Democratic Convention: Julian Castro Touts Investment in Middle Class

With parallels being drawn beforehand between the importance of the 37-year old mayor of San Antonio's speech and that of the 2004 speech by then Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Julian Castro took the stage at the Democratic convention with a heartfelt anecdote about his grandmother and his family’s working-class past.

“My grandmother didn’t live to see us begin our lives in public service,” Castro said. “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 Congress.”

Castro’s identical twin brother – Joaquin – introduced his brother and is a state representative in the Texas Legislature. He is currently running for the 20th Congressional District seat in Texas.

Like many others who have taken the stage at the Democratic and Republican conventions, Castro highlighted preserving the American Dream among the middle class.

“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,” Castro said. “The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality.”

In referencing his own personal history, Castro said that the path to prosperity started with education, adding that the only difference between him and his high school classmates was opportunity.  Castro, who attended Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio before earning a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from Harvard, has been quoted saying that affirmative action helped him get into the top tier universities.

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.

— Julian Castro, San Antonio Mayor

The San Antonio mayor said access to pre-K programs and financial aid were key to helping jump start the American economy.

“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,” Castro said. “They’re a smart investment in a workforce that can fill and create the jobs of tomorrow.”

Castro’s first mention – and attack - on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came almost six minutes into his speech, when he said that Romney “quite simply doesn’t get it.”

He chided Romney’s remark that young entrepreneurs should ask their parents for money if they wanted to start a business. He said being able to borrow money from your parents shouldn’t determine whether one can pursue his or her own 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.

On the economic front, Castro bashed the budget plan put forward by Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, claiming that their plan would cut public education, Medicare, transportation and job training.

His remarks echoed the classic divide between the country's two major political parties: the argument of more or less government involvement in the affairs of its citizens and businesses.

Last week in Tampa, GOP speakers praised a smaller, less-intrusive government.

“Mitt Romney knows America’s prosperity didn’t happen because our government simply spent more. It happened because our people used their own money to open a business,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “And when they succeed, they hire more people, who then invest or spend their money in the economy, helping others start a business and create jobs. Mitt Romney’s success in business is well known.”

The message presented by Castro could not have been more contrasting. In his speech, Castro said that so-called “trickle down” and “supply side” economics failed the middle class and ruined the economy.

He cited the bailout of Detroit automakers, the expansion of grants to college students and the recent immigration policy change as successes of the Obama administration, and government as a whole.

“Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people we’re investing in our shared prosperity,” Castro said. “And when we neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a nation.”

Throughout much of his speech, Castro shied away from directly attacking the Romney camp, instead he focused championing the Obama administration’s policies. But he did illustrate the stark contrast between the two men running for president.

“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,” Castro said. “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.”