Polyglot Pete Buttigieg Uses Sign Language to Thank Deaf Supporter

"It was a huge moment for the deaf community."

You may already know Pete Buttigieg can speak eight languages. Make that nine.

When deaf activist Anderson Pleasants tweeted earlier this month that he had created a special “sign name” for Buttigieg, the political science and communications student wasn’t expecting a personal response from the 2020 presidential candidate—let alone a message in American Sign Language.

“His sign name is P ’bridged’ across the chest to B,” Pleasants wrote, demonstrating in a video. The moniker references the Democratic hopeful’s bridge-inspired campaign logo.

Buttigieg finally replied this week with his own video, captioned with a “waving hand” emoji, in which he uses ASL to say, “Hi, Andy, I appreciate your support. Thank you.”

“Honestly, when I first saw this video, I felt overwhelmed with emotion,” Pleasants tweeted. “I almost cried. I’ve never seen someone running for president use sign language before. A lot of politicians speak on inclusivity but very few talk the talk and walk the walk. Or in this case, sign the sign and walk the walk.”

“To see you put effort to try and start to learn and use a language that’s crucial to how I and many others communicate, participate and identify in this world is just another example of why I’m thrilled to keep supporting and helping to spread your message.”

Pleasants, who was born with Goldenhar syndrome, says it would be a “dream” to work on Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign and help amplify “the voices of those like me.”

“I’d never seen a presidential candidate take that initiative to meet me, a deaf individual, as an equal, instead of having that communication divide be the sole burden of the deaf person,” Pleasants tells Newsweek. “It set an example of how our society can be more inclusive and put forth the effort to break down the communication barriers that follow so many deaf lives.”

“It meant so much that my language and proud deaf cultural identity was respected and valued enough by a leader to put in the effort to start to learn and use ASL. It was a huge moment for the deaf community and for the appreciation of American Sign Language as a language!”

“For years, the political and social issues of deaf Americans as well as the disabled have been placed on a lower tier,” Pleasants continues. “With Pete, I believe there’s a leader with the kind of open mind and ability to elevate the deaf and disabled communities/culture up to the mainstream. Everyone has a voice in politics, including us.”

The 37-year-old South Bend mayor officially announced his bid this month to become the youngest and first openly gay president of the United States.

Born in South Bend, Indiana’s fourth largest city with roughly 100,000 residents, Buttigieg is a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes scholar, and a veteran Naval lieutenant who served in Afghanistan. He was elected mayor in 2011 and, despite governing as a progressive Democrat in a very red state, was reelected for a second term.

Buttigieg came out publicly as gay in an open letter printed in the South Bend Tribune in 2015, shortly before the Supreme Court’s ruling on federal marriage equality, making him Indiana’s first openly gay executive and that state’s highest elected official to come out.

He married his longtime partner, teacher Chasten Glezman, last summer.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Buttigieg has surged to third place in early Iowa and New Hampshire popularity polls of Democratic voters, behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

If Buttigieg wins the Democratic nomination, he would become the first openly gay presidential nominee from a major political party.

Earlier this month at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch, Buttigieg said he wished the “Mike Pences of the world would understand that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me—your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.
 

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