Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Glezman Buttigieg, is planning for how he would dedicate his time in the White House if he becomes the first “First Gentleman.” He says that he would focus his energy on expanding access to arts education in public schools.
While on the campaign trail with his husband, Glezman Buttigieg has explained how access to the theater was instrumental in his life. He has credited his high school drama teacher for giving him a “safe space” as a teenager and for inspiring him to become a teacher himself.
Chasten has remained involved in theater even amid the presidential campaign. Since January of 2019, he has been working on a part-time basis as the Director of Curriculum at the South Bend Civic Theatre. (He stepped down from his full-time job as a junior high humanities teacher in order to support Pete on the campaign trail).
It’s a good bet that Chasten may have influenced Pete Buttigieg’s education platform. In addition to expanding early childhood programs and raising wages for teachers, Mayor Pete explains on his campaign website that his goals for education include prioritizing federal support for arts education and increasing funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
Here’s what you need to know.
Chasten Buttigieg Advocates That Theater Education Provides Students the Opportunity to Step Outside Their Comfort Zones & Learn
Chasten Glezman Buttigieg announced that he would focus on arts education by sharing a video that showcased his visit to the Orlando Repertory Theatre in Florida. He walked into the theater as the children were rehearsing the finale song of the Lion King.
In the video, Chasten explained that theater education was important because it gave children the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones and grow. He explained that having the opportunity to be involved in theater from a young age could help students grow their confidence and learn about themselves.
“One of the only teachers I had who made me feel like it was ok to be myself and it was ok to be different was my theater teacher. She made sure all of her kids knew that they were loved and they belonged. And that really helped me believe in myself.”
Chasten Buttigieg Says the People He Met In Drama Classes Inspired Him to Be Creative
Chasten Buttigieg really expanded on that message of theater being a platform to help kids grow their confidence during a visit with student actors at the South Bend Civic Theatre in May of 2019. He told the group that when he was growing up, the theater had been an “escape” from the pressures of the real world. That feeling applied whether he was seeing a show or actually spending time on stage himself.
“Everyone ‘out there’ was telling me that I was a freak, I didn’t belong, I was a sissy, I didn’t have a lot of friends who were encouraging me to be my creative self. Whenever I came into theater, into theater classes, that’s where I had friends who were telling me they loved me, I belonged, I was funny, I was creative, and they loved having me be part of that community… it was my tribe.”
Chasten has publicly praised his high school drama teacher, Mrs. Bach, frequently since his husband’s presidential campaign shined a spotlight on their family. Chasten spoke about her during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign gala in April 2019. He said Mrs. Bach provided comfort as he struggled with accepting his sexuality, and that she inspired him to become a teacher.
“Many of us know the loneliness that comes with coming out. Even today, years later, it can be a painful, isolating experience and you can only hope to meet someone who understands you, who tells you that you matter and that you belong. Mrs. Bach, my high school drama teacher, did that for me. She knew I needed a place to feel safe. She let me hide in the auditorium on tougher days. She’s the reason I’m a teacher, why I studied theater education and why I advocate for the arts today.”
The Spouses of Presidents Traditionally Use the Platform For Advocacy
It’s customary for the spouses of presidents to identify an advocacy issue to focus on. Current First Lady Melania Trump’s initiative, called “Be Best,” is about discouraging cyberbullying and promoting well-being among children. The program also focuses on preventing drug abuse, specifically opioids.
Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative was about encouraging healthier eating habits to combat childhood obesity. She pushed for schools to serve healthier foods in the cafeteria. She also encouraged families to incorporate more physical activity into their weekly routines.
Laura Bush’s efforts were centered on education. She launched “Ready to Read, Ready to Learn” during her husband’s first term. It was about highlighting early childhood education programs and promoting better training of teachers. Mrs. Bush also started the National Book Festival, which introduced readers to top American authors.
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