A very timely read, Buttigieg has a really nice writing style and an interesting story to tell. He’s not the most qualified guy on the debate stage, but he’s thoughtful, articulate, and smart. And he’s kind of adorable. I can sum up his book by saying that it made me like him even more as a candidate. Although I’m not sure I can see him being happy as a President, given his love of local governance.
You probably know all this already, but Buttigieg grew up in small town Indiana, went to Harvard, became a Rhodes Scholar and a Marine, came out and recently married. And among all that he became one of the youngest mayors in the country.
His memoir is a political work, of course, and should be read as such. It’s meant to explain to the world who he is and what he hopes to accomplish, and it does all that. He writes about all of the different experiences that have shaped him. I found that I liked how he thinks about issues and how he’s addressed real-world problems in South Bend.
What I saw, beginning on that sad summer morning, is that policy and symbolism cannot be decoupled. As a manager, a mayor must focus on what can be measured and proven, difficult decisions, and the use of new and old tools to solve important problems. But as a leader, sometimes the most important thing is simply to show up, or to gather the right people together, to send a certain kind of message.
I still question whether a small town mayor can possibly have the experience needed to be President. But I wondered about that in 2008 when we had a first-time Senator running for President, and I was wrong then – and it’s a different world now. Plus, Buttigieg is more than just a mayor, with his military experience, his work in politics, and his research on foreign affairs.
I recommend this book to anyone who, like me, is still on the fence about the current group of Democratic candidates. Buttigieg would bring insight and intelligence to the White House, something we desperately need. He answers hard questions directly and clearly, and can speak to Midwestern voters. And as a mayor in a fairly conservative state, he brings a big picture mentality and he seems to have a skill for mediating tough situations. And I really, really like him.
Looking for more memoirs? See my upcoming reviews of Ruth Reichl’s Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir and Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas.