At eight years old, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom convinced his younger sister, Hilary Newsom, to help tear up the backyard and create a six-hole miniature golf course. As Hilary Newsom made cookies and lemonade to sell, Newsom said he went through the neighborhood selling tickets.
“He definitely started his entrepreneurship in the beginning,” Hilary Newsom said. “My mom was not happy with us.”
Elected as mayor of San Francisco in 2003 and re-elected in 2007, Newsom, now 47, was at the time the youngest mayor of San Francisco in the last 100 years. This year, he will be the person to deliver the 2015 commencement address during Friday’s graduation ceremony at AT&T Park.
In preparation for the commencement ceremony, Newsom used Facebook to ask the SF State community about topics for his speech because he wanted to be relevant to the audience, he said. The former mayor said speaking in front of a crowd of 40,000 people is a daunting and intimidating task and that he should not have been the one chosen to speak.
“I would have not picked me,” Newsom said. “I’m the guy that people are going to forget. Like years from now (people will ask), ‘Who spoke at your graduation?’ I’m that guy.”
Newsom was born and raised in the Bay Area with his parents and younger sister. His parents divorced when he was about three years old and his mother, Tessa Newsom, often worked three jobs at a time to support her two kids, according to his sister, Hilary Newsom.
Newsom’s mother lost her battle with breast cancer 15 years ago. His mother worked hard to raise his sister, himself and his foster brother Newsom said, who remembers her work ethic quite well.
“My mother was the type of person who didn’t complain and was tough-minded,” Newsom said.
Throughout his childhood and in his adult life, Newsom said he struggled with his dyslexia, making it difficult to read and write. According to Hilary Newsom, this allowed him to shine in another area of his life.
“I would see him struggle to do his homework as my mom sat by his side,” Hilary Newsom said. “He found his voice through his athletics.”
Newsom earned a partial baseball scholarship to Santa Clara University, where he played first base. He said he is thankful for the sport, which he credits as his ticket into college.
“I don’t think I would have made it into college without the baseball scholarship,” Newsom said. “I don’t know how I survived some of those lecture classes.”
Shawn Whalen, chief of staff for SF State President Leslie E. Wong, was in charge of choosing the commencement speaker.
“As Lieutenant Governor of California and former Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom has modeled a commitment to SF State’s core values of courage, equity and resilience,” Whalen said.
Newsom said he believes the California State University system needs to be updated, especially the relationship between professors and students, who he believes should act like a mentor or coach to students.
Newsom has some advice for the graduates heading out to the real world with their degree in hand.
“Don’t follow others,” Newsom said. “Don’t wait around to do something. Share your passion with action. If you start comparing yourself, it creates unhappiness.”
Newsom said he hopes that his message for the graduates will be heard, although the speech may not be something that everyone will like.
“Parents will not like my speech,” Newsom said. “I am not going to conform; that’s why I still put gel in my hair. I hope that I am speaking to 40,000 rebels.”