Pete Buttigieg Speaks at NEC

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New England College, located in the first primary state, has the unique opportunity to host many Town Hall events welcoming presidential candidates to speak. In past years, NEC has hosted Donald Trump in 2016, and even Richard Nixon in 1969. This year, with the primary season heating up for the 2020 elections, candidates like Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Yang have been arriving for events nearly every week.

Recently, Pete Buttigieg, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana and presidential hopeful, held a Town Hall event. Even before Buttigieg had made it to campus, the town of Henniker was a-buzz. Polls in New Hampshire have been placing Buttigieg right up top with front-runners like Biden, Warren, and Sanders, and that was very apparent by the Pete hats and t-shirts decorating many in the crowded Simon Center.

The excitement reached its height when Mayor Pete finally entered the room, applause and cheering continuing for a few seconds before he was able to begin speaking. Buttigieg started his Town Hall by asking the crowd to imagine the day that Donald Trump is no longer the president of the United States. He explained that not only is that image “something to look forward to,” it is also something, he argues, that voters have to think about when electing the next president. “Because by definition, this election is a competition not only for who can bring an end to the Trump era, but who can lead us into the era that must come next.”

Buttigieg went on to list the crises that the United States is facing, from climate change to gun violence to the economy, and asked the audience to consider the leadership necessary when casting their votes. “The challenge will be to implement big enough, bold enough, ideas to meet that moment.” Buttigieg went on the explain the importance of unification and the very difficult task the next president has in unifying the United States, especially where it will be after the 2020 election.

He also explained the importance of making the distinction between patriotism and the “cheap nationalism of hugging the flag.” True patriotism, in Buttigieg’s eyes, starts with realizing that a country is made of people, and that hating half of those people means you do not love your country. He commented on the “go back to where you came from” rhetoric that has gained popularity since the Trump presidency began.

Buttigieg continued to state his policies, from second amendment rights, to taxation of Wall Street, before taking questions from the audience. One question asked how Buttigieg’s mayoral duties prepared him for presidential duties. Buttigieg explained that being mayor helped him become a problem solver. “We deliver water because you need water to live, so we get it done. Cities don’t get to print their own money when there’s a deficit so you just have to figure out your finances and get it done.”

Governing people who do not always agree with him and don’t always like him, Buttigieg argues, is another advantage he has learned while being a mayor. While being a “democratic mayor in a place like Indiana” has given him the opportunity to learn how to govern many different types of people, which has made him more inclusive and understanding, he also argues that he has been able to bring people together.

After questions from the audience, Buttigieg closed with his overarching theme: a call for unification. He explained that the next president has to have “the ability to establish that sense of belonging,” because so many people now are telling others that they do not belong. Buttigieg stressed his message: “Everyone belongs in this American project together, and we can’t pull it off without each other.”

After the initial Town Hall meeting, the New Englander was given the pleasure of getting a few minutes to ask presidential candidate Buttigeig a few questions. With such an unprecedentedly diverse group of candidates, ranging in gender, ethnicity, and sexuality, Buttigeig is proud to be among a group whose presidency would be historic in some way. “This is a historically diverse field and also an incredibly impressive field of candidates, and I think that’s what we’re going to need in order to rise to this moment.”

With the recent resurfacing of a picture of Mayor Buttigeig ringing bells for the Salvation Army, a historically anti-LGBT organization, Buttigeig responded, “Obviously I believe passionately in LGBT rights, and I have been encouraged to see the Salvation Army stepping away as an organization from a past where they weren’t always welcoming.” Buttigeig also explains that he fully supports the Salvation Army’s efforts to help poor people in his city of South Bend, and that he will not shy away from that fact.

Buttigieg has also recently been on the chopping block because of a speech given in 2009 to a group associated with the Tea Party in his home-city of South Bend. With Buttigieg working to gain supporters on both sides of the political spectrum, some liberal voters are shying away because of the recently resurfaced speech. However, Buttigieg explained that his motive was his political opponent’s unwillingness to debate him. In 2009, Buttigieg, running against Richard Mourdock for State Treasurer, found that the only way to get Mourdock on the same stage was to give a speech at an event organized by Citizens for Common Sense, an organization affiliated with the Tea Party in South Bend, that Mourdock was also attending.

Buttigeig also stated that he is willing to talk to any voter, and that he will work to “penetrate the echo chambers and media bubbles that have people only hearing from people who agree with them, because that’s what its going to take to change things in this country.” He also urged voters who have any confusion of where he stands to “check out what I have to say about the issue.”

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Madison Foley is from Brockton Massachusetts, attending New England College for Creative Writing and Communications. She likes writing, reading, and dogs.
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