Brecklynn Brown, a junior high student from Utah, is not yet old enough to vote, yet she has already played a perhaps pivotal role in the 2020 presidential election.
Brecklynn, an eighth grade student at Springville Junior High in Springville, Utah, posed the final question to Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Sen. Kamala Harris of California in Wednesday night's debate, the first and only one-on-one matchup between the vice presidential candidates.
The debate moderator, Susan Page, asked the candidates a question about civility in politics written by Brecklynn, who won in her grade category a statewide contest sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission.
"It was both shocking and amazing to be able to ask a question to Vice President Pence and Senator Harris," Brecklynn told "Good Morning America" in a statement Thursday. "It felt good to be heard, and I appreciate their responses."
"I’m so glad a question that meant so much to me also meant so much to other Americans," she said. "As we were talking in my history class about the many issues happening in our country, I realized the importance of listening and respecting each other. I hope we can all try a little harder to understand one another and that we can all do our part to unite our country."
In her essay that became the final debate question, Brecklynn wrote, in part, "When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizen fighting against citizen. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?"
"How is your presidency going to unite and heal our country?," she asked the candidates.
Pence, the first candidate allowed to answer, touted "free and open debate" as the basis for American life and referenced the relationship between late Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who had a close friendship despite ideological differences.
"I just want to encourage you, I want to tell you that we're going to work every day to have government as good as our people," Pence said. "The American people, each and every day, love a good debate and a good argument. But we always come together, and we're always there for one another in times of need. And we've especially learned that through the difficulties of this year."
Harris responded by talking about Biden's efforts to be bipartisan and work across the aisle.
"So when you think about the future, I do believe the future is bright. And it will be because of your leadership, and it will be because we fight for each person's voice through their vote. And we get engaged in this election," Harris said. "You have the ability through your work, and eventually your vote, to determine the future of our country and what its leadership looks like."
Read Brecklynn's full essay below, as published by her school district.
"When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizen fighting against citizen. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?
Our nation’s capital is setting a poor example of unity and respect. No matter who we are and what we stand for, we all want to be heard and we all want to be acknowledged, but no one wants to listen or understand the person on the other side of the line.
Nothing is going to change until someone breaks this trend of arguments and anger. Each citizen is accountable and each citizen has their agency to not allow our country to be divided by differing opinions. Your examples could make all the difference to bring us together. How is your presidency going to unite and heal our country?"