Most people tend to think of “government” as a remote entity that pops up only at income tax time and when their car’s inspection sticker expires. (And as annoying as it is, I actually think it’s cute that the government requires my vehicle to meet a minimum safety standard. That means someone, somewhere, in a committee, cares about my personal well-being.) And it’s true that most people will never have the energy, drive and resources to mount a campaign for senator or president – although about 12 percent of the population of Maine is running for governor, so that seems like an attainable office.

But in a small state like Maine, government really is within our reach. I spent this past Sunday afternoon at the Buxton Democratic Caucus. Yes, there are Democrats in Buxton. At least 14 of them. I was the youngest person there by at least 20 years, but that tends to be the situation wherever I go in Maine.

Everyone who thinks government is a big, evil entity should go to their local party caucus. You will come to discover that government is, at its roots, a bunch of slightly confused people who, despite trying to avoid volunteering for a committee position, then get nominated by their neighbor and find that it’s hard to say no – and the next thing they know, they’re a delegate to the state convention! (Long story short: I am now Delegate No. 007 to the Maine Democratic State Convention. See you there.)

It was democracy in its purest, most local form. I really did feel a bit of a connection to the Founding Fathers while I was there voting on things – when else do we ever say “aye” or “nay”? Time and the evolution of our language have wiped those words from our vocabulary, except when we, the people, are gathered to vote on common laws and sentiments affecting us all. Just like the colonists in their taverns. (All caucuses should probably be held in taverns, honestly. More people would show up.)

I got to meet people running for state representative, state senator and York County commissioner. Nomination sheets for candidates were signed. I was offered the opportunity to run for office myself (what a nightmare that would be). I talked to the sheriff of York County! When else would a random person like me get that opportunity? (I could get arrested, I guess, but I would rather avoid that.) I discovered that local government is largely run by cardigan-wearing ladies named Ellen. A baseball hat that the election clerk found in his office was passed around to collect donations.

Many of my readers have millennials in their life. I know because you guys like to email me about them (and I love hearing from you). And unfortunately, despite my efforts – which consist largely of nagging my boyfriend to go to HIS town caucus – young people have some of the lowest voter turnout in general. So I would encourage you to talk to the young people in your life and tell them how important it is to get out and participate in civic life. How important it is to vote, especially in primaries. Use small words, and print out maps to their polling place for them. Try not to use the phrase “in my day.”

In high school, my government teacher, Mr. Wagner, told us on the first day of class that by the end of the year, we would be prepared to be “professional citizens.” I still have the pocket-sized Constitution he gave us all. And when I go caucus, or vote, or write a letter to my state representative (Don Marean, House District 16, you have not replied to my last email …), I do feel like a professional citizen.

And everyone, of every age, who feels alienated by government should not withdraw from it – they should go participate in whatever part of local government they can access. Because getting out, becoming engaged and doing the work is the one and only way that we, the people, will make sure that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial