(CNN) — Pete Buttigieg shared an emotional moment with a young supporter in Denver on Saturday night.
“Thank you for being so brave,” the boy, later identified as 9-year-old Zachary Ro, wrote in a question submitted via fishbowl during the presidential hopeful’s Saturday rally, “Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too? I want to be brave like you.”
Zachary, who attended the rally with his parents, joined the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor on stage. He presented Buttigieg with a bracelet, which the Democratic hopeful put on.
“I don’t think you need a lot of advice for me on bravery. You seem pretty strong to me,” Buttigieg, who is gay, told Zachary. “It took me a long time to figure out how to tell even my best friend that I was gay, let alone to go out there and tell the world and to see you willing to come to terms with who you are in a room full of 1,000 people, thousands of people you’ve never met that’s, that’s really something.”
Buttigieg took the opportunity to tell Zachary, “a couple things that might be useful.”
“The first thing is that it won’t always be easy, but that’s okay, because you know who you are. And that’s really important, because when you know who you are, you have a center of gravity that can hold you together when all kinds of chaos is happening around you,” he said.
Buttigieg also told Zachary to be mindful of “who’s taking their lead from you, who’s watching you and deciding that they can be a little braver because you have been brave.”
“When I was trying to figure out who I was, I was afraid that who I was might mean that I could never make a difference. And what wound up happening instead is that it’s a huge part of the difference I get to make. I never could have seen that coming, and you’ll never know whose life you might be affecting right now, just by standing here. There’s a lot of power in that,” the former mayor added.
Buttigieg responded last Sunday to Rush Limbaugh’s recent homophobic remarks, saying he doesn’t take “lectures on family values” from the conservative radio host and Medal of Freedom recipient.
“Well, I love my husband. I’m faithful to my husband. On stage we usually just go for a hug. But I love him very much, and I’m not going take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” at the time.
Limbaugh, a longtime radio host who is known for his incendiary comments on minorities, recently drew bipartisan criticism for remarks made on his show where he specifically mentioned Buttigieg kissing his husband on the debate stage and questioned how it would play out with American voters should Buttigieg become his party’s nominee and face-off against President Donald Trump in November.
In a Gallup poll released earlier this month, more than 3 in 4 Americans (78%) said they would be willing to vote for a gay or lesbian person if they were a party’s “Well-Qualified” candidate for president.
At the Denver event, Buttigieg and Zachary were then joined onstage by his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, who walked the young supporter back to his parents after presenting him with a campaign “challenge coin” featuring the campaign’s “rules of a road,” or code of conduct the campaign asks staff and supporters to abide by.
“I think you’ve already got it together, so I’m excited to see what you’re going to do as a leader,” Buttigieg told Zachary. “Just promise me you won’t run for president until after I’m done because I think you might be strong competition.”