VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Julian Castro speaks to VOXXI after his keynote speech at the Democratic National ConventionTo say that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro broke some ceiling as the first Hispanic keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention is historic.
To say that it took until 2012, as he did Tuesday night, is downright embarrassing, given that Latinos historically have voted overwhelming Democratic in America since Franklin D. Roosevelt, some 20 conventions ago.
But one of the great traits about Hispanics, as Castro pointed out in his speech talking about his family, is that they are patient.
And, as the comparison with last week’s Republican National Convention—with an equally unprecedented presence of four current Hispanic GOP governors and U.S. senators—Latinos have begun showing they also have a long memory.
Castro, the 37-year-old rising star of Democratic politics in Texas, delivered a stirring keynote speech that was partly political rhetoric castigating the Romney-Ryan Republican ticket, heavily laced with love about this mother’s struggle and almost sobering in his requisite but measured partisanship.
“Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps,” he said about his dominant Red State home where he undoubtedly will have an uphill struggle at becoming governor or a U.S. Senator.
“And we expect folks to pull themselves up by them. But we also recognize there are some things we can’t do alone.”
Among the people wildly cheering his landmark speech were his family, including twin brother Joaquin—a Texas state legislator expected to win a Congressional seat in November—who introduced Julian to the convention.
Castro’s speech was filled with what he called “intergenerational” themes about overcoming obstacles and achieving the American Dream—whether for Americans or immigrant youth “Dreamers” who want to become Americans.
“Because he knows that we don’t have an ounce of talent to waste, the President took action to lift the shadow of deportation from a generation of young, law-abiding immigrants called dreamers,” he said.
“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.”
For the Castro’s, their beginning in the U.S. started with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Castro, a Mexican orphan who taught herself to read and write when she came to America.
“My grandmother didn’t live to see us begin our lives in public service,” said Castro. “But she probably would’ve thought it extraordinary that just two generations after she arrived in San Antonio, one grandson would be the mayor and the other would be on his way—the good people of San Antonio willing—to the United States Congress!”
“My family’s story isn’t special. What’s special is the America that makes our story possible.”
“Ours is a nation like no other—a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation… no matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward.”
Also present to hear Castro’s speech was the family matriarch, 65-year-old Rosie, a former 1970s Chicano civil rights activist who used to drag her young twins to rallies and protests.
“In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay,” Julian 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.”
“Mom, I’m even more proud of you.”
Rosie Castro faced different obstacles in her time, her son told delegates, but she was instrumental in leading the way to his and his brother’s success.
“And while she may be proud of me tonight,” he said. “I’ve got to tell you, ‘Mom, I’m even more proud of you. Thank you, Mom.’ Today, my beautiful wife Erica and I are the proud parents of a three-year-old little girl, Carina Victoria, named after my grandmother.”
For many Democrats, though, the highlight of Castro’s speech was his rally cry to re-elect Obama.
“Now, like many of you, I watched last week’s Republican Convention,” he said. “They told a few stories of individual success… we all celebrate individual success. But the question is, how do we multiply that success. The answer is President Barack Obama.”
Castro, a Stanford graduate with a Harvard law degree, took special issue with GOP contention that the country is worse today than four years ago—and laid the blame on Republican economics of the past.
“First they called it ‘trickle-down.’ Then ‘supply side,’” he said. “Now it’s ‘Romney/Ryan.’ Or is it ‘Ryan/Romney’?”
“Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.”
Castro told a recent story he said underscored his point.
“A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice,” he said. “Start a business,’ he said. But how? ‘Borrow money if you have to from your parents,’ he told them.”
“Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”
“Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn’t determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don’t think Governor Romney meant any harm. I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.”
Castro said a Romney administration would dismantle the middle class.
“We all understand that freedom isn’t free,” he said. “What Romney and Ryan don’t understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.”
“Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks, we’ve heard that before.”
“It has been Obama,” Castro said, “whose leadership still holds forth the promises of hope and change.”
“Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a Depression, he said. “Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our President took action. And now we’ve seen 4.5 million new jobs.”
The president, said Julian Castro, knows better than anyone about the economic recovery that still needs to happen.
“But we’re making progress,” he said. “And now we need to make a choice. It’s a choice… between a country where the middle class pays more, so that millionaires can pay less…”
“Or a country where everybody pays their fair share. It’s a choice between a nation that slashes funding for our schools and guts Pell grants…”
“Or a nation that invests more in education. It’s a choice between a politician who rewards companies that ship American jobs overseas… Or a leader who brings jobs back home.”
“This is the choice before us. And to me, to my generation, and for all the generations that will come after us, our choice is clear. Our choice is a man who’s always chosen us.”
“A man who already is our President—Barack Obama.”
By the end of his speech, Julian Castro had many in tears—and MSNBC commentator called it “one of the great speeches I’ve heard.”
Fittingly, toward the end, Castro recalled him and his wife taking their daughter to her first day of pre-K.
“As we dropped her off, we walked out of the classroom, and I found myself whispering to her, as was once whispered to me, “Que dios te bendiga.” “May God bless you,” he said.
“She’s still young, and her dreams are far off yet, but I hope she’ll reach them. As a dad, I’m going to do my part, and I know she’ll do hers. But our responsibility as a nation is to come together and do our part, as one community, one United States of America, to ensure opportunity for all of our children.”