SIOUX CITY -- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg used a campaign stop at North High School to unveil his new proposal designed to boost the number of service opportunities for young Americans, which he said could combined the frayed sense of community and trust now present.
While school is out for the summer, a lot of young people were among the estimated 550 in attendance. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana -- some questioners called him Mayor Pete -- said what he dubbed A New Call to Service aims to build a network of 1 million National Service Members by 2026.
"Faith in our institutions is near record lows," Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg served in Afghanistan as a Navy intelligence officer in 2014. He said that life-changing experience showed the value of connecting well with others, from differing backgrounds and even political outlooks, to achieve a bigger goal.
He said that connection can be gained outside of war, through national service. He said shaping a new generation bonded by the experience of serving will boost the U.S. social fabric.
Buttigieg's plan would triple service opportunities from 75,000 to 250,000, targeted towards America’s high school graduates, community college and vocational students. He seeks to later expand out-of-state and international service options, to be available to 1 million high school graduates by 2026, or 250 years after the U.S. was founded.
He said the positions will be paid, while others could involve college loan forgiveness. He quoted the biblical book of Isaiah, citing, "Here I am, send me. This is for everyone who has said, 'Send me.' "
Buttigieg said his New Call to Service initiative would be in line with the launch of the Peace Corps by President John F. Kennedy and expansion of AmeriCorps by President Barack Obama.
Buttigieg was making his first stop in Sioux City in the 2020 cycle, and will attend other campaign events in Iowa, including Storm Lake for its Fourth of July celebration, beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday. A field of more than 20 Democrats are competing to become the party's nominee, as Republican President Donald Trump runs for re-election.
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Buttigieg cited the Storm Lake event, saying it was preferable to the military parade being set for the holiday by President Donald Trump. Trump has marshaled tanks, bombers and other machinery of war for a celebration on the National Mall, saying it will be a good "salute" to the military and the "show of a lifetime."
Buttigieg said that parade "is a prop to prop up a presidential ego."
Buttigieg, 37, who is polling in the top half of the Democratic field, made many mentions on how he is in a younger generation than some other candidates, although he didn't directly mention current party front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Buttigieg said it is time "to send in a new generation of leadership," and cited the necessity of motivating young voters.
"This is the generation that will be talking about climate change the rest of our lives," he said.
Buttigieg took questions from people over the last half hour of the 55-minute event, hitting on such topics as climate change, student loans, abortion and gun control.
Ron Hartnett, of Dakota City, was one of many Nebraskans who attended the event. Hartnett said he'd previously seen Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, who drew a similar size crowd in Sioux City's Orpheum Theatre in January.
Harnett said he was surprised Buttigieg drew such a large crowd.
"Mayor Pete was able to articulate a good policy for going forward... Inspiring, kind of a John F. Kennedy message," Hartnett said.
The North High gym location grew heated by the early evening. Many people waved Buttigieg placards with the words "Freedom Security Democracy" to cool down.
Wrapping up his comments and addressing his reception in Sioux City, Buttigieg said, "Sweating in a high school gym is an act of hope, so you give me hope."