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Pete Buttigieg speaks on importance of trust in Bridging the Divide lecture series

| Thursday, October 22, 2020

War veteran, former South Bend mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg spoke Wednesday about the importance of trust in an event titled “Rebuilding Trust in Our Nation’s Institutions” in the Office of the Provost series, Bridging the Divide.

Tommy Filip | The Observer
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke at the Bridging the Divide lecture series Wednesday about how to regain trust in the American political system.

The Bridging the Divide series aims to create productive conversations about the current state of the country. The event was moderated by Anne Thompson, chief environmental affairs correspondent for NBC News.

Buttigieg recently wrote the book “Trust: America’s Best Chance” and is currently a faculty fellow at the Notre Dame’s Institute for Advanced Study.

Buttigieg spoke on the importance of service in bridging the gaps created by disagreement in our small communities.

“We need to begin by creating more shared experiences that aren’t sorted according to politics,” he said. “This is one of the reasons … towns are so important. So are university spaces that bring people together from radically different backgrounds.”

Buttigieg talked further on the community he has created in his current undergraduate course focused on trust. He went on to explain the value of diversity while on his seven month tour in Afghanistan.

“In the military I learned to trust my life to people who were radically different from me in their politics or economic or racial or regional backgrounds,” Buttigieg said.

He related this experience to the value of service in the United States.

“I think that could be a model for what we could get out of greater participation in civilian service, and if we fully funded it,” Buttigieg said.

Beyond the importance of service in our communities, Buttigieg touched on the current state of political turmoil in our country.

“Seeing the preferences of the American majority consistently defeated in Washington, I think builds to a general sense of wanting to burn the house down,” he said.

Buttigieg said a lack of trust in the American system can endanger the future of the country.

“There’s a generalized and growing mistrust of expertise. That is something that’s incredibly dangerous if lives depend on whether people, for example, trust experts whom are urging us to wear masks,” he said.

Buttigieg also cited an other area where trusting expertise is necessary: climate change.

“Climate change is another example of an unseen, but clear threat, but … one that largely depends on our willingness to take seriously the warnings of the scientific community,” he said.

He also mentioned the mistrust associated with the Black experience in the United States.

“The Black experience, for example, is obviously one where some of the institutions in which trust is most important that from policing to the financial system has not been equal in terms of access to that trust or safety,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg related the trust gained by the United States following World War II to the possible response the country could have in the future.

“The U.S. earned a century worth of trust in about three or four years in the way that the U.S. rose to the challenge of World War II,” he said. “The U.S. could help rally other countries to deal with this pandemic and of course to do that convincingly, we’d have to get our own house in order.”

Buttigieg said there is a need for change in our current political atmosphere.

“What we need to do is actually challenge something about the system or the way things are done or whether in that system, we just need to work harder to get a better outcome.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the series was organized by the Office of Public Affairs and Communications. The Observer regrets this error.

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