I had traveled 2,000 miles to be there for his announcement. I had listened to hours of interviews and his book Shortest Way Home. And what a shitty day it was… weather-wise. I arrived at 7am to find myself the 10th from the first in line and with hours of wind and rain to look forward to before the doors opened. I wanted to make myself helpful and ended up volunteering to staff the front-gate, helping bemused church-goers shuffle around the barricade blocking access to the church across a parking lot adjacent to the old Studebaker factory building.
My efforts as a volunteer did not go unrewarded and I ended up with VIP access for me and an awesome girl that had joined me at our station. We got right to the front. Soaked from being outside all-day, we stood out next the real very important people, immediately surrounding us were staffers and kind, senior citizens. (One woman insisted that her husband give me his vest in an attempt to ease my shivers.)
After the speech came the moment once again. I was nervous. Swept off my feet with the candidate so far, was I going to come away with the same disappointment of 2016? Would that be indicative of the fate of the campaign? My friend asked me if I was going to move up to reach out a hand. I shrugged while at the time inching my way forward. I wasn’t in the front row and unlike before I had not prepared my remark. Without expectation and with some reluctance I stuck out my hand right just as Pete Buttigieg turned his shoulders to square with mine. His eyes met mine and what saw was something I have rarely experienced.
It was listening personified. Maybe I looked like I had something to say, maybe it was chance, maybe my rain-soaked long-hair, and clothes topped with the borrowed jacket two sizes too big was simply alarming, but in that moment Mayor Pete looked like that kid in the front of the class with the pencil held at attention as the teacher enters the room. Eyebrows slightly raised, ears in anticipatory strain to compensate for the noise. Here was my moment. And all I could rally was “thank you”.
Lame. But fitting? Maybe. It was thank you for the hope central to the campaign. A thank you for the passionate, enthusiastic speech he had just given to announce his candidacy. And above all, a thank you for that moment. That moment that sealed the deal because to me, it meant more than any speech, or promise, it meant that I had met the real deal. Thank you for being a listener when we need it most.
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[read in full at Medium.com]