Despite his history of social activism and an upcoming California gubernatorial campaign, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told a crowd of Penn students yesterday that he is “the most unlikely guy to be sitting here in front of you.”
The 42-year-old mayor, who most famously oversaw the marriages of over 4,000 same-sex couples in San Francisco’s city hall before the state Supreme Court intervened in 2004, stopped by Houston Hall yesterday afternoon for a meet-and-greet hosted by the Penn Democrats.
“[Newsom has] done things that are beyond the norm for politicians, and I really admire his courage,” said College junior and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender activist Jason Goodman. “He’s a rockstar.”
By “coming out” about his support for gay rights, Goodman added, Newsom became “a trailblazer for young activists.”
At the meet-and-greet, Newsom talked about his personal and political history and how he came to be a champion for gay rights.
As a 30-year-old San Francisco County Board Supervisor, Newsom said, he voted against the man who had appointed him to the board — then-Mayor Willie Brown. Under pressure from Brown, Newsom said he changed his vote at the second roll call.
“I was ashamed of myself,” Newsom said. “I felt like a politician.”
That day, he learned a valuable lesson: “The biggest risk is not taking risks,” Newsom said.
With that mentality, as mayor of San Francisco, Newsom pushed forth his system of universal health care and stringent environmental initiatives, including the nation’s first mandatory composting law.
Most notably, Newsom decided to marry gay couples in San Francisco despite his colleagues’ warnings that he was committing political suicide.
“Everything I do now, this is on borrowed time,” Newsom said. “My political career should have ended [by now].”
Students at the event said they admire Newsom’s desire to pursue policies he believes in despite the political costs.
“He’s less about worrying what others think, and more about getting things done,” said Wharton sophomore Jibran Khan.
College senior Tom Estabrook said he attended the event because he was interested in seeing “someone who has made a change.”
According to College senior Zac Byer, a California voter and former president of the Penn College Republicans, said Newsom “is well out of his league compared to the Republican candidates.”
But, Byer said, he was interested in hearing the Democrat’s viewpoint anyway.
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