When a 9-year-old boy asked Pete Buttigieg on stage at a campaign rally in Denver Sunday for advice on having the bravery to come out, the gay presidential hopeful initially didn’t have much to offer, but said he was very impressed.
“I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery,” Buttigieg said. “You seem pretty strong.”
Although Buttigieg is a Rhodes scholar, Harvard University, Afghanistan war veteran, McKinsey consultant who run for re-election to public office as South Bend mayor after coming out as gay, Buttigieg — who came out in his 30s — told the youth, Zachary Ro of Lone Tree, Yolo., he didn’t have his bravery.
“It took me a long time to figure out how to tell even my best friend I was gay, let alone how to get out there and tell the world,” Buttigieg said. “And to see you come to terms with who you are in a room full a thousands of people you’ve never met. That’s really something.”
The crowd of Buttigieg supporters erupted in cheers and waved “Pete 2020” signs in response.
The question was posed to Buttigieg on stage at the Denver rally via a member of his campaign, who read the youth’s inquiry aloud during a question-and-answer session. But the youth later came on stage himself to hear Buttigieg’s response.
Buttigieg was able to offer two pieces of advice to the youth. The first was take caution because the road forward may be difficult.
“It won’t always be easy, but that’s OK, because you know who you are, and that’s really important,” Buttigieg said. “Because when you know who are you, you have a center of gravity that can hold you together when all kinds of chaos is happening around you.”
The second piece of advice Buttigieg told the youth was to keep an eye open to others looking for him to lead as an example.
“You will never know who’s taking their lead from you, who’s watching you and deciding that they can be a little brave because you’ve been brave,” Buttigieg said to additional cheers from the audience.
“When I was trying to figure out who I was,” Buttigieg added, “I was afraid that who I was might mean I could never make a difference, and what wound up happening instead was it’s a huge part of the difference I get to make.”
Although there have been complaints from Rush Limbaugh over Buttigieg’s sexual orientation (and sometimes LGBTQ critics who say he’s not gay enough), the possibility of electing an openly gay person to the White House overwhelmingly has been an energizing factor in his candidacy, especially in Iowa, where he pulled off a victory.
“You will never whose live you might be affecting right now, just by standing here right now,” Buttigieg said. “There’s a lot of power in that.”
Buttigieg had one final thing to say to the youth.
“Even if I can’t promise it’ll alway be easy, I can promise that I’m going to be rooting for you,” Buttigieg said.