On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in Waushara County. There are many reasons to cheer when a cabinet officer visits any small community, but in this case, there is an unstated reason which deserves comment.
As one of the crafters and motivating voices in the passage of the much-needed $1.2 trillion infrastructure law passed last year, Buttigieg is now visiting places across the country helping locals understand the goals to be achieved. Coloma was where ‘Mayor Pete’ spoke about the construction trades that will need more workers as a result of the federal dollars being pumped into local economies.
The visit was aimed to talk about the national investment into our infrastructure on the day that high school students from around Wisconsin were able to get a first-hand look at the operation of heavy machinery, hands-on experience with mini-excavators, and meetings with industry professionals about apprenticeships.
And with the ample projects that are needed to be completed around Wisconsin, it goes without saying that the industry needs workers.
Buttigieg being in heavily Republican and conservative Waushara County allowed for something else to manifest itself, in addition to infrastructure needs. High school students who may come from homes where gay people are belittled or laughed at had an opportunity to see an openly married gay man with children. who ran for president. and now serves as a top federal officeholder.
Without a doubt, and statistically speaking, there were a few gay students in attendance on Tuesday. Having grown up in that county–in fact, about 10 miles from Coloma–I well know the tone and type that reside in this rural part of Wisconsin. That is not snarky wording but just a plain fact.
So I can also clearly state the non-verbalized lessons for gay youth concerning the power and potential for their personal lives were a lesson they were able to see up close. Whatever information they may have gleaned about potential jobs is far less important than the fact that living authentically matters.
All the snide comments and bigotry in these small towns can not stain the truth when Buttigieg walks up, smiles, and shakes your hand. It does not take your average student very long to discern the truth. The folks back home with their bigotry were just wrong.
Gay youth in these small towns must learn they can live their lives and have every single part of the American dream, from spouses to kids, just like their fellow classmates. Just like Pete Buttigieg.
When I grew up it would have been helpful to have had openly gay role models. Rural Wisconsin had such a man among them today. Thanks, Pete Buttigieg for just being you.
And so it goes.