As Democrats seek to reaffirm a position as the singular platform for diversity, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro became the first Hispanic-American to deliver a keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention. Speculation had abounded that Castro’s speech Tuesday evening would mark a break-out moment for the young mayor, who, like his mother before him, was political activist in her own right. And some spectators would likely agree, given the Texan's affable, outgoing nature.
After an introduction by his brother, congressional candidate, Joaquin Castro, on the first evening of the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Julian Castro opened by saying how proud he is to be an American "shaped by 9-11" and "connected by the digital revolution." He spoke about his family roots and humble beginnings, with a grandmother who worked "as a maid, cook and babysitter," in order to give his mother a better life. Castro lauded his grandmother's resolve to learn English and carve out better opportunities for her daughter than she had had herself.
"Ours is a nation like no other where great journeys can be made in a single generation," he exclaimed to hearty cheers.
"The path is always 'forward.'"
In an election season hyper-focused on minority outreach, Castro embodies the quintessential American dream. He and his twin brother, both second generation Mexican-Americans, were raised by a single mother -- an orphan herself -- who believed that she could ensure her sons went from the public schools of the barrio, straight to the Ivy League and beyond with hard work and dedication. In other words, the crux of Castro's story is not so different (if at all) from that which the Republican platform celebrates: A drive to succeed and diligence is the surest key to independence and realizing one's dreams.
The difference lies in the overriding message of Castro's remarks, which essentially said that the opportunities America grants each of us, are meant to be used to ensure "prosperity" for the collective, tomorrow.
Castro took time to focus on his grandmother and mother's generations, stating that they each saw "beyond" their own horizons and circumstances. Their opportunity today, according to the San Antonio native, would lead to "prosperity tomorrow." He added that their respective sacrifices opened the door for their children to create a middle class.
"With hard work everyone should get their and stay there... and go beyond."
The young mayor did cede that while the dream to r"aise a family in a place where hard work is rewarded" may be "universal" but that America makes those dreams "a reality."
Joking that Texas is still the one place in the country where people still have bootstraps, Castro used the allegory to explain that there are some times when one cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps alone. He added that investing in education will ensure that everyone has an equal chance at success, and said that he and his brother merely had different opportunities than their grade-school peers, not greater intelligence or drive.
He focused on "investing in young minds" today "to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow" and poked fun at Romney for encouraging Americans to start their own business on borrowed money.
While Castro ceded that Romney is a "good guy," he said the GOP nominee just "does not know how good he has had it."
"What we don't accept is that some folks won't even get a chance and Mitt Romney and the GOP are perfectly comfortable with that America."
The crowd's energy was palpable as Castro claimed that Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney seek to slash funding for education, transportation and Medicare -- all moves he says would "dismantle the middle class."
"When it comes to respecting women's rights," the San Antonio native began, "Mitt Romney says 'no'." The crowd chanted in unison to a litany of other issues Romney is supposedly against that was recited by Castro.
Romney and Ryan "don't understand that freedom is opportunity."
After praising the president for taking action when "Detroit was in trouble," Castro also gave Obama credit for expanding Pell Grants and his work with the DREAM Act.
Making the case that we are better off now than we were four years ago, Castro kept up the theme that America is "making progress" under the Obama administration. He told the audience that this election means a choice "between middle class paying more so millionaires pay less, or a place where everyone pays their fair share" so the deficit can be reduced.
He then repeated the tale his grandmother, who sought to give her daughter a better life than the one she had had, just as his mother worked to give her sons a better life than she had. Again, the theme was ironic given that it mirrors the common Republican Party narrative celebrating parental sacrifice so that one's children can have a better life.
Castro closed his speech by announcing that Americans have a "responsibility" to do their respective part, as "one community" to ensure "opportunity for all of our children."
With each generation going further than the last, the San Antonio mayor chanted "opportunity now for shared prosperity tomorrow."