Living in Society

Torches for Mayor Pete

Trail by the Lake

After reading Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future I’m not sure South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg should be the 46th U.S. president. I learned something different from his book.

My cohort, the baby boomer generation, should let go the reins of power, stop clutching our torches of freedom and snub them out.

As next generations take up leadership in our country — something that’s already going on, like it or not — we may fear younger citizens will become excessively tattooed vaping addicts. It’s not about us and that’s the hardest part of letting go.

The famous American torch speech was made Jan. 20, 1961 by John F. Kennedy.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Mayor Pete is no Kennedy, even as he was a summer intern for Senator Ted Kennedy in Washington, D.C. while attending Harvard. If there is a torch, or a race at all, the relay broke down and the transition became anything but smooth or noble. America today seems less committed to the vision JFK elegantly espoused in his inaugural address. We are getting to the point in our history where young people don’t remember the politics of the late 1950s and 1960s.

Buttigieg’s book is well written, the narrative easily understandable. Shortest Way Home is a story to which almost anyone can relate. While reading I thought of Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming. I wrote about Obama’s book,

What surprised me was the clarity with which Obama depicted a life on the South Side of Chicago and how it influenced her both while coming up and once she had means to be on her own. The first two sections of the book are by far the strongest. That’s partly because as First Lady events in the third part got plenty of previous play in the media creating a background noise that interfered somewhat with her meticulous and thoughtful narrative.

What makes Buttigieg’s book different is Iowans saw little public history of his work in South Bend, even those of us who spent time there before he came up. Unlike Michelle Obama, about whom we know a lot from her time as First Lady, what you see is what you get with Pete Buttigieg. I don’t doubt the veracity of the facts in his memoir. What worries me about picking him as our next president is there is nothing else there.

There are few things Americans can come together to support any more. We are increasingly on our own as regions, as communities, and as individuals, concerned with making our way as best we can. All the inter-generational torch-passing seems so 1960s.

My advice about Shortest Way Home is read it. Not because Buttigieg should be president but because he illuminates the example of South Bend and what’s possible in creating a more sustainable life in urban centers. If we are to build a new vision of what life here could be, stories of places like South Bend represent something positive. At the same time Buttigieg holds up a torch in his memoir, it is not bright enough to lead us out of the darkness of the post-Obama era by itself.

4 replies on “Torches for Mayor Pete”

Paul’s review gives pause to my enthusiasm for Buttigieg. As first and increasingly such being so to me with President Obama—with him too there was “nothing else there”—in extract of Paul’s words “What worries me about picking him as our next president is there is nothing else there.”
Aside from the hope that with Bernie Sanders there is something “else there” in great vision and purpose beyond Sander’s going on and on about one damn issue after another. None of the rest of the field appears to me to be a current version of leadership actuated in change by the likes of FDR—that is needed in a New Deal up and beyond our current going down the drain of history. Move over declined Roman Empire, we are fast on our way.


Thanks for reading my post Sam. I was just railing about the need for boomers to let go yesterday to an Elizabeth Warren organizer. I may support Warren yet all the boomers like her, Biden and Bernie need to let the next cohort take over.


So he lacks “The vision thing” as Bush Sr once said of himself?

As an older boomer I’m concerned with some candidates age itself. Especially since 8-year Presidencies are something of a norm, we’re talking some serious risk of age-related issues. I wouldn’t recruit myself for an important high-stakes position and expect that I would be able to handle it for that many years out.

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Thanks for reading Frank. The concerns in this post could be addressed and resolved by the candidate. By living in Iowa I might have a chance to discuss with Mayor Pete in person. He’s back in Iowa this week.


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