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Professor reflects on son’s mayoral victory

| Thursday, November 10, 2011

For Notre Dame English professor Joseph Buttigieg, Tuesday’s mayoral election was personal — his son, Pete, was the winner.

Even though he had shown an interest in politics in the past, Buttigieg said he never expected his son would run for office.

“I know Peter has been interested in politics for a long time,” he said. “At home we always discussed government affairs, but never in that way.”

Buttigieg said his son became involved with Harvard’s Institute of Politics as an undergraduate at the university and worked on political campaigns, including U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s bid for the presidency in 2004.

“I’m sure he learned about the mechanisms of electorate politics through that,” Buttigieg said.

After current mayor Stephen Luecke announced he would not seek reelection, several people suggested Pete consider running, Buttigieg said.

“It’s been a slow process,” he said. “I’m very pleased because he’s doing something he genuinely likes.”

Buttigieg said he was pleased with the number of young people involved in his son’s campaign and election.

“That is always what impressed me the most,” he said. “People grumble about young people not getting involved in politics and I don’t think that’s true.”

The level of political engagement among South Bend and college youth is encouraging in today’s political climate, Buttigieg said.

“We’re living through a period where political discourse is very cheapened and vulgar,” he said. “Seeing young people engaged is very hopeful.”

Buttigieg said he also hopes his son can address some of the “very serious problems South Bend has.”

“I know he will handle [the problems] in an inclusive manner … through discussion and the engagement of more and more people who see this as a common cause,” Buttigieg said.

He also expects the relationship between South Bend and the University to improve over his son’s time in office.

“South Bend and Notre Dame are linked and I think he will be able to successfully carry a dialogue with Notre Dame,” he said. “They can form a good partnership, and looking back at his campaign, I have good reason to think it is possible.”

Buttigieg said he is proud of his son’s accomplishments and willingness to take on the challenges and responsibilities of public office.

“The ultimate thing is that he is fulfilling his civic duty,” he said. “My wife and I wish the best for him and South Bend.”