In his senior year of college, as Rattray prepared for a career in banking, he had a defining moment that radically altered his sense of self and his future ambition. On a trip home over winter break, one of his younger brothers, Nick, came out as gay. The development was difficult for Ben's family and for Nick, who had been struggling socially in school. It prompted some soul-searching for Ben when Nick criticized him for being the sort of person who had made the coming-out process most difficult and painful. Nick said he was less hurt by people who were actively homophobic than those who stood by and said nothing -- like his brother.
At that moment, Rattray dedicated himself to "never staying silent again." He developed what he calls "the grandfather test," in which he considers his decisions and actions as he -- and his loved ones -- might perceive them decades down the road. Would he be proud of what he'd done? Would he have regrets?
He also became fixated on a question: How do you make the ideal democratic society? How do you empower people to come together and advance issues they care about? How do you "democratize democracy"?