Accepting an award Monday evening from God’s Love We Deliver at a gala in Lower Manhattan, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the out gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, likened his current mission to that of the 34-year-old nonprofit he was addressing.
“Seeking office is an act of hope and so is bringing food and fellowship to someone who is ill,” Buttigieg told GLWD’s 800 guests at Cipriani South Street.
God’s Love, which raised nearly $3 million at the splashy gathering, was launched in 1985 to serve the nutritional needs of homebound AIDS patients, many of them isolated. Today, the group, backed by more than 15,000 volunteers, provides meals for more than 7,600 New Yorkers, 90 percent of whom live below the poverty line. In addition to those living with HIV, the group also serves significant numbers of people dealing with cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, and Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders.
Though Buttigieg continues to poll only in the mid-single digits in national surveys — well behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — he has proved a fundraising powerhouse, with more than twice as much cash on hand as Biden, on par with Warren, and behind only Sanders. His money and campaigning seem to be paying off in first-in-the-nation Iowa, where a recent poll had him ahead of Sanders and within striking distance of Biden and Warren.
As last week’s debate made clear, the South Bend mayor is positioning himself as a moderate alternative should Biden’s campaign struggles deepen. Buttigieg forcefully challenged Warren on the cost of her Medicare For All plan, and he also took on former Congressmember Beto O’Rourke on the Texan’s proposal for a mandatory buy-back of assault weapons.
Buttigieg told the God’s Love audience he was “not going to get political” in his remarks, but he returned several times to “the incredibly difficult and divisive moment” the nation is going through — and made clear his political style is based on addition not division.
“We cannot embrace the idea that the only way we can achieve change is to divide ourselves still further into good and bad people and hope that if we just add up all the good people it will make a majority against the bad people,” Buttigieg said. “It’s tempting to believe that the world works that way. But just ask anybody you love. The world is full of people, just people capable of very good and very bad things.”
The nation, he said, also suffers from a “crisis of belonging,” that affects everyone from isolated LGBTQ youth to displaced autoworkers to cancer patients.
“The deep and unmet yearning for belonging,” Buttigieg said, “is contributing to everything from the broken politics of this moment to the increase in what are called deaths from despair” — referring to the lethal toll of the opioid crisis.
Buttigieg was introduced by playwright Matthew Lopez, whose sprawling two-part “The Inheritance” is now in previews on Broadway after a celebrated run in London. God’s Love also honored Estée Lauder executive group president John Demsey for his work with the MAC VIVA GLAM Fund that supports people living with HIV and supermodel and philanthropist Iman.