uchicago students
UChicago students wait to hear Pete Buttigieg speak in Mandel Hall.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Ta-Nehesi Coates, and Pete Buttigieg - though this sounds like the opening line of a promising joke, it’s also a list of three people I’ve had the chance to hear from since starting at Harris this fall.

Most recently, Pete Buttigieg came to campus for a discussion with David Axelrod. My friends and I who managed to register before the event sold out trekked over to Mandel Hall together last Friday. The line snaked around the building, but considering my friends had a wide range of views on the 2020 election, we had a lively debate to keep us occupied as we waited for the event to begin.

When Mayor Pete took the stage, you could feel the excitement in the room. Views on his candidacy aside, there is something powerful about seeing someone in person after watching them in a presidential debate just days before.

He and David Axelrod took their seats and immediately started digging in. Axlerod asked Buttigieg to comment on the recent news that his campaign had cut ties with a donor involved with covering up the video showing the shooting of Laquan McDonald. In response, Buttigieg described how his staff had quickly grown from “4 to 400,” and Axlerod retorted that they should probably hire one more person to vet donors.

Buttigieg also expanded on his comments during the debate about what would need to happen in the United States if Trump were no longer president. He spoke about the need to work on structural reform while simultaneously focusing on healing and bringing two divided sides back together.

During the Q&A portion, after a student asked about the racial wealth disparity, Buttigieg observed that unless we combined reparations with structural reform, we will continue to see a divide. This aligned with readings my classmates and I had just completed for our discussion about reparations in our Analytical Politics course. My friends and I continued our debate with new insights as we left.

Being able to take the knowledge we learned in the classroom and apply it directly to a talk from a presidential candidate, bringing theory to life, is one of the most unique things about studying at the University of Chicago. We are looking forward to the next big event Harris has to offer!