Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future

By Dan Clendenin

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Pete Buttigieg, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future (New York: Liveright, 2019), 352pp.

As I write, there are 23 Democratic candidates running for the White House in 2020. A few months ago, nobody had heard of the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, or could pronounce his Maltese last name (“Buddha-Judge”). Since then, though, “Mayor Pete” has risen to the top tier of candidates thanks to his compelling personal story and fundraising prowess.

Pete Buttigieg was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, where he is currently in his second term as mayor (having won eighty percent of the vote in the second election). He is widely credited with revitalizing his rust belt home town, which in 2011 was #8 on a top ten list of “Dying Cities” in a Newsweek article. When he was elected at the age of twenty-nine in 2011, he was the country’s youngest mayor.

Before becoming mayor, Buttigieg graduated from Harvard and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He then was a consultant with McKinsey from 2007 to 2010, although he discovered that his heart was not in it. He served in the Navy Reserve from 2009 to 2017, and in 2014, while mayor of South Bend, he was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months as an intelligence officer specializing in counter terrorism (with a top secret clearance). He has studied seven languages, including Arabic, is openly gay, and a self-described Christian who worships at St. James Episcopal Church (where he married his partner Chasten). In 2013 Buttigieg performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra as a guest piano soloist (he played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue).

No wonder that the Washington Post called Buttigieg “the most interesting mayor you never heard of.” This is a fascinating personal story. It will be interesting to see if he can add to this a compelling political vision with specific policy proposals for the entire nation. Stay tuned.

Dan Clendenin:

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