Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor of California, spoke at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall for a political science class Wednesday.
Newsom is the 49th lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco — at the time, the city’s youngest mayor in more than a century. In February, he formed a committee to run for state governor in 2018.
Wednesday’s talk was Newsom’s sixth year speaking at Wheeler Hall as one of Political Science 179’s special guest lecturers. He began his talk by asking the crowd for topics they were interested in to get a sense of what was on the students’ minds. One student called out “industrial agriculture and drought” and Newsom jokingly remarked, “I’ve made a mistake already.”
Newsom began the lecture with an anecdote about the history of income inequality, and said people are still living below the poverty line despite billionaires being acutely concentrated in California.
Newsom said that outside of the issue of climate change, there is no fundamentally greater challenge in California than income inequality.
“Raising minimum wage is not going to solve (income inequality),” he said, though he added that it would help a lot of people. “We see raging income inequality and the merge of IT and globalization plays a big role in this. Tech is driving income inequality in a profound and significant way.”
In his lecture, Newsom also addressed the issue of rising tuition. He said that UC tuition has more than tripled since 2001, and that the November tuition hikes were a calendared event and the public had been disrespected and left out of the conversation.
He ended his talk by stressing the need for leadership guided by moral authority.
“(A person’s) title doesn’t mean a damn thing. Consider transformative leaders — (Martin Luther) King (Jr.), Cesar Chavez, (Nelson) Mandela … something none of them had was formal authority,” he said.
After Newsom’s talk, students lined up to speak with him. Alan Ross, the campus lecturer who hosted the class, said it was very unusual for speakers to stay after their lectures and show such genuine interest in students. He said Newsom’s passion for the issues he discussed, such as income inequality, was “phenomenal.”
“I found his ability to connect with the students and audience … beyond impressive,” said Will Morrow, a campus sophomore and political science major. “He focused on issues that were pertinent to students, particularly the issue of tuition hikes, treatment by the UC regents, issues of legalization of marijuana — issues that really strike a tone with the graduate and undergraduate population here at Berkeley.”
Newsom’s parting message to the students was to “step up, step in, exercise your voice, be authentic, be audacious, have stretch goals in life and fail forward fast.”