Alumni Spotlight

As one of America’s youngest mayors, Michael Tubbs, MA ’12, looks to help others in his hometown succeed

Michael Tubbs
Photo courtesy of Michael Tubbs
“My background is not one of a typical Stanford student. I was born to a teenage mother and an incarcerated father. I attended a large, urban public school where many students did not graduate, much less go on to college. I didn’t have a perfect SAT score and I surely did not have a bank account full of college savings. 

“When I first arrived on campus, I thought to myself, ‘Stanford is not the place for me.’ Feeling out of my element in this new world, I deliberately skipped freshman convocation.

However, it was only a matter of time before that horrible feeling of not belonging faded. As I walked to my first class, I began to understand that this campus was mine. I had paid my dues to get here and deserved the same chance to succeed as everyone else. 

“Sadly, before I completed my Stanford program, tragedy struck my family. My cousin was murdered in the north end of Stockton. I felt guilty for having left my family behind while I was blessed to attend Stanford and intern in places like Google and the White House. Until this point, I had always defined success as leaving Stockton. I thought I had found success. But what is success when the people you love are struggling? 

“That tragedy pushed me to make a decision. My cousin would not die in vain. I wanted to make a difference in my hometown and the community there. So I ran for Stockton City Council while still pursuing my master’s — and won! 

 “Four years later, in November 2016, I was elected mayor of Stockton, winning over 70 percent of the vote. In six years, I went from walking onto the campus at Stanford as a shy student to becoming mayor of my hometown. 

“I am a testament to what can happen when a university like Stanford opens the doors of opportunity to a diverse student body, enabling people of all backgrounds the chance to fulfill their dreams.”   

Michael Tubbs earned an MA in the Graduate School of Education's Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies Program in 2012. 
He is mayor of Stockton, Calif. 

Listen to NBC’s Chuck Todd interview Tubbs on “1947: The Meet the Press Podcast.”