Julián Castro: “Our choice is a man who has always chosen us”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, the Democratic convention’s keynote speaker, offered a vigorous defense of President Obama’s record and vision of active government and slammed Republican Mitt Romney as a candidate who “doesn’t get it.”
Castro, at 37 the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city, told the story of his upbringing in a poor Mexican-American family in San Antonio as the son of a single mother and a grandmother who immigrated from Mexico and never advanced past the fourth grade in school. The mayor said that the journey his family and others took into the middle class is made possible by an active government that provides a safety net for its citizens and spends on priorities like education.
“To me, to my generation and for all the generations to come, our choice is clear,” he said. “Our choice is a man who’s always chosen us. A man who already is our president: Barack Obama.”
Castro’s speech was highly anticipated and touted by Democrats as an opportunity for a young politician to propel himself into the national political conversation.
The mayor’s speech framed his family’s story as one that is common among those who strive for upward mobility, calling it “a human dream, one that calls across the oceans and borders.
“Texas may be the one place where people still have bootstraps, and we expects folks to pull themselves up by them,” he said. “But we also recognize that there are some things we can’t do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today and prosperity tomorrow.”
But Castro’s speech also mused heavily on the themes of this campaign, and repeatedly hammered Romney, whom he sought to paint as rich and out of touch.
He noted Romney recently advised a student to borrow money from his parents to help him start his own business. Castro accused Romney of not realizing some people don’t have the means to ask that type of favor.
“Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it,” Castro said. “I don’t think Gov. Romney meant any harm. I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.”
Castro also went after Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint, saying its cuts would debilitate safety-net programs like Medicaid and funding for other agenda items such as education and transportation.
“It doesn’t just pummel the middle class. It dismantles it,” he said.
Meaning to appeal to a broad audience, Castro also praised President Obama’s decision to halt deportations for certain young undocumented immigrants, a policy that had major resonance in the Latino community. The mayor also called for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would grant a pathway to citizenship for those youth.
“I believe in you. Barack Obama believes in you. Now it’s time for Congress to enshrine in law their right to pursue their dreams in the only place they’ve ever called home: America,” he said.
Castro praised Obama’s efforts to rescue the economy from a free fall after he took office, such as bailing out the auto industry, and the passage of his healthcare overhaul. He connected those efforts to his own life story.
“Just a few years ago, families that had never asked for anything found themselves at risk of losing everything,” he said. “And the dream my grandmother held, that work would be rewarded, that the middle class would be there, if not for her, then for her children—that dream was being crushed.”
Castro, who is not fluent in Spanish, only offered one Spanish phrase throughout his address, one that he learned from his grandmother.
“I can still remember her, every morning as [twin brother] Joaquin and I walked out the door to school, making the sign of the cross behind us, saying, ‘Que dios los bendiga.’ ‘May God bless you,’” he said.
“The American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay,” Castro said. “Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.”
(Photo: Facebook, Mayor Castro)