will be determined by the participation of the American people. And that starts with the people right here in Charlotte.

Steve Kerrigan is the Chief Executive Officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee. Kerrigan is a Massachusetts native and currently resides in Charlotte.

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