California politician Michael Tubbs to speak at the University of Arizona’s 2023 Commencement


Tia Stephens

A sea of caps top the heads of the University of Arizona graduates during the make-up 2020 Commencement Ceremony outside of Old Main on campus Nov. 5, 2021. The ceremony was held during the fall 2021 Homecoming, a year and a half after students received their diplomas in May 2020 as the original ceremony was cancelled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

JT Thorpe

The University of Arizona invited California politician Michael Tubbs to be the Class of 2023’s keynote speaker at Commencement this May.

“I didn’t graduate too long ago,” Tubbs said in the announcement reported by UA News, “and I look forward to providing hard-earned insights on charting your own path and working to make change as the graduates seek to do the same.”

Tubbs was voted in as the youngest mayor of any major city in U.S. history at the age of 26 in 2016. He is now a special advisor for economic mobility and opportunity for California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

As student body president, graduating UA senior Patrick Robles got to be part of the group that played a role in choosing who to invite to the graduation ceremony.

“I actually met Michael Tubbs last year at the [Tucson] Festival of Books,” Robles said. “He was on a book tour for his memoir and I went to go listen to him speak. I got the book signed and we hit it off.”

In coming up with names for potential keynote speakers, Robles suggested Tubbs because he was inspired by the politician’s story, drive for change and dedication to helping his community.

“During the pandemic, I watched his documentary on HBO called ‘Stockton on My Mind,’ and I was immediately inspired by these young leaders that create change,” Robles said. “When I learned that he was to make his memoir, I knew I wanted to buy it and read it. And I was inspired.”

So far in his political career, Tubbs has spent much of his efforts on fighting poverty. One of his most popular moves as mayor was his experimental guaranteed income program, where certain community members were given $500 a month.

Under his mayorship, Stockton also won the All-American City award two years in a row and was “named the second most fiscally healthy city in California,” according to the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School.

Tubbs was also known for raising over $20 million to create a Stockton-based scholarship and mentorship program so that more young people could have a chance to go to college.

“Michael Tubbs will inspire our graduates to pursue their hopes and dreams, just as he has done,” UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said in the announcement reported by UA News.

According to Robles, the group that decides on who to invite to be the keynote speaker typically reaches out to several individuals in case anyone turns the offer down.

“It’s great that we were able to get [Tubbs to accept the offer],” Robles said. “He let us know right away, but we did have to work out all the scheduling details and Commencement details. It was a group effort.”

The UA’s 2023 Commencement celebration will begin at 7:30 p.m. May 12 at Arizona Stadium on campus.

“I’m looking forward to being able to truly celebrate together as a Wildcat community with the incredible accomplishment of graduating from the University of Arizona,” Robles said. “Time flies.”

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