September 4, 2012
Transcript of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, as prepared for delivery:
The unlikely journey that
brought me here tonight began many miles from this podium. My brother
Joaquin and I grew up with my mother Rosie and my grandmother Victoria.
My grandmother was an orphan. As a young girl, she had to leave her home
in Mexico and move to San Antonio, where some relatives had agreed to
take her in. She never made it past the fourth grade. She had to drop
out and start working to help her family. My grandmother spent her whole
life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by,
but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in
life, so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one.
my grandmother got older, she begged my mother to give her
grandchildren. She prayed to God for just one grandbaby before she died.
You can imagine her excitement when she found out her prayers would be
answered—twice over. She was so excited that the day before Joaquin and I
were born she entered a menudo cook-off, and she won $300! That's how
she paid our hospital bill.
By the time my
brother and I came along, this incredible woman had taught herself to
read and write in both Spanish and English. I can still see her in the
room that Joaquin and I shared with her, reading her Agatha Christie
novels late into the night. And I can still remember her, every morning
as 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."
My grandmother didn't live to see us begin our
lives in public service. But she probably would have 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
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.
America didn't become
the land of opportunity by accident. My grandmother's generation and
generations before always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and
their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today
would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That's the country they envisioned,
and that's the country they helped build. The roads and bridges they
built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought
for and won—these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure
retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did.
that's the middle class—the engine of our economic growth. With hard
work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work,
everybody ought to be able to stay there—and go beyond. The dream of
raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to
Americans. It's a human dream, one that calls across oceans and
borders. The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our
investment in opportunity makes it a reality.
in Texas, we believe in the rugged individual. Texas may be the one
place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks
to pull themselves up by them. But we also recognize there are some
things we can't do alone. We have to come together and invest in
opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.
it starts with education. Twenty years ago, Joaquin and I left home for
college and then for law school. In those classrooms, we met some of
the brightest folks in the world. But at the end of our days there, I
couldn't help but to think back to my classmates at Thomas Jefferson
High School in San Antonio. They had the same talent, the same brains,
the same dreams as the folks we sat with at Stanford and Harvard. I
realized the difference wasn't one of intelligence or drive. The
difference was opportunity.
In my city of San
Antonio, we get that. So we're working to ensure that more
four-year-olds have access to pre-K. We opened Cafe College, where
students get help with everything from test prep to financial aid
paperwork. We know that you can't be pro-business unless you're
pro-education. We know that pre-K and student loans aren't charity.
They're a smart investment in a workforce that can fill and create the
jobs of tomorrow. We're investing in our young minds today to be
competitive in the global economy tomorrow.
it's paying off. Last year the Milken Institute ranked San Antonio as
the nation's top performing local economy. And we're only getting
started. Opportunity today, prosperity tomorrow.
like many of you, I watched last week's Republican convention. 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.
Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it. A few months ago he visited a
university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial
advice. "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.
that in our free market economy some will prosper more than others. What
we don't accept is the idea that some folks won't even get a chance.
And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly
comfortable with that America. In fact, that's exactly what they're
The Romney-Ryan budget doesn't just cut public education, cut Medicare, cut transportation and cut job training.
doesn't just pummel the middle class—it dismantles it. It dismantles
what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter
and stay in the middle class. When it comes to getting the middle class
back to work, Mitt Romney says, "No." When it comes to respecting
women's rights, Mitt Romney says, "No." When it comes to letting people
marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, "No." When it comes to
expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says, "No."
Mitt Romney said, "Yes," and now he says, "No." Governor Romney has
undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain't pretty. So here's what we're
going to say to Mitt Romney. We're going to say, "No."
all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa, the one I find most
troubling is this: If we all just go our own way, our nation will be
stronger for it. Because if we sever the threads that connect us, the
only people who will go far are those who are already ahead. We all
understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't
understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.
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. First
they called it "trickle-down." Then "supply-side." 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. But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we
invest in people we're investing in our shared prosperity. And when we
neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a nation. Just a few
years ago, families that had never asked for anything found themselves
at risk of losing everything. 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.
then President Obama took office—and he took action. When Detroit was
in trouble, President Obama saved the auto industry and saved a million
jobs. Seven presidents before him—Democrats and Republicans—tried to
expand health care to all Americans. President Obama got it done. He
made a historic investment to lift our nation's public schools and
expanded Pell grants so that more young people can afford college. And
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.
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.
years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite
incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took
action, and now we've seen 4.5 million new jobs. He knows better than
anyone that there's more hard work to do, but we're making progress. 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, so we
can reduce the deficit and create the jobs of the future. 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.
the choice before us. And to me, to my generation and for all the
generations to come, our choice is clear. Our choice is a man who's
always chosen us. A man who already is our president: Barack Obama.
the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a
relay. 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.
And while she may be
proud of me tonight, 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
A couple of Mondays ago was 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." 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.
The days we live in are not
easy ones, but we have seen days like this before, and America
prevailed. With the wisdom of our founders and the values of our
families, America prevailed. With each generation going further than the
last, America prevailed. And with the opportunity we build today for a
shared prosperity tomorrow, America will prevail.
It begins with re-electing Barack Obama. It begins with you. It begins now. Que dios los bendiga. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.