Ex-Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg makes guest appearance in U.S. Elections class

Students react to the former mayor of South Bend and 2020 presidential candidate’s visit.


Students tuning into U.S. Elections via Zoom on Sept. 3 were surprised by a surprise guest: Pete Buttigieig. (Hustler Multimedia / Avery Muir)

Avery Muir and Logan Cromeens

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg made a surprise Zoom appearance during the introductory political science class, U.S. Elections, on Sept. 3.

The U.S. Elections class, co-taught by Dean of the College of Arts and Science John Geer and political science professors Josh Clinton, Eunji Kim and Jon Meacham, is the largest class in Vanderbilt history, with a current enrollment of 827 students, according to YES. 

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was the first guest speaker to visit the class to discuss his experiences running for office and answer students’ questions. 

“I think regardless of your political beliefs we can all agree that he had an answer to every question. He came up with it super quickly and was able to speak on it at length, and these were questions that we the students had submitted minutes before,” first-year Bea Grant said.  “That ability to be able to think so quickly—I guess I hadn’t really realized how truly intense that was.”

Geer said that all of the professors are collectively working to secure speakers with various ideological perspectives and areas of expertise. The professors are hoping to have about ten guest speakers visit over the course of the semester. Meacham had talked to Buttigieg in the past and was able to reach out and schedule a time with him, Geer said. 

The professors decided to announce Buttigieg’s lecture during class due to Zoom’s 1,000-person maximum capacity, Geer said. If too many students who were not enrolled in the class were able to get the Zoom link and log in, it could have prevented enrolled students from watching the lecture live. 

Both Geer and a few students in the class noted Buttigieg’s honesty and insightfulness during the conversation. 

“He’s exceptionally thoughtful,” Geer said. “You know, his description of elections as an exchange of trust is really interesting, and it just shows that he thought about it. I also thought his comment about the need to think carefully about why you’re running before you run, because you’re not going to have any free time to think about these things—I thought that was really insightful.”

Sophomore Michael Gallego said he appreciated the candid nature of the conversation. 

“Buttigieg was insightful and undeniably authentic. It was a true privilege to have him speak to us,” Gallego said. “If we are to restore trust in our institutions and our government, citizens like Pete are our best bet to achieve that.”

Geer said that some of the upcoming speakers for the class include Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Republican ad consultant Fred Davis, among others.