Conversations at the Top: Julián Talks

Quoted excerpts from Ruben Navarrette’s interview with Julián Castro for our “Conversations at the Top” series

Julián Castro, candidate for US president, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Photo: Cass Davis

Vying for the highest executive position in the land, Castro sits down with Ruben Navarrette to discuss leadership, gravitas, and what it takes to run for US president.

Julián Talks: His American Dream Story

“My story is an immigrant American dream story. It’s the twenty-first century American dream story of a grandmother who came over from Mexico and sacrificed tremendously as a single parent for her daughter, my mother, who went further than she did and sacrificed as a single parent so that my brother and I could go further than my mom did.

And now, two generations later, one grandson of that Mexican immigrant is a US congressman and the other one is a candidate for president of the United States. That’s a beautiful American dream story for the twenty-first century. It didn’t come out of Ireland or Germany or Italy. It came out of Mexico. But it’s wholly American.”

Julián Castro, portrait, black background
“I’m not the loudest candidate or the loudest personality, but I’ve shown a fire consistently over the years to make a big difference for people.”Photo: Cass Davis

Julián Talks: A Latino President

“We shouldn’t elect anyone president—or to any office—just because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity. However, there’s no question—especially right now when many feel like this president has targeted the Latino community—that there is a special meaning in my candidacy for many people. My job is to go out there to speak to all Americans, and I’m going to do that. But I also recognize the special resonance that my candidacy will have in the Latino community.

Though racial identity—or any other kind of identity—shouldn’t be the sole determinant about whether somebody gets your support, the phrase ‘identity politics’ is too often used as an insult to tell people of color, people who are gay or lesbian, or women to just shut up.

I vehemently disagree with that. The problem is that—whether we’re talking about politics or in a corporate boardroom or the halls of congress—there are certain people who have historically been excluded. And so there is significance in now getting to hear their voice.

That’s not something to be ashamed of or to put back into the closet. It’s something to celebrate and to make part of the mix. There’s room for the celebration of diversity, today and going forward.”

Julián Talks: His Calm Demeanor

“People want sanity. They want an adult in the room again. They want somebody who’s going to be a president for all Americans, not just some Americans. I’m bringing an energy and passion for serving all Americans that I have no doubt the American people are going to pick up on and respond to. And I’m not worried about any criticisms about not being the loudest person in the room. I readily admit that I’m not.”

Julián Talks: Latino Issues (Beyond Immigration)

“There’s no question that immigration is an important and pressing issue that we need to address better in this country. At the same time, the Latino community, like any other community, is affected by what happens with decisions about education, healthcare, infrastructure, jobs.

A good example of this is with the Affordable Care Act—there were four million Latinos that were able to get healthcare coverage. Today, the notion of Latino politics often gets conflated with border politics, or immigration politics. That’s an incorrect conflation. It’s immigration plus all of these other issues that we need to address.”

Julián Talks: Cultural Assimilation

“The good news is that, today, this youngest generation has to make the choice [of assimilating or staying true to their heritage] less and less. Today, it’s a plus in the business world—or just in general—to speak a second language like Spanish. You get paid more at your job if you speak Spanish oftentimes. In more and more public schools in our country, they’re teaching the history of the Latino community. Now Trump is a problem because he’s trying to take us backward. But aside from that, this youngest generation lives in world and in America where you don’t have to make that choice in the same way that my mother or my grandmother did or generations past.”

Julián Talks: His Upbringing

“[My brother, Joaquin, and I] had no reason, growing up, to think of ourselves as above anyone else. My mother was great about making sure we were always respectful of other people and didn’t see ourselves as above other people. At the same time, she also instilled in us this confidence that we could compete with anybody and do just as well as anybody else. My mother has received a good amount of attention over the years, in the local community in San Antonio, for her political activism. But she was an even better mother. She was a very, very wonderful mother.”


Read the full feature on Julián Castro ⟶

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