Pete Buttigieg's High School Essay Praising Bernie Sanders Resurfaces

In 2000, current Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg wrote an award-winning high school essay in praise of his now fellow presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. On Wednesday, Jacobin republished the essay online.

Buttigieg wrote the essay as a senior year at South Bend's St. Joseph High School for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. The contest, named for Kennedy's 1957 book Profiles in Courage, was meant to instill students with "the importance of public service and the difficult choices that politicians often face," according to Charles U. Daly, the Kennedy Library Foundation's executive director at the time. The contest was sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Fleet Bank. A press release announcing that year's winner said that Buttigieg's essay was chosen from over 600 submissions.

Throughout the essay, Buttigieg praised Sanders for making bold political statements and expressing a true desire to serve the American people. He wrote that these qualities made Sanders a unique voice in American politics. "Candidates have discovered that it is easier to be elected by not offending anyone rather than by impressing the voters," he wrote. He condemned candidates as "cynical" for running "test platforms," consulting sample voter groups before publicly taking a stance. He wrote that this cynicism creates a distance between voters and candidates. He also wrote that the distance "calls into question what motivates a run for office," concluding it was "in many cases, apparently, only the desire to occupy it."

Among his many praises, Buttigieg reflected on Sanders' decision to identify himself as a socialist "in a climate where liberalism is considered radical, and socialism is immediately and perhaps willfully confused with communism." He called Sanders fearless for being candid about his ideology, despite having "lived through a time in which an admitted socialist could not act in a film, let alone hold a congressional seat." He also called Sanders' support of same-sex marriage and his stance on gun control "courageous and politically risky stands on issues facing the nation."

Buttigieg also noted Sanders' position as an independent at the time made him a great agent of compromise in a divided Senate. He cited hearings on the International Monetary Fund and a ban on imported products made by underage laborers as two instances in which Sanders represented Kennedy's philosophy of "compromises of issues, not of principles."

In his conclusion, Buttigieg said Sanders stood out as an answer to those who think of politics as "a cesspool of corruption." In his final two sentences, he also alluded to his own political aspirations. "I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service," he wrote. "I can personally assure you this is untrue.

Representatives for Buttigieg and Sanders did not immediately respond to request for comment from Newsweek.

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Democratic presidential candidates South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) interact during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Win McNamee/Getty
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