MAYORAL FEAT In April, while the average stir-crazy citizen was binge-watching “Tiger King,” Pete Buttigieg took a different tack: He started writing a book. First, the former presidential candidate and two-term mayor of South Bend, Ind., converted a guest room into a study. Then he woke up early every morning and got to work, snacking on peanuts and almonds while his dogs, Truman and Buddy, dozed nearby. (His husband, Chasten, was putting the finishing touches on his own future best-selling memoir, “I Have Something to Tell You,” in the dining room.) By late July, Buttigieg had finished a draft of “Trust,” which debuted at No. 11 on last week’s hardcover nonfiction list. His first book, “Shortest Way Home,” was also a best seller.
“There is unquestionably a crisis of trust and trustworthiness in our country — trust in our institutions, trust in each other, global trust in America as a whole,” Buttigieg said in a recent phone call. “What I was trying to do was both shine a light on the ways routine cooperation requires trust — whether you’re eating at a restaurant or driving a car — and also show what’s at stake in the biggest public health crisis of our time. I wanted to do it in a way that lets people hear the phrase ‘a more trusting time’ and think about what we’re building instead of what we’ve lost.”
So, which is harder: running for president or writing a book on a tight deadline? Buttigieg chuckled at the question: “I think it’s safe to say that not much is harder than running for president.” He didn’t mind the “deadline energy” of his kamikaze literary endeavor, which was motivated by a desire to launch the book before the election. He said it reminded him of being back in school: “You get that same high when you’re in the zone of pushing and knowing you’re getting somewhere and you’re exhausted but you also don’t want to stop.”
These days, Buttigieg really is back in school — masked, standing behind plexiglass, teaching a course on trust in politics to 19 undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame. He said, “Despite the unfortunate and high profile of what happened to the president of the university, the campus has achieved something remarkable. After a huge amount of discipline and because of students coming through and cooperating, they have safe, in-person instruction.” Buttigieg is proud to be part of the effort: “I love spending time with these students. They’re so interesting, earnest and thoughtful. It’s very nourishing.”