Category Archives: In Pete’s Words

In Pete’s Words: This is what Iowa has taught me

by Pete Buttigieg – Jan. 2, 2020 (

Ending Donald Trump’s presidency is important, but the task also includes launching the era that must come next, tackling urgent crises in our nation.

A decade ago, I came to Iowa knocking doors for a young presidential candidate with a funny name. The stakes were high in that election. They are enormous now.

Traveling throughout Iowa this year, I’ve met workers facing rising costs and stagnant wages. Farmers are paying the price of a reckless trade war. Our children are learning active shooter drills before they learn to read. 

Iowans cannot afford four more years of this president or the division that he exploits. On the morning after this president leaves office, the sun will come up on a country even more bitterly divided than we are now, exhausted from fighting — and still facing urgent crises. 

This election will decide whether the next president will mobilize Americans behind bold ideas or polarize them around the same Washington fights that have held us back for decades. We need to elect a president who can not only end the era of Donald Trump, but can launch the era that must come next. I’m running for president to lead a nation done with division and hungry for action. 

I’ve seen that hunger on display throughout Iowa.  

I’ve seen it in the Des Moines mother who wrote me that her medical bills had become so expensive that she and her parents sold their homes to pay for her 24-hour care. That’s why I’ve proposed Medicare for All Who Want It, which guarantees every American affordable coverage while letting you choose which plan is best for you, and introduced Long-Term Care America to ensure all Americans are supported. I measure the power of an idea not by how much controversy it generates, but by how many people it can help. 

In a sweltering barn in Shenandoah, I met a young man who wanted to know how agriculture in the Midwest could help lead the fight against climate change. “People tend to forget about us,” he said. I told him how we’d put rural communities like his at the center of a national project and achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

During a Fourth of July parade in Storm Lake, I marched alongside 24 floats proudly displaying the two dozen countries that made up the area’s immigrant population. Places like Storm Lake inspired my plan for community renewal visas to attract immigrants to areas experiencing population decline, and strengthen my faith that we can manage our border in accordance with our values and our laws.

And I’ve seen that spirit in a teenager from Muscatine who found the courage to be open about her autism after watching our campaign lead with values of inclusion and belonging. 

It may seem out of place, to emphasize unity and belonging at a time like this. But my sense of hope is based not in my age but in my experience. 

In the dust of a war zone, I saw fellow Americans who had nothing in common besides the flag on our shoulders learn to trust each other with our lives. Amid the ruins of old factories, I saw my hometown answer those who called us a “dying city” by rising up and forging a new future. One afternoon in South Bend, I walked into my church, having once believed that something inside would make me forever an outsider — and walked out a married man. And in some of the most conservative counties in Iowa, and in more than 20 counties I’ve visited that voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump, I’ve witnessed the makings of an American majority made up of progressives, moderates, and even what I like to call “future former Republicans” sickened by the actions of this president, ready for something better.  

What I’ve seen in Iowa has made me a better candidate, and it will make me a better president. There’s still plenty of work to be done before the caucus on Feb. 3. But I am forever grateful to have been welcomed into your communities. Propelled by your stories and your support, we can change the trajectory of our nation and usher in that era that must come next.

In Pete’s Words: Serving as South Bend mayor has been ‘the privilege of a lifetime’

by Pete Buttigieg – Dec 28, 2019 (

As my eighth and final year as mayor of South Bend comes to an end, it is extraordinary to reflect on how much has changed. At the beginning of this decade, hit hard by the Great Recession, our city was fighting off national media calling us a “dying city.” A quarter of our peak population was gone, and our economy’s struggles loomed over us in the form of empty factories and collapsing, vacant houses.

Today, after eight years of collaboration between residents, city government, and local partners, South Bend’s trajectory has been transformed. Our population is growing, while our unemployment rate has fallen drastically. We are no longer called a dying city, but a “beta city,” a national model for innovation.

South Bend’s transformation was fueled by our residents. Neighborhood development was a priority throughout, from community-inspired efforts to address vacant houses to the expansion of funds for home repairs, lead abatement, and curbs and sidewalks.

Unemployment fell from 11.8 percent to 3.9 percent as our population ticked northward. City business partnerships led to $900 million in private investment and over 7,500 new jobs. Our downtown, once dominated by one-way highways that fast-tracked drivers out of our core, now boasts complete streets that welcome residents and visitors to enjoy a bustling urban center.

With the biggest investment in homelessness resources since the 1980s, we have driven veteran homelessness to near zero, delivered additional winter weather shelters through local service providers, and expanded permanent supportive housing.

Recognizing that racial and income inequality would not improve without intentional action, we established the first Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and commissioned two landmark studies, the Racial Wealth Divide profile and the Disparity Study, to identify opportunity gaps and anchor our strategies for a more inclusive economic future.

We opened three new fire stations and the Luther J. Taylor Fire Training Center, which trains departments from across our region. Our police department standardized its promotion process and updated department policies and procedures in a new duty manual. Patrol officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras, and the department adopted better training at every level of service. At the close of this year, community members and national experts are engaging with the department to strengthen their practices further.

The Department of Public Works pioneered innovative technologies that facilitate user-friendly, cost-effective, and environmentally sound improvements in everything from sewer management to leaf and trash pickup. Understanding that reactive measures will not be enough to counter the danger presented by climate change, we released the South Bend Climate Action Plan, a bold strategy that upholds the Paris Agreement goal of 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

We reinvented Venues Parks & Arts, whose conviction that every resident deserves access to high-quality public spaces has led to its recognition as a national leader in parks and facilities management. The results of the My SB Parks & Trails plan, the largest investment in public spaces in South Bend’s history, will be felt for generations. Meanwhile, the city set new standards for fiscal management, civic technology, and transparency.

Like every mayor, I am proud of what we have accomplished but also leave office mindful of the work that remains to be done in our community. We must continue to strengthen the relationship between the police department and the neighborhoods it serves. We must continue to add permanent supportive housing units across South Bend, providing a long-term solution for residents experiencing homelessness. And only through fully inclusive economic development can South Bend reach its full potential.

South Bend’s resurgence was only possible through partnerships with our schools and colleges, business leaders, faith leaders, social services, activists, neighborhood stakeholders and others. Our city employees executed a bold vision for a better South Bend, guided along the way by the members of the Common Council.

Time and time again, South Bend gave me a greater sense of belonging than I thought possible. This city welcomed me when I found my way back as a young man, trusted me when I asked for a chance to serve as mayor, sustained me when I left this community I love to serve our country half a world away, and supported me when I took the risk of sharing my most personal truths.

Our story is forever unfinished. But at this moment of transition for our hometown, disruption for our country, and transformation in my personal story, the one thing I know for certain is the truth of the words I had the great privilege to say to thousands of fellow residents the day we marked our 150th year as a city: “South Bend is back.”

I am grateful to the people of South Bend for giving me the opportunity to serve our hometown. It has been the privilege of a lifetime, and as I prepare for a new chapter in life, this will always be home and I will always believe in South Bend.

In Pete’s Words: How We Can Attack Systemic Racism

by Pete Buttigieg – Dec 19, 2019 (

Earlier this year, I toured Vector90, the late Nipsey Hussle’s tech incubator in Crenshaw. I met a 14-year-old from Noblesville, Indiana, just a few hours south of my hometown of South Bend, who’s interested in coding. But he also told me about being called racist slurs at his school—in 2019.

From South Central to South Bend, whether it’s a Black entrepreneur denied access to capital or Black woman whose report of pain is discounted at a hospital, we know we have not yet lived up to the promise of a fully equal society. In 2017, the average per capita income was around $21,000 for Black Californians, compared to a bit more than $34,000 for White Californians.[1] Even as California has made strides in combating maternal mortality, Black women are still three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women.[2] Sixty-five years after Earl Warren, a son of California, declared separate but equal inherently unequal, a UCLA study has found schools becoming increasingly segregated across the country.[3]

As the mayor of a city that is racially diverse and largely low-income, I have spent the past eight years living and breathing the successes and struggles of a community where far too many people live with the consequences of racial inequity. South Bend, like all cities, has not solved poverty or racism. But we’ve taken an unflinching look at our shortcomings–even when the results have been unflattering. And we’ve taken action.

With the support of community leaders, we established a small business accelerator in a predominantly Black neighborhood and cut Black unemployment more than half. We’ve worked to keep young people out of the criminal justice system and instituted new training and technology, like body cameras, to help bridge the divide between police and communities of color. Use of force incidents have dropped significantly, even as the tragic death of Eric Logan in June reminded us how far we have to go.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done in South Bend. But these are national challenges, requiring national solutions. The inequities we face are the result of racist policies put in place intentionally–often within living memory–and we must be equally intentional in addressing them. That’s why I have put forward the Frederick Douglass Plan, as ambitious as the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, to tackle systemic racism in every aspect of American life.

It’s a plan that recognizes that everything is connected. That whenever we sit down to talk about issues like race and policing, we must also talk about issues like economic empowerment. But we can’t meaningfully address economic empowerment without talking about education. And we can’t address education without getting into the way neighborhoods are set up, and the way that impacts homeownership, and health, and even whose voice is excluded at the ballot box. So my vision is to tackle all of these challenges in a systemic way.

To close the wealth gap and promote greater economic security within the Black community, our Douglass Plan will triple the number of entrepreneurs from underserved areas within 10 years, creating over 3 million new jobs. Under my administration, the federal government will award 25 percent of federal contracts to minority- and women-owned firms. This proposal alone could invest more than $100 billion in communities of color.

My administration will dedicate $50 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions, recognizing the extraordinary role that HBCUs play as engines of empowerment.

With Black Californians facing higher mortality rates for breast and lung cancer than any other race,[4] we’ll designate Health Equity Zones to help communities target strategies for their communities and recruit more Black doctors, nurses, and health professionals.

We’ll expand affordable housing programs and deliver a 21st Century Homestead Act so that people living in historically redlined communities can acquire properties and build wealth instead of being forced out by gentrification.

We’ll invest in rehabilitation and re-entry, and do everything in our power to ensure that police are professional and accountable. We will legalize marijuana and eliminate incarceration for simple drug possession–and with reforms like that we will cut mass incarceration in half, with no increase in crime, so that California no longer locks up the third-largest prison population in the country.[5]

And we’ll build on reforms like the automatic voter registration implemented in California with a 21st Century Voting Rights Act nationwide.

I want my future children to live in a world where your race has no bearing on your health, or your wealth, or your relationship with law enforcement–a country defined not by exclusion, but by belonging. That is the America I’m determined to bring about as president.

In Pete’s Words: aging with dignity

by Pete Buttigieg – Nov 25, 2019 (

I was not prepared for a social worker to suggest our family spend itself into poverty.

Last winter, after my father entered a hospitalization from which he would never emerge, my mother and I sat down with a social worker to talk about options for the long-term care we thought he might need. I’ll always remember the social worker patiently explaining to my mom that her best option to cover Dad’s care might be for our family to spend everything that we had until we were asset-poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. I remember thinking, “Is that how this works in America?”

It is a fact of life that we and the people we love grow older. With aging can come deep satisfaction and joy — the chance to slow down, travel or play with a new grandchild. It can also bring hardship, as a worker frets whether she has sufficient savings to retire or a husband debates whether to move his spouse to a nursing home.

More and more Americans are confronting the challenges of aging, as shifting demographics intensify a crisis that Washington has neglected for years. As Baby Boomers age, there soon will be more older adults than children for the first time.

By 2050, nearly one in five Iowans will be over 65. Americans are increasingly becoming eligible for Social Security, even as the Trump administration has tried to cut billions from the program.

I am determined to usher in a new era for older Americans, one that empowers them to retire and age with dignity, so that they and their families can see their golden years as a time of security and possibility.

In this new era, we will uphold the promise that every American should be able to maintain a decent standard of living when they retire. A key part of that means ensuring that the 22 million seniors on Medicare Advantage can choose to keep their plans, which is why I will offer Medicare For All Who Want It, in addition to making prescription drugs more affordable.

We’ll ask the most fortunate Americans to pay their fair share, to protect Social Security for the next generation and increase the minimum Social Security benefit. At the same time, 62 million Americans lack a workplace retirement account, and over a third of Iowans have less than $5,000 saved or invested for retirement.

So we’ll create a public option 401(k) to ensure that workers can supplement their Social Security benefits if they choose. Under our plan, a typical American worker could retire with more than $500,000 in that account.

I am committed to making long-term care more affordable, because no family should be faced with the dilemma my family encountered. So we will establish a new, universal long-term care insurance program called Long-Term Care America to provide eligible seniors $90 a day for as long as they need it. For Iowans, this would cut the cost of care by 39 percent for nursing facility services and 57 percent for assisted living services.

We’ll also revitalize the private long-term care insurance market. Through these policies, the public and private sectors will work together to provide comprehensive long-term care insurance while strengthening the safety net for older people with lower incomes.

Our plan will also improve access and quality of long-term care at home and in communities. We’ll mandate that Medicaid cover such care. And we’ll expand the CAPABLE program — which provides a nurse, home repair person and occupational therapist to aging Americans — to make it easier to stay healthy and age at home.

We will honor and support our nation’s caregivers, who are primarily women and disproportionately people of color and immigrants. America will need nearly 8 million new care jobs by 2026, even as these high-turnover jobs involve long hours, low pay and frequent abuse.

So we’ll support Iowa’s 75,000 direct care workers by setting a $15 minimum wage, implementing new work standards and expanding programs to train more caregivers and create ladders for advancement.

And we’ll ensure these workers can unionize, because care jobs should be good jobs.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey once observed that “the moral test of government” is, in part, how we treat “those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly.” My administration will meet that moral test and ensure every aging American has respect, dignity and belonging.

[see also: In Iowa, Buttigieg unveils long-term care and a ‘public option’ 401(k) and Social Security plans]

In Pete’s Words: A Generous Gospel

Buttigieg talks with ‘Rolling Stone’ about faith, the religious left, and what the Mike Pences of the world get wrong

by Alex Morris – Nov 19, 2019 (, abridged)

Rolling Stone: Did you grow up in the church?
Pete Buttigieg: I really didn’t. My father had been a Jesuit seminarian, and by some process I don’t completely understand that involved some years spent in France in the Sixties, wound up as a secular intellectual.

My mother is religious, but a little bit skeptical of organized religion and churches, although she’s started coming to the church that I attend sometimes in South Bend. And I grew up going to Catholic school, so I was always more comfortable with Catholic liturgy than I was Catholic theology, and it took me a while to discover that there was a place for me in the Episcopal faith, which is liturgically conservative and theologically a little more open. And that’s where I realized that I sit too.

What are your thoughts on the role that faith should play in politics?
Well, of course, a very important American principle is that when you’re in the public role or making a policy, it has to be done in a way that serves people of any religion and people with no religion equally. But I think that that doesn’t have to exclude religious reasoning or religious ethics from being part of how we form our own conscience and even what we bring into public life.

I think the most important thing is that we be transparent about our motivations. And I also think it’s fair game to appeal to others according to their religious values, even if they’re different. You never want to trick somebody about where you’re coming from, but I can say, “Here’s my religious convictions. I know yours are different, but based on my reading of my own faith, here’s why I think this is important,” or, “Based on what I understand of yours, here’s why you might want to consider this idea.”

Being a Christian myself, I feel like I come to Christianity with a little bit of the reverse of Pascal’s wager, where I’m like, if I’m wrong about Christianity, I don’t want to have made decisions based on my faith that hurt other people.
Yeah, it’s a smart way to think about it. I mean, part of it maybe has to do with if your faith has a lot to do with doubt, which I think is very rich in the Christian tradition. Obviously not everybody sees it that way, yet Scripture is full of things that I think touch our sense of doubt and call us to that kind of humility. I never thought about it that way, but I like that reasoning.

You can borrow it.
OK [laughs].

But [on the other hand], what about this charge that progressive Christians get of being cafeteria Christians, of picking and choosing the issues, disregarding what the Bible — and you and I may have different interpretations here — but what the Bible could be interpreted to say about a woman’s right to choose or marriage equality or these major hot-button issues of the religious right?
Well, I think for a lot of us — certainly for me — any encounter with Scripture includes some process of sorting out what connects you with the God versus what simply tells you about the morals of the times when it was written, right? For example, the proposition that you should execute your sister by stoning if she commits adultery. I don’t believe that that was right once upon a time, and then the New Testament came and it was gone. I believe it was always wrong, but it was considered right once, and that found its way into Scripture.

And to me that’s not so much cherry-picking as just being serious, because of course there’s so many things in Scripture that are inconsistent internally, and you’ve got to decide what sense to make of it. Jesus speaks so often in hyperbole and parable, in mysterious code, that in my experience, there’s simply no way that a literal understanding of Scripture can fit into the Bible that I find in my hands.

Now, I actually think that if you look at an issue like choice, there’s so many parts of the Bible that associate the beginning of life with breath that there’s plenty of scriptural basis to reach different conclusions about that. But only if you believe that the government must legislate these metaphysical questions does the debate about choice have to be about the government deciding where life begins.

I think the rest of us believe that, no matter what you think on where life begins, the question is who gets to decide how to handle this situation. And that’s how we accommodate a bunch of differently formed consciences at once. It’s the framework of Roe v. Wade, and that’s why there’s a strong American majority for choice, even while there’s very different opinions about deep questions around life.

What do you think about this idea that Trump has been a stumbling block to people who might potentially be interested in Christianity? They see the way that most the vocal members of the Christian faith have aligned themselves with Trump and the hypocrisy there, and it turns them away from religion?
I think it does run the risk of generationally harming the credibility of Christianity in our country, because if people who are avowedly Christian can get themselves into bed with a president like this, it raises the question of what ethical content at all Christianity even has. And it’s not so much Trump himself. I think there’s an extent to which he’s always winking when he pretends to have any religious conviction whatsoever, and the only question is who’s in on the joke. But it’s certainly an issue when you think about the Mike Pences and Falwells of the world.

What about this idea that Trump is a King Cyrus, that he may not be a good guy, but he’s fighting the good fight, and he’s carving out these freedoms for persecuted Christians?
Well, first of all, King Cyrus wasn’t leading the Jews. He was leading the Persians. It is kind of an important twist there. But, yeah, I think the bigger issue is, what about integrity? What about the idea that when you support somebody as a moral as well as a political leader, they’re supposed to be good? I’ll give them this, it’s creative, the whole King Cyrus thing.

Well, that brings us back to the Pences and Falwells of the world. What about [the allegiance of] these people who are, for some, religious leaders and moral leaders?
I think their legitimacy, such as it ever was, is going to collapse as a result of this alliance that they’ve made. And I always think about it on two levels. There’s the fact that I don’t have the same interpretation as they do about Christian ethics. As Reverend Barber says, “They seem to think and talk so much about what Christ says so little about, and so little about what he says so much about,” right?

I mean, to me, obviously as a progressive, it has more to do with the stranger and weakest among us and the poor and so on. But the shocking thing is that they have betrayed not only my understanding, but as recently as when I was growing up in the Clinton years, they seemed to think that it was important that a president be a moral leader and subscribe to certain concepts of family and decency and rectitude. And it turns out that when power comes into the equation, they don’t care so much.

One of the themes that keeps coming up when I talk to people is this belief that the End Times are coming soon. And it’s almost like it ends the conversation if someone is saying, “Well, the environment doesn’t really matter. We shouldn’t be trying to have peace in the Middle East, we should be trying to expand the borders of Israel, because all of these things are going to usher in the Second Coming.” From your perspective, do you see that sort of belief system playing out in politics?
Well, there must be something unconvincing about it, or else more people in politics who were subscribing to that would actually say so. But I do think it lurks certainly beneath the surface of a lot of voters in adherence to this look at the world. But to me, so much of Christian tradition centers itself around what we are supposed to do in this world, that it matters what kind of world we’re creating. I just think it’s a cop-out to suppose that we should allow there to be suffering in the name of that kind of eschatology.

But, I mean, this is where we also break down the true ability of American politics to accommodate religious feeling. We’re supposed to use whatever religious convictions we have to arrive at some overlapping consensus that people could get on board with, whether they share our view or not. And if it’s just apocalyptic, then obviously it’s not going to work that way.

What can progressives do to wrest the branding that’s happened of the Republican Party being the party of the Christian faith? I mean, when I was growing up, I was told explicitly that if you don’t vote Republican, you’re not Christian.
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of conditioning we’ve got to overcome. I guess I would say that, frankly, I think we’ll find salvation in Scripture itself, and in the idea of human compassion too, because even if you have a different view of Scripture than I do, we have the same, I think, understanding of what compassion is.

And if you find that what you’re being told politically cuts against the idea of compassion, sooner or later that’s going to lead to a reckoning that just might invite people to reconsider their political commitments. It’s just that you have to invite people there rather than drag them there, and that can be the hard part, I think, for us on the left. But we all are, I think, really on the eve of a reckoning that could lead to something really good in this country.

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