Thursday, December 17, 2020

Worth Quoting: Pete Buttigieg

The video above is of the announcement of the nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation. Here’s an approximate transcript of Pete’s remarks:

Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you so much for entrusting me with this opportunity to serve the American people. I am humbled by your confidence, and eager to do everything in my power to ensure that this administration succeeds.

My hometown of South Bend, Indiana, was built by the power of American transportation: from trade along the river whose bend gives our city its name, to the rail lines that connected us to the rest of the country back when we were considered the West, to the livelihoods created by good-paying union jobs at places like the aeronautical supplier Bendix and the giant auto assembly of Studebaker. And now, climate and infrastructure innovation have helped bring my community into the 21st century.

I’ve also had a personal love of transportation ever since childhood. More than once, as a college student, I would convince a friend to travel nearly a thousand miles back to Indiana with me on Amtrak, though I know that in this administration, I will at best be the second biggest train enthusiast around. I spent a spring break in graduate school studying on board a cargo ship. Travel in my mind is synonymous with adventure, growth, and, even love, so much so that I proposed to my husband, Chasten, in an airport terminal. Don’t let anybody tell you O’Hare isn’t romantic.

And let me take this chance to thank Chasten for everything that he gives, everything he sacrifices, to support me in pursuing public service.

The first time I ran for office was on a platform of supporting the Obama-Biden administration’s rescue of the auto industry. And when I did first take office as mayor of a city fighting its way out of the teeth of the Great Recession, infrastructure was at the heart of our vision.

We reimagined how vehicles and people moved through the city, unlocking new economic vibrancy in our urban core. We built up partnerships, from a regional collaboration to improve rail service to the public-private partnership that put our city at the cutting edge of bicycle mobility. We developed new forms of support for lower-wage workers in their commutes, and added electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help prepare a more sustainable future.

I also dealt with the challenges created by generations of often inadequate state and federal infrastructure funding. With just enough resources to repave every lane-mile of street only every one hundred years or so, I faced a constant battle with that natural enemy of every mayor: potholes. In a community where more than a quarter of our residents lived in poverty, we worked to fill in the gaps that were created when underfunded transit resources left too many cut off from opportunity, just because they didn’t have the means to own a car.

At its best, transportation makes the American Dream possible: Getting people and goods to where they need to be, directly and indirectly creating good-paying jobs. At its worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities can reinforce racial, economic, and environmental injustice, dividing or isolating neighborhoods, undermining government’s basic role of empowering everyone to thrive.

And now an historic opportunity. This administration can deliver policy and resources in that can create jobs, rise to the climate challenge, and equitably serve all Americans, all while continuing to ensure the safety of travellers and workers alike. America has given this Administration a mandate to build back better—and step one in building back better, literally, is to build.

Americans shouldn’t settle for less than our peers in the developed world when it comes to our roads and bridges, our railways and transit systems. The U.S. should lead the way—and I know that in this administration, we will. We’ll bring together leaders and communities from every corner—labor and business, left, right and center, urban and rural, communities of color, tribal nations, mayors, counties, and states, everyone who has a stake in American infrastructure—to design a better future. Americans expect us to see to it that the idea of an “infrastructure week” is associated with results, and never again let it be a media punch line.

My view of this opportunity is also shaped by being the youngest member so far named to this cabinet, and the first Millennial to be at that table. Newer generations have a lot at stake in infrastructure policy that, that by its nature, must contemplate both the immediate and the long-term. The question of how America will look by the middle of this century—the competitiveness of our economy, the security of our climate—for me this is not academic, it’s personal.

I am also mindful of that the eyes of history on this appointment—knowing this is the first time an American president has ever sent an openly LGBTQ cabinet member to the Senate for confirmation.

I can remember watching the news, seventeen years old, in Indiana, and seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton, named to be an ambassador, attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay, ultimately only able to serve only by a recess appointment. At the time, I had no aspirations of being appointed by a president to anything—at that age, I was hoping to be an airline pilot. And I was a long way from coming out, even to myself. But still, I watched that story, I learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged.

So, two decades later, I can’t help but think of a seventeen-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now, somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family, and I’m thinking about the message that today’s announcement is sending them.

So thank you, Mr. President-elect, thank you for honouring your commitment to diversity with this administration you’re assembling. And thank you, Madam Vice President-elect, for your trailblazing leadership, your encouragement, and your friendship.

There is no greater source of meaning in professional life than the chance to serve others. I felt that meaning every time I laced up my boots when I was in the military, every day coming to work as mayor. And I feel it here now, joining this historic team, with such an important mission, preparing to deliver for all Americans.


Roger Owen Green said...

Yesterday, I finally listen to you being interviewed by George from This Week in Gay. I had just missed it somehow. Anyway, as a black guy, I'm torn between lifting up the women, black people, gay people in roles for the 1st time and seeking the dull normalcy of it being no big deal. At least in the US, it is, and should still be a big deal when a young woman kicks a PAT in a Power 5 college football game. Or the first Hispanic in job X.

Arthur Schenck said...

I think firsts always matter. The fact someone can still be a first whatever in a government position of some kind often surprises me when I find it out they're the first. Still, someone has to be, and sometimes it just takes far, far longer than it should. Which is all the more reason to celebrate firsts as they come along, I think.