Last Updated on August 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 580
Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future is the 2019 autobiography of Pete Buttigieg, who has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012. The book is concerned with describing Buttigieg's formal education, the challenges and rewards of his political office, his time serving in combat in Afghanistan, and his experience of being an openly gay man in politics.
Buttigeig is the son of a Notre Dame literature professor of Maltese provenance. His first brush with the national spotlight occurred when he was a high school senior, in 2000, after he wrote an essay that won first prize in the JFK Library "Profiles in Courage" contest. He graduated from Harvard University Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude and then attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, graduating with First Class Honors.
During his years at university, Buttigieg worked for a number of Democratic politicians; he worked for William Cohen in his capacity as Secretary of Defense during the Clinton Administration, as well as for John Kerry in his 2004 presidential campaign. Following his graduation from Oxford, he was hired by the McKinsey & Company consulting firm and became a fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
Buttigieg was elected as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2012, and he served in this position until he was called up for a seven-month tour in Afghanistan in 2014 with his US Navy Reserve unit. There, he was deployed as an intelligence officer at Bagram Air Base, where he was often required to drive the lethal, heavily-mined highway between the base and Kabul. He adopts a neutral tone in discussing the efficacy of the American presence in what, at the time, was considered to be part of a gradual withdrawal from the region, but he ultimately concludes that "I did not believe that the Afghanistan War was a mistake."
Upon his return to South Bend, Buttigieg became embroiled in a scandal involving the city's African American police chief, whom he had fired for having made illegal wiretaps of police officers using racial slurs. He then reappointed the popular chief, an act which he now regards as an error and for which he apologized during his next campaign for mayor in 2015. It was during this campaign that Buttigieg came out as gay—not only to his family but to the city as well, fully aware that this admission could cost him the election. Nevertheless, due to the accomplishments he achieved in improving the quality of life in the city, he won in a landslide.
In December of 2017, acknowledging that romantic love had added "a new dimension" to his life, Buttigieg married Chasten Glezman, whom he had been dating for two years. In the book, he eloquently discusses the fears that prevented him from living a full life due to his sexuality and the new awareness that overcoming those fears brought about:
it is the fear of any queer person preparing to come out that he or she will be marked as a kind of other, isolated from the straight world by virtue of being different. . . . indeed all do, at least a little bit. But the main consequence for me of coming out, and especially of finding Chasten, is that I have felt more common ground than ever before with the personal lives of other, mainly straight people.
In April of 2019, two months after the release of Shortest Way Home, Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for the office of President of the United States.