In 2004, religious groups protested when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (left) was selected to give the commencement address at USF. Earlier that year, the newly elected mayor had set off a national firestorm when he ordered the San Francisco County Clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
On Saturday, two days after the California Supreme Court struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Newsom ignored a lone booer as he spoke at the King Hall commencement, and received a standing ovation. A lot can change in four years.
In an inspirational and personal speech (webcast available here, Newsom starts at 52:00), Mayor Newsom began by framing the same-sex marriage issue in historic terms, comparing Thursday’s decision to Loving v. Virginia, which overturned Virginia’s ban against interracial marriage, and comparing the civil union/marriage dichotomy to the separate but equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson.
However, the best moments of Newsom’s address came later as he discussed several themes that have pervaded the same-sex marriage debate, including power, humanity, public opinion and moral authority. Newsom clearly believes in the universality of the rights and arguments the same-sex marriage movement is founded on, and he underscored that universality on Saturday by arguing that, if the graduates considered these themes in their lives and careers, they would find happiness and success.
As encompassing and insightful as Newsom’s address was, he was still able to find some time, in the last five minutes or so, for a slew of classic commencement clichés. My top five:
- Find your bliss
- Live your life authentically
- Double your rate of failure
- You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take
- Live out loud
The general consensus, as far as I could tell, was that Mayor Newsom and the faculty speaker, Professor Jennifer Chacon (30:15 on the webcast), were excellent. Congratulations to the Class of 2008!