Following his 2021 confirmation, Pete Buttigieg became the youngest member of President Biden's Cabinet, the first openly gay, Senate-confirmed Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, and the youngest person to ever serve as Transportation Secretary.
A member of the Democratic Party, Buttigieg was only 29 years old when he became the 32nd mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Soon known affectionately as “Mayor Pete,” Buttigieg led numerous development and infrastructure initiatives that spurred hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment. Prior to becoming Mayor, Buttigieg was an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, attaining the rank of Lieutenant. In 2014, he took a leave of absence as Mayor and was deployed to the War in Afghanistan for 7 months, earning the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his contributions to counterterrorism. Buttigieg, who began his career as a consultant for McKinsey & Company, also ran as a candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries – and if elected, he would have been the youngest and first openly gay U.S. President. Over the years, he's recieved numerous honors, including the Fenn Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in recognition of his work as mayor.
After graduating high school, Buttigieg enrolled at Harvard University in the fall of 2000. By all accounts, he was a standout among standouts: thoughtful, articulate, poised, and mature. People who knew him during his college days observed early indications of a political mind. Buttigieg was especially active with the Institute of Politics (IOP), which is part of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. After becoming a regular at the IOP, he eventually served as a student advisory committee member for the organization. During his senior year, Buttigieg was responsible for twice-a-month columns in The Harvard Crimson. In 2004, he received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature. When asked why he chose his majors at Harvard, Buttigieg explained how he loved literature and could study "any subject" he wanted to "through the guise of history."
In 2021, the Secretary of Transportation "returned" to his alma mater to deliver that year’s graduation address at the Harvard Kennedy School. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, all Harvard graduation ceremonies were held virtually. Introduced by Dean of the Kennedy School Douglas W. Elmendorf as a “dedicated public leader,” Buttigieg opened his speech by emphasizing the generation-defining nature of the current political moment. For example, he compared the feelings of the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic in 2021 to the September 11 attacks, a disaster that his own class faced during their time at Harvard. Although he never attended the Kennedy School, Buttigieg described how he spent a lot of his time as an undergraduate working at the school’s IOP. He spoke about his experience within the school, and told the graduates he was sorry that theirs had to be through a screen. Concluding his remarks, Buttigieg noted that the 2021 grads already have more experience and lessons learned than previous generations. “I am eager to see how you will use the wisdom you have learned here to serve your countries, the places you call home, and our kind — humanity — in this decisive time,” he said.