Video: Pete Buttigieg Reacts to Clip of Congressman Dick Gephardt Telling Him to Get Involved in Politics in 2003—'You Really Took Me Seriously, Didn't You?'

Pete Buttigieg was surprised during his Hardball town hall on Monday night when the MSNBC host Chris Matthews aired a years-old clip from the show in which the Democratic candidate featured.

Buttigieg, mayor of Indiana's South Bend and a contender for his party's 2020 nomination, had asked a question of a candidate back in the 2004 Democratic Primary.

Matthews showed the 2003 clip of then Harvard student Buttigieg asking former Missouri congressman and Majority Leader Dick Gephardt why he was the only primary candidate not attending a youth-oriented event, and if he thought young voters matter to his campaign.

Gephardt blamed scheduling for his lack of attendance because he needed to be in Iowa at the time of the event. He told the audience of Harvard students, including a youthful Buttigieg, who was studying history and literature, that young voters did matter to him.

"When I was in college, Jack Kennedy was president. And I was moved when he said to young people like me, 'Get involved in politics. Give part of your life to politics,'" Gephardt said.

"So I just want to say to all of you here, get involved in public life. Give back to your country, don't just take from it. And get involved in this campaign. If it's not for me, get behind somebody and get out there and work and make this country a better place. You can do this."

Buttigieg told Matthews he felt bad for being so hard on Gephardt and that he is now a lot more sympathetic to scheduling pressures. But Matthews had another surprise for Buttigieg: Gephardt was on the line via video link to turn the tables and ask him a question instead.

"Hey Mayor Pete, you really took me seriously, didn't you? Good for you," Gephart said as the audience laughed.

He said voters often asked him about the future of American democracy, and that his answer was that he is optimistic because people are good citizens. Gephardt then asked Buttigieg if that answer is still right.

"Yeah," Buttigieg replied. "That's my experience. People just want to know that they're going to be OK. But people can have good and bad things called out from within us. We're all capable of good and bad things. Just ask somebody you love.

"And people individually and also collectively, I think we become worse when we're not secure. And part of what's happening right now in a world where we've got everything from the rise of China to artificial intelligence and automation and the economy's changing is people have been made less secure.

"It makes it possible for a cynical leader to draw out the worst of us. But I also believe that one of the best reasons to get involved in politics, as I felt called to do when I was a student by people like Gephardt, is that you can also use the tools, the skills that you learn as an elected leader, to draw out the best in people.

"I think that—even more than policy and administration and management—that is the thing we're most missing in the White House right now and the thing I most want to restore."

Gephardt then told Buttigieg: "Just keep doing what you're doing. Work hard every day. It's a big job but you're doing a great job of being out there, talking to people, and listening to people, which is the most important thing you can do. You're doing great, just keep on going. I'm proud of you and all the other candidates. We're gonna win this thing."

Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran and a relative unknown before entering the 2020 race, is polling regularly at third or fourth place in what is a wide and diverse field of candidates. His calm and assured media performances have impressed people within the party, and raised his profile significantly among the public.

Pete Buttigieg young Hardball video
A young Pete Buttigieg in a 2003 clip from MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" which aired during the 2020 Democratic primary candidate's town hall. MSNBC/Hardball