South Bend mayor discusses professional development
Tom Naatz | Monday, February 12, 2018
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke Sunday as part of “Life Beyond the ND Bubble,” an event designed to prepare seniors for their lives after graduation. Buttigieg’s remarks, delivered in the Dahnke Ballroom on the top floor of the Duncan Student Center, were titled “Finding Your Why: The Value of Pursuing Your Passions,” and the mayor reflected on finding a worthwhile career path as he reflected on his own professional journey.
Buttigieg began by underscoring the deep connection between South Bend and the University.
“I find as I travel … and represent South Bend in different places around the country, people have a certain idea about what our city is,” Buttigieg said. “Because they know exactly one thing about the city, which is this building [the football stadium].”
Although Notre Dame is South Bend’s most famous feature, Buttigieg noted that the city originally centered around industry, particularly given its status as the headquarters of Studebaker, a car company. However, the city fell on hard times after Studebaker departed in the 1960s. Buttigieg said in 2011, the year he was elected mayor, “Newsweek” magazine featured South Bend on a list of 10 dying American cities. Nevertheless, Buttigieg said South Bend had experienced significant recent progress.
“We are at our fastest rate of population growth in a quarter of a century, we’ve seen half a billion dollars of investment in the heart of our city, we’ve seen job growth at a rate we haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “A big part of why South Bend is coming back is the relationship we have with the University of Notre Dame. … I would argue that your generation of students has popped the bubble.”
Buttigieg said in the past, many students’ involvement with South Bend extended only to service projects, and many are now applying their expertise to projects in the city. He said he hoped that even as students graduate, South Bend will “remain in your equation.”
Students should think about “purpose” instead of job title when making career choices, Buttigieg said.
“I’d been offered two campaigns. I was just out of Harvard … and I’d attracted just enough attention on a couple of campaigns that I had some job offers. One was on a Senate race, and the other was on a presidential campaign in 2004,” he said. “The Senate race was very likely to win already, and the presidential campaign was going to be a real knockdown, drag-out fight, so I decided to be on the presidential campaign.”
Buttigieg said he called his contact on the Senate race and expressed appreciation for the job offer, particularly because it would have involved working closely with the candidate, whom he had been careful not to name prior to this point in his remarks.
“I said, ‘I just feel that it really makes a lot more sense for me to be working on the Kerry campaign for president, and so please tell Mr. Obama that I really appreciate the job offer,’” he said as audience members audibly laughed and groaned in disbelief.
“Arguably not a great career move,” Buttigieg said.
The mayor said he offered the anecdote to demonstrate how simple choices can alter careers, noting that if he had accepted the offer with the Obama campaign he probably would not have ended up on his current trajectory or as the mayor of South Bend.
“You are still at a tender enough age … that you ought to give some consideration to what you want to want,” he said. “Think about the fact that your preferences are still being shaped, and you have some agency over that.”
Buttigieg said he encourages students to remember South Bend.
“Some number of you will stay in South Bend, and that proportion is growing, which is awesome,” he said. “We are becoming a brain-gain city in a brain-gain region and that is something that is very exciting for us. … I really hope South Bend remains in your equation, whether you wind up living here or not.”