Michael D. Tubbs, who made history in 2016 when he was elected the first Black mayor of Stockton, California, at age 26, then used the platform to plant the seeds of a nationwide campaign to end poverty, has been named 2023 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Tubbs is a champion of social and economic reforms that have earned him a reputation as a rising star in progressive politics. On Friday, June 16, he will deliver two Commencement addresses: At 9 a.m., he will speak to students graduating with master’s and doctoral degrees in public policy, social welfare and urban planning at UCLA’s Royce Hall. At 3 p.m., he will address students earning the bachelor’s in public affairs on the Kerckhoff Hall patio.
“Michael Tubbs has shown us all that a clear vision and strong resolve can uplift the lives of people across our state and nation,” said UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. “His leadership, innovative spirit and ability to turn bold concepts into real action are exceptional, and as a School committed to improving the human condition at all levels, we look forward to hearing his inspiring message.”
Tubbs is widely known for his work advocating for a guaranteed basic income to provide stability to American households. As mayor, he created a pilot program providing direct, recurring cash payments to Stockton residents and founded the nonprofit Mayors for a Guaranteed Income to support similar efforts across the country. He also raised more than $20 million to launch the Stockton Scholars, a universal scholarship and mentorship program for the city’s students.
Under Tubbs’ leadership, Stockton was recognized as one of California’s most fiscally healthy cities; saw a 40% drop in homicides in 2018 and 2019; and led the state in the decline of officer-involved shootings in 2019. The National Civic League named Stockton an “All-America City” in 2017 and 2018.
After he left office in 2021, Tubbs joined the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom as special advisor for economic mobility and opportunity. Last year, he founded End Poverty in California, a nonprofit devoted to breaking the cycle of income inequality.
Tubbs’ 2021 autobiography, “The Deeper The Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home,” relates how hardship in his early years shaped his vision for leadership and policies that are responsive to those who are struggling. Tubbs writes about his father’s incarceration, the strong women who raised him, his scholarship to attend Stanford University, the opportunity to intern in the Obama White House, and his calling to return to his hometown to improve the quality of life.
Tubbs served as a high school educator and city council member before running for mayor. His experiences advocating for reform in the city’s top job are chronicled in the 2020 HBO documentary “Stockton on My Mind.”
Tubbs is a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. He was named to Fortune magazine’s 40 under 40 list and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 All-Star Alumni, as well as The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll, which recognized him as the “Most Valuable Mayor” of 2018. He earned the 2019 New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the 2021 Civic Leadership Award from The King Center.