Karen Celestino-Horseman: Why 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg is rising fast

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

Celestino-HorsemanMayor Pete Buttigieg is setting the political world on fire. In just a few months, Buttigieg has gone from being a relative unknown outside of Indiana to outpolling everyone except Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in the most recent Emerson poll.

To participate in the Democratic presidential debate this summer, candidates had to earn at least 1 percent of the vote in three different national or early-state polls done by qualified pollsters or receive donations from 65,000 unique voters, with at least 200 from 20 different states. Buttigieg has done both.

So, how did a 37-year-old millennial mayor of a city that barely qualifies as midsize come so far so fast?

As a country, we are tired of tweets and rhetoric that push us to be fearful—of one another, of those different from us, and of the rest of the world. We are tired of having a White House resident who embarrasses us, who speaks without understanding the issue, who must be prompted to show empathy. Buttigieg’s message offers us respite. He shows us what it would be like to have a leader who leads with grace, ideas, intelligence, hope and optimism. Buttigieg speaks of inclusion, not division. He envisions an America that serves all.

Wisely, Buttigieg has declined to contribute to the chaotic din of political rhetoric that is flying back and forth between the parties. Instead of confronting Donald Trump directly, Buttigieg tells us we can make our hopes and dreams a reality—we can make things better.

His own biography assures young people that, with hard work and being true to yourself, you can succeed. Twenty years ago, Buttigieg was struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, fearful of how it would affect his future. Today, he is an openly gay, married man who has declared his intention to run for president and who is finding support around the country.

True, he has not released details about how he intends to implement specific policies, but he has time. Right now, he is letting the public know what he stands for and what he believes. He believes everyone should have access to health care. He believes young people who serve one year of national service following high school will be better trained to run the world after having seen firsthand travails of those less fortunate and in need. He believes we need to address climate change, cybersecurity, elections and immigration.

Buttigieg’s accomplishments show he has the determination and strength to lead. He is a graduate of both Harvard University and Oxford University, the latter done as a Rhodes scholar. He has served in the intelligence arm of the Naval Reserves as a lieutenant and was deployed to Afghanistan. He speaks seven languages. And he relates to the people he has served as mayor of South Bend. After publicly sharing that he is gay, Buttigieg garnered more than 80% of the vote in his 2015 bid to win re-election.

If Buttigieg’s popularity continues to rise, the long knives of politics will be coming after him. I hope he is up to the fight, because, even if he is not elected president in 2020, he is young enough to try again. We yearn for a president of whom we can be proud. Buttigieg reminds us that such a dream is possible now and in the future to come.•

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Celestino-Horseman is an attorney and represents the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus on the Democratic State Central Committee. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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