I am back! I’ve finally recovered from a bunch of illness, and I can’t wait to tell you all about our amazing Caribbean cruise we took in January! But first, I want to share a post about my most recent experience.
On Monday night [Feb 17, 2020] I attended a Town Hall in Salt Lake City held by USA Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. When I heard on Friday that he was coming, I was pleasantly surprised! It is such a rare occurrence for any Presidential candidate to ever come speak to the general public in Utah. We get ignored here by both Republican and Democratic candidates. As a long-time “Red State” the Republicans take their win here for granted, so why invest any time in us? And, the Democrats view us as a lost cause, so we are not worth any of their time or money, either.
But, not Democratic candidate Pete! He was coming to Utah anyway! So, Jeff and I both eagerly signed up to see him.
I have been intrigued by this man for many months, ever since I heard him announce his unlikely candidacy, back when he was a Midwestern Mayor with a name no-one knew how to pronounce yet. (“Buddha judge” or “Boot-Edge-Edge”) But, who was this young looking, unassuming guy? I kept an eye out for any interviews he gave, and was always impressed with his genial, open nature, and straight forward answers. The more I learned the more consistently impressed I’ve been with everything he has already accomplished in his young lifetime, and especially impressed with his solid character. One of the things that stood out to me from the beginning is how he listens intently when someone is talking and gives them his full attention. He really focuses when being asked a question. Then, he pauses and gives an extremely relevant, direct answer. In other words, he’s not a typical politician. He’s real.
I not only wanted to go to this town hall to hear him speak, but also attend as a show of gratitude for his willingness to validate Utah. Pete still cares about us as fellow citizens, even if we don’t elect him. I think that just shows what a quality human being he is! I prayed he would be treated respectfully here. I also worried there might be a poor turnout! All the more reason for us to go.
Sadly, Jeff ended up feeling ill shortly before it was time to leave, so I decided to go alone. When I approached the area there was so much traffic I needed to park about a half mile away. As I walked toward the venue there were more and more people and then I saw that massive line of people! THOUSANDS! And I was worried about the turnout! As I walked multiple blocks to find the end of the line, I started filming a video. (apparently, someone says my 45 second version on Twitter was shared on CSPAN).
It took a little over 1 hour for the line to make its way to the building. But, things were all handled very orderly. The venue had been changed a day earlier to this larger space based on RSVP volume. But, I am not sure if they fully expected THIS MANY enthusiastic people to keep flooding to the event! Very exciting!
As cars continued circling the streets looking for a place to park, people kept coming, and the line kept growing behind me. Everyone was in a great mood! No one minded waiting. We were just enjoying being part of the experience.
While I was in line for that hour I had a great chat with the 7 people nearest me. There were 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 1 non affiliated (self described “open minded”). We were all proud to see such a tremendous turnout in Utah. Thousands of people were choosing to participate in the presidential election process (on President’s Day, no less), wanting to be involved citizens and come listen to a candidate in person.
I enjoyed my conversation with these friendly strangers in line. We were a “diverse group” (by Utah standards) :). Our ages ranged from about 25 to 75. We had different ethnic and religious backgrounds. All of us came because we wanted to hear what Pete had to say. No one had settled on a top candidate yet. Several of us were self described “moderates” in our respective parties. The two registered Democrats were undecided who to vote for in the long list of Democratic candidates on the primary ballot (There are 16 names on Utah’s ballot, although, half of them have already dropped out of the race, that still leaves 8 choices) All of us were in agreement about the mess Washington DC is in, and scared about the direction things are going. We are dismayed how divided and angry our nation has become, and how polarized our Congress is. All of us want the hate and bigotry in America to stop! We were also in agreement we need to get Trump out. Everyone mentioned maddening things that have happened in the past 3 years of Trump,. We kept saying “Ugh! I forgot about THAT one!” and shaking our heads, and “Wow. It just makes me so tired.” Our 75 year old veteran said “You know what? I don’t expect my president to be a perfect person but they gotta at the very least have honor and integrity, and treat the office with respect! This guy, he’s so disrespectful of everyone and everything! It’s just shameful.”
Meanwhile, the seven of us had a very respectful chat! We broached some of the big issues. Guns: Two were very anti gun and do not think anyone needs to have them. They gave some compelling reasons why they felt it would make us a safer nation. Three were ok with allowing some citizens to own guns if they were responsible people, and had training and a licence – but they still wanted regulations and monitoring because “all these mass shootings have got to be stopped!”. A couple guys were hunters and they adamantly don’t want the government taking their guns away. However they were agreeable to the idea of getting rid of assault weapons, because “you don’t need something like that to hunt! Can you imagine? You’d blow your whole deer to bits!”, and they didn’t mind the background check idea either – “seems perfectly reasonable to me”. Foreign policy: Lots of fears all around our circle about Trump starting another war – even a possible nuclear conflict! Frustration with the costs of endless war and building up arsenals and ‘Space Force’ instead of being able to invest those billions to help our domestic issues and children. We also have embarrassment over Trump’s shoddy treatment of our allies. The Impeachment: varied feelings about the whole process, but we all expressed respect for our Utah Senator Mitt Romney standing up for his principles and choosing to depart from his Party line and vote with his conscience. (He didnt get a full pass though. Several of us were still very frustrated with the man and his incongruity). But, we agreed he at least did something right. We also voiced dismay at Romney’s poor treatment by his own! The latest judicial system crises: You see! We never even get one day of peace! The news that Trump is now trying to manipulate the legal system to get his crooked buddies off the hook elicited big sighs and groans. I think our 25 year old in the group summed it best, “It’s scary. If he controls the courts, then we don’t have a real justice system or rule of law anymore, and that means we really don’t have an America.” If Trump believes he can do or say anything, and Congress allows it, then what happens next? Seriously.
We also chatted about happier things. Like kids, grand-kids, school, work, hobbies. We were all different good humans finding common ground and being friendly to each other. How nice! Whenever someone shared their different viewpoints, no one ever argued. We just listened and nodded. You know what I learned? Amazing things happen when people come together wanting to listen. Let’s come together and listen more. Let’s choose a leader who wants to listen!
After an hour it got very cold! I wished I had brought my gloves. I was glad I had brought my coat at the last minute (I had no idea I’d be outside so long)! A couple of high school aged kids up ahead of us were only wearing shorts and t-shirts! They hopped up and down and beat their arms to keep warm, with big grins on their faces! Ah, the follies and hardiness of youth!
As I mentioned, the campaign volunteers were incredibly organized and cheerful. They came through the line with an app to check each of us in electronically and give us a sticker that would tell the front gate we were checked in and allowed to go through the security. One volunteer was passing out water bottles, another one was giving “high fives”. We were being told a lot of different crowd count numbers … but the general consensus today is that there were 5000+ people who got inside!
When we entered the building my line buddies and I were quickly separated. Sad I never had the chance to say goodbye. The venue was already packed on the main level, so I was funneled up to the balcony loft area. The entire building was a standing only space. However, there were chairs set up in designated areas near the front for people with ADA or any other physical need. The volunteers were being really diligent checking the line outside for anyone who needed assistance and immediately taking them in. By the time I reached the top of the stairs the balcony area was already at least 7 people deep standing from the rail. I couldn’t see anything at all. I really didn’t want to have to watch it on the small monitor … So, I eventually decided to try carefully crawling on the floor around the legs to the railing. Bless those 50 people who let me do this with no complaints! 🙂
The crowd was energetic AND incredibly patient. Some people had been standing an hour and a half already on the main floor squeezed together like little sardines. I admire their stamina!
It was my impression a large percentage were there to hear Pete for the first time. After Pete was introduced and he took the stage he included “a special welcome to all our future former Republicans here!” which drew laughter. 🙂
Mayor Pete is a very impressive human being. He is a Rhodes Scholar, Oxford and Harvard graduate, a decorated Navy Intelligence Veteran, fluent in at least 4 languages and conversational in many others, a voracious reader, loves learning, a hard worker. He comes from a middle class family, no silver spoon childhood or private jets. When he was 29 he ran for the office of Mayor of his city, South Bend, and won! He served two terms! He rebuilt the economy and infrastructure of a struggling Midwest city, and helped it prosper. I also happen to know he is a talented musician. He plays piano and guitar. Of course, this automatically makes him “extra” for me! As a musician I know that honing a musical skill is a hallmark of a disciplined character – a person who possesses extraordinary dedication, patience, commitment, hard work and willingness to sacrifice. These are all qualities we deserve in a President!
By the way, he never mentioned any of those accolades during the Town Hall. He only referenced his military service.
Pete spoke for the first 20 minutes about his overall vision for his presidency and the nation. He addressed many of the same concerns and frustrations my new friends and I had been talking about in line. He had many great thoughts. He also gave respect to Senator Romney – and pointed out that when a party turns on their own like they did to him, for voting his conscience, then that’s a sign of a very broken party.
Pete handled his Q&A in a very creative and orderly way. People had written questions while waiting in line. The paper slips had all been placed in a fishbowl, and now someone local walked on stage carrying the fishbowl (sorry, I didn’t catch his name). He drew out questions from the fishbowl and read them for Pete to answer. This was my favorite part! Everyone asked really sincere questions and Pete gave really straightforward, thoughtful answers. I am going to post some of my video clips of these Q&A. I admire his style of giving the short direct answer and then the explaination.
In summary, this town hall was a positive event, and I had an excellent experience. I was so glad I came. Thousands of good, average Utah citizens, of all ages and backgrounds, showed up and supported the political process. We listened, we cheered for his good ideas, and we supported his willingness to come to us! Pete let us know by his actions that he truly believes what he says; ALL are equally valid. ALL belong. The citizens of Utah still matter, and our voices and votes matter.
Pete shared his desire to lead and serve America with decency and integrity. I really appreciate that. I’m longing for a return to honor and integrity in our White House. I like how Pete freely stated he is willing to compromise and listen to the public as we formulate ideas and policies together. I think he has chosen a moderate approach to many issues, and he gave good explanations for his thinking process on issues. Nothing ever comes across as ‘my way or the highway’ with Pete. He believes a good leader inspires people to use their freedom and be fully involved in the process of government, and innovation!
Honestly, it was just so refreshing to sit back and listen to a rational, respectful, intelligent, decent human being running for office! As I studied the crowd, I felt buoyed up and energized. If so many Utahns are looking outside of their traditional party and thinking deeply about how important their vote is in this election – then I also know that is happening everywhere. Yes, Republicans are giving themselves permission to support a Democrat. And I have so much more hope now!
“We The People” haven’t stopped caring!
Thank you Pete for bringing me a gift of hope. That is what a true leader does. They lead by example. They inspire us to not give up, to be our better selves, and do good things for others and our community. That is the kind of person I want serving and leading my country in our White House, and representing us to the world. – Holly
P.S. I’ve just heard a couple more candidates may be coming to Utah! What magic is this?! I will be trying to attend their events also!