Pete Buttigieg reflects on the painful moment he realised America was homophobic in poignant cabinet role acceptance speech
Pete Buttigieg has spoken about his first experience of homophobia in a moving speech as he made history with a nomination for a role in Joe Biden’s cabinet.
The former South Bend, Indiana mayor made history on Tuesday (15 December) when he was announced as Biden’s pick for transportation secretary.
The 38-year-old will become the first out LGBT+ person to hold a permanent, full-time cabinet post, though controversial gay Trump official Richard Grenell temporarily filled the cabinet role of acting director of national intelligence for three months while a successor was confirmed.
In a speech on Wednesday (16 December), Buttigieg reflected on the historic nature of his appointment, noting the different climate when the nation’s first openly gay ambassador, James Hormel, was appointed by Bill Clinton.
Pete Buttigieg is proud to be the first out Cabinet nominee
He said: “I’m mindful that the eyes of history are on this appointment, knowing that 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 at 17 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 able to serve only by 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 and I learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. Just as important, I saw how those limits, could be challenged.”
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He continued: “Two decades later, I can’t help but think of a 17 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 to them.
“So thank you, Mr President-elect. Thank you for honouring your commitment to diversity with this administration that you are 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 time I came to work when I was a mayor. And I feel it here now, joining this historic team with such an important mission, preparing to deliver for all Americans.”