A Historic Victory

London Breed MPA ’13 elected mayor of San Francisco

By Annie Breen Posted Wed, 07/11/2018 - 16:43

London Breed MPA '13 was sworn in July 11, culminating a momentous election a month earlier that made her the first African American woman mayor of San Francisco. Her election makes San Francisco the largest city in the country to have a woman at its helm.

After her election June 13, Breed gave a quick acceptance speech on the steps of City Hall after former state Senator Mark Leno conceded the race, acknowledging the monumental nature of her achievement. “The message that this sends to the next generation of young people growing up in this city is that no matter where you come from, no matter what you decide to do in life, you can do anything you want to do,” Leno said.

Growing up just a mile from USF, in the public housing project Plaza East in the Western Addition, Breed is a native San Franciscan who has devoted her political career to improving the city in which she was born and raised. After graduating from San Francisco’s Galileo High and then UC Davis, she attended USF's Master of Public Administration program, which trains students to lead in the public and nonprofit sectors. Of her time on the Hilltop, Breed says that “USF emphasized the importance of being a compassionate person, someone who believes that my role in society is to make sure that I’m helping to uplift other people.”

A champion of the underserved 

Breed’s political career began with her election to the Board of Supervisors in 2012, representing the Western Addition and other neighborhoods that together comprise San Francisco’s District 5. Prior to that, she was the executive director of the nonprofit African American Art and Cultural Complex for 10 years. She came to that position after working with the Delancey Street Foundation to establish the Life Learning Academy, a San Francisco Unified School District charter high school designed to help disenfranchised students succeed. 

She hasn’t just focused on cultural and educational municipal efforts. Breed is well-regarded as an advocate for affordable housing in San Francisco, and part of her mayoral platform will focus on improvements to public housing. In a 2015 interview with USF Magazine, Breed said her biggest accomplishment on the board had been to shine a light on substandard public housing that suffered from problems like broken elevators and rundown units. She’s also secured $2 million to restore unused public housing units for homeless families, and passed zoning legislation to create more affordable homes, according to an op-ed she wrote in the San Francisco Examiner last year.

Breed credits USF with helping to shape her strengths as a leader.

“USF teaches you to look deeper, not just from an intellectual standpoint, but into whether or not you are truly the kind of person who can be an effective leader,” she said in an interview with USF's School of Management. “USF and the people I worked and studied with have supported me and continue to support me. It’s prepared me on an emotional and spiritual level from an ethical leadership standpoint.”

USF congratulates Mayor Breed on her most important leadership role to date.