Democratic nomination hopeful Pete Buttigieg is pitching himself as a moderate candidate, but a recently resurfaced essay written by Buttigieg in 2000 has revealed that back in high school, not only did he have socialist leanings, but he lauded his current rival Bernie Sanders as his political role model. "Sanders’ courage is evident in the first word he uses to describe himself: “Socialist,” Buttigieg wrote. He continued: "In a country where communism is still the dirtiest of ideological dirty words, in a climate where even liberalism is considered radical, and socialism is immediately and perhaps willfully confused with communism, a politician dares to call himself a socialist? He does indeed." The essay was the winning entry in that year's John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students, netting the young Buttigieg a $3,000 prize and a trip to the Kennedy Library Foundation for the award ceremony. It was chosen from more than 600 essays submitted by high school students nationwide, written to the theme of a current political issue and an elected official who is acting courageously to address that issue. Buttigieg argued that cynicism was the issue most challenging the American political landscape at the time. "Cynical candidates have developed an ability to outgrow their convictions in order to win power," he wrote. "Cynical citizens have given up on the election process, going to the polls at one of the lowest rates in the democratic world. Such an atmosphere inevitably distances our society from its leadership and is thus a fundamental threat to the principles of democracy."Buttigieg praised Sanders's stance on a range of controversial issues, writing: "He has come under fire from various conservative religious groups because of his support for same-sex marriages. His stance on gun control led to NRA-organized media campaigns against him. Sanders has also shown creativity in organizing drug-shopping trips to Canada for senior citizens to call attention to inflated drug prices in the United States."But, he noted, whereas the "nation is teeming with outspoken radicals," of whom "[m]ost are sooner called crazy than courageous," Sanders was, by contrast "a powerful force for conciliation and bi-partisanship on Capitol Hill." In a passage which may reveal Buttigieg's own approach to the politics game, he continued: "It may seem strange that someone so steadfast in his principles has a reputation as a peacemaker between divided forces in Washington, but this is what makes Sanders truly remarkable. He represents president [John F.] Kennedy’s ideal of 'compromises of issues, not of principles.'"Perhaps ironically given Sanders's rivalry with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race, Buttigieg cited Sanders's support for then-president Bill Clinton as an example of the Vermont senator's ability to compromise. "Sanders drew some criticism from the far Peft when he chose to grudgingly endorse President Clinton’s bids for election and reelection as president," he wrote. "Sanders explained that while he disagreed with many of Clinton’s centrist policies, he felt that he was the best option for America’s working class."According to Politico, Buttigieg is in favor of a gun licensing program, distancing him from the other leading candidates in the race, and would like to see few limits, if any, on abortion. He also opposes for-profit charter schools and would like to eliminate private prisons. On tax, Buttigieg has proposed raising the top individual tax rate to 49.9%, against moderate rival Joe Biden's proposed rate of 39.6%.