GW Gets a Visit from Chasten Buttigieg
By Jane Cameron
Last month, students from around D.C gathered at GW to listen to Chasten Buttigieg discuss the vision for the future of the country, shared by him and his husband, Pete Buttigieg. He answered a wide array of questions regarding the campaign and his life.
Chasten emphasized the importance of this election, referring to it as a “make or break'' moment for the American people. He went on to communicate the ways in which he and his husband would work to help the country. He expressed his aspiration to listen to others and not just talk at them. This method has led him to label himself as the “story collector,” lending a hand to Pete the “storyteller”. He further described their relationship by elaborating on how he foresaw his role in this campaign. Chasten spoke about how he set the tone for what he was willing to do in what he jokingly referred to as “political spousing”. He provided a detailed and thoughtful action plan for initiatives he would undertake as first gentlemen and work he was involved in at this time.
Chasten recalled his time as a teacher and the immense impact his work in the field with children has had on his life. He told us how his life experience has allowed him to better empathize with people, something he has translated into working with individuals on the campaign trail. He also made a crack about how there is nothing like middle school to thicken your skin, a much needed characteristic if you want to become involved in politics. Before working as a teacher he worked at CPS to follow his passion of helping children in need of support. He divulged how the education system does not focus on what students bring to school, such as a need for guidance or even lunch. As a teacher he worked to fill those gaps and repeatedly thought about the need for change in education policies. Academic education is just a small part of the education children need from their teachers. He declared he would work to incorporate physical and mental health services for students. He also described the workshops he was having with teachers in order to learn more about what they and their students need. Chasten does not claim that his years of teaching makes him an expert—he wants to hear from as many voices as possible. His openness and desire for change has led him to rally people to share their opinions about the changes needed in the education system.
His devotion to helping those who have not been heard has been a common theme throughout the campaign. Chasten admitted to not being avid about campaign events and told the audience how he has created a deal with the campaign staff. For each place he visits, he spends 80 to 90 percent of the time working with the community. This spans from talking to teachers to working with the LGBT community support systems. He labeled these people “unsung heroes” and said he wants to learn as much as he can about how they are making change and ultimately borrow those ideas for his future work. He was sad to admit as the campaign goes on he gets to see Pete less and less, but still devotes his time to spending it with those who have been deprived of a voice, so he can better advocate for them.
When asked about his planned initiative for his potential future as first gentleman, he declared he would support the arts in education. He believes the arts brings people together, and is a much needed outlet for children. As a gay teenager he turned to the theater program for refuge and even in college he found direction in the arts, which is where he ended up completing his degree. Afterwards he helped run a program in the theater for autistic children and saw the benefits first hand. He holds the belief that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to access such resources and would develop this as first gentleman.
Finally, he was delighted to express the wonderful attributes of his husband, Mayor Pete. He began by conveying his respect for the democratic candidates and referred to them as the “most impressive field of candidates” he has seen. But, he believed Pete stood out with his new set of experiences and illustrated how Pete inspired a community to believe in itself once again. He effectively saved the city of South Bend millions and helped it turn around in his eight years serving as mayor. While Pete did this he remained modest, and still talks about how there is more to be done.
Modesty is a defining aspect of Pete Buttigieg. Chasten told the audience how growing up he was only exposed to messages from D.C about the lack of healthcare for those who were in need of it, like his mother with cancer. Additionally, as a gay teenager he was constanly hurt by the anti-gay beliefs he watched displayed in congress. He recalled how he thought negatively of politicians until he “matched with a really cute one on Hinge.” From then on he saw how some politicians were authentic and strived for a more developed America. Pete is the same person on a date as he is while speaking to the public. Chasten talked about how Mayor Pete’s passion to serve is translated into everything he does. It is what drove Pete to join the Army and to leave the comfort of his job to become mayor, because he felt the need to serve others. Chasten finished his glowing description of Pete by saying, “I'm happy to share him with you”.
These two men welcome everyone into their coalition and Chasten emphasized that the last thing they would do is isolate someone because of their differing views. Their openness to learn from others and their drive for change demonstrates the growth the country could potentially experience from the service of this political power couple and their life experiences.
Jane Cameron is a freshman majoring in journalism and mass communication, from Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Note: The GW College Democrats News & Blog Committee’s mission is to highlight, empower, and facilitate the political expression of its members. As such, the views expressed in this article are based on the opinions of its author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the whole of GW College Democrats, its executive board, or its senior deputy board.