San Antonio, TX Mayor Julián Castro addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Tuesday night (image credit Alex Wong/Getty)
Charlotte (written by Aamer Madhani & Catalina Camia/USA Today)
Julián Castro has arrived.
The photogenic, 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio and one of the Democrats' rising stars made his national debut Tuesday, delivering the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention touting a government that invests in infrastructure and creates opportunity.
Castro spent much of his speech echoing President Obama's vision that government still can play an important role in Americans' lives - an effort to provide a clear contrast to Republican nominee Mitt Romney's call for smaller government. Castro also got his licks in on the former Massachusetts governor and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, framing the pair as out of touch with working Americans.
"We all understand that freedom isn't free," Castro said. "What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it."
The Romney campaign dismissed the Democrats' broad messaging on the first night of the convention trumpeting Obama as the champion of the middle class, and in a post to his Twitter account, Romney offered his own sharp response: "We don't belong to government, the government belongs to us."
There's no missing the similarities between Castro and Obama, who delivered his own highly touted keynote speech as an Illinois state senator to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Both men were raised by single mothers who nurtured them and shaped their world views. They both attended elite colleges as undergraduates -Stanford University for Castro and Occidental College and Columbia University for Obama - before earning law degrees at Harvard.
"Julián symbolizes a new generation," said Manoj Mate, a former policy adviser to Castro. "He's provided a vision for how government can play an important role in building an infrastructure of opportunity."
Castro, who became the first Latino to deliver the keynote speech, arguably has a more accomplished political résumé than Obama did when he delivered his keynote address in 2004.
He spearheaded the "Decade of Downtown," a program that has encouraged inner-city investment and spurred plans for the construction of more than 2,400 housing units in central San Antonio by 2014. He has been lauded for pushing San Antonio to be a center for the tech and clean-energy industries.
He has focused on education, pushing for more 4-year-olds to have access to pre-K and creating a program in which students can get test-preparation help and assistance filling out college financial-aid forms.
Castro spoke Tuesday of his grandmother Victoria, who was orphaned in Mexico and arrived in San Antonio in 1920. His mother, Rosie, a civil rights activist whom he credits for inspiring him to public service, was on hand in the audience, as were at least half a dozen of his Harvard classmates. He was introduced by his twin brother, Joaquin, a Texas state representative who is running for the U.S. House.
Castro reflected on his unlikely narrative and lamented that his grandmother did not see him and his brother beat a path to political office. "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."