February 07 2020
Swati Mylavarapu

The Political is Personal: One Year on the Campaign Trail with My Friend, Pete

February 07 2020
Swati Mylavarapu

Our country stands at a critical crossroads.

The decision we make in the 2020 election will define the next era for our country. Not only do we need to win back the White House in the name of human decency, our government requires bold changes if we want our home to be a place that truly celebrates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At, we are committed to supporting the rising public leaders who promise to do just that. 


Many of these rising leaders were overlooked by the larger Democratic establishment, because of their inexperience. In 2016, I co-founded Arena, an organization with the mission of launching the next generation of Democratic candidates.


We believe that first-time candidates running for office with a strong, clear vision for a better politics and a commitment to the service of others deserve our support, even if early polling had the odds stacked against them.


I know from my work with Arena, which flipped 21 red-to-blue seats in 2018 with newly elected Democrats, just how ready Americans are for a new generation of leaders. We want people who reject the outdated practices of past politics, who remain true to their values and who work tirelessly in service of their communities. 


Matt and I have supported other candidates in the past, but this is the first time that we have put significant time and effort into a Presidential campaign. 


One year ago, few people in national politics knew my friend, Pete Buttigieg. Today, he is a leading force in the Democratic Primary for President of the United States. Pete recently won the first major primary contest, the Iowa caucus. 


His base of support was broad, engaged Iowans from all kinds of backgrounds and in all parts of the state–rural and suburban voters, future former Republicans and Independents, women, young and older, white and people of color. It’s the kind of coalition Democrats need to win up and down the ballot in November. And it reflected Pete’s deep commitment to meeting every voter where they are, and to welcome and include Americans of all kinds in his movement. 


I’ve known Pete for half my life, since our college days at Harvard and Oxford. Long enough to know that he has always been the authentic public servant that America is now getting to know. He is trustworthy, authentic, brilliant, and compassionate. He embodies the best attributes found among new generation Democrats. His leadership reflects the values of belonging, decency and goodness that we impart to our children. He is focused on addressing the colossal, difficult problems of our time, with solutions that can be implemented: 


How do we ensure American workers can afford to live a decent life that values the dignity of their work? 

How do we make healthcare work for more of us?

Why is life expectancy declining while GDP per capita soars? 

Will we meaningfully address the existential threat of climate change? 

Will we make and uphold laws that allow for those wanting a better life to find it? 


Last February, when Pete launched his campaign exploratory committee, Matt and I invited a handful of friends over to our home to meet him. The gathering may have been small–no one knew who he was–but we could feel the energy in the room, and the effect he had on people who heard from him.


I knew then: we were looking at a Presidential candidate.


Pete and his team asked if I would help as their campaign's Investment Chair, and I knew I had to do it.  It wasn’t a choice so much as a deep, stirring gut feeling that I had to help in any way I could. 


It wasn’t a particularly convenient time for me to join a campaign. I was just recovering from a grueling year of battling a rare cancer, one that had me bedridden and cycling through the hospital for months. Matt and I were relishing our new roles as new parents to our then 6-month-old daughter, Meera. We had just launched, and had a full plate of work for social impact.


But Matt, my partner in literally everything, reminded me, “You have to do this; Meera needs you to do this. So do others. And we’re running out of time to get this right.” 


So I volunteered to be Pete's National Investment Chair and helped build a new type of team to organize financial resources for the campaign. Matt and I even moved our little family to South Bend for a while to help as the campaign team was built out. 


In my role, I spend lots of time talking to Americans across the country and from all backgrounds about how they can help spread Pete’s vision. So many Americans want to do all they can to help Pete win, to turn the page on our national politics. They share our campaign’s core values, our Rules of the Road. And I get to advise and support some fantastically talented people, like Anthony Mercurio and Marcus Switzer, who run the campaign’s finance program.


What I am particularly proud of is Pete’s deeply held commitment to build belonging in our campaign and in America–to create a movement and a future where all Americans feel that they are included, welcomed and valued. 


Juggling motherhood, traveling and leading a young, new team in the political space is both intense and invigorating. I am learning, constantly; I have never done this before. Yet I am inspired, constantly. This work, this moment in history, is both the most inspiring and the most grueling experience I’ve ever been a part of. 


Daily, I am stepping up. Will you? 


That’s my advice. Step up to this cycle. Get off the sidelines. Choose how you want to participate–whether that’s volunteering your time, expertise or dollars. Do something, because inaction is support for the status quo and non-involvement threatens our democracy. 


If you find the number of candidates overwhelming, then support more than one. If you want to hold your biggest investment until later, then earmark a little for now and put it to work. If you think you can wait until there’s a nominee, you cannot; there may not be a clear nominee until much later in the year, when the runway we have to win in November will be too short. 


The dollars you give, the voices you champion and the candidate you choose will determine whether we can win in November, and more importantly, we can get back to work to solve some big and important challenges in 2021. Our inalienable rights are on the ballot. Our families are on the ballot. Your future, my future, and our kids’ futures are on the ballot. And so, I hope you’ll consider joining Pete’s efforts to win in November and win the era beyond. 


Learn more at Pete for America

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