November 1, 2013
San Antonio Mayor Urges UW Students to Pass on “Baton of Opportunity”
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, the youngest mayor of a Top-50 United States city, spoke to a group of University of Washington students, faculty and staff during a luncheon at the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC), Oct. 23.
Castro, 39, was in Seattle to present a talk about sustainable cities at Town Hall in a speaker series sponsored by the Sightline Institute. He made time to pay a special visit to the UW.
In his remarks, Castro said his vision for his role in public service is to extend the opportunity that he has been blessed with to “every single young person in our community.” His message to UW students was to do the same, to use the opportunities that they have been given to build a foundation for the next generation, just as previous generations have done for them.
“All of us have a responsibility in our own way to hand the baton of opportunity to the next generation,” he said. “I really believe that the American dream that all of our families are trying to achieve is a not a sprint or a marathon, but like a relay.”
Growing up in a single-parent household in San Antonio, Castro never envisioned having a career in politics. But as he said at the luncheon, he changed his mind when he and his twin brother, Joaquin, went away to college at Stanford University.
“When I got away, it was the first time I had the opportunity to see my community through a different lens to compare it to what I saw in the Bay Area, and to understand both its challenges and its opportunities,” Castro said.
His interest in public service grew from a curiosity to build a community that incorporated the best qualities of these two parts of the country: the entrepreneurship and innovation of the Bay Area with the cultural richness and character of San Antonio.
Castro’s first foray into public service came in 1995 when he ran against Joaquin, now a U.S. Congressman, for the student senate at Stanford. The pair tied for first place. Castro went on to receive his undergraduate degree with honors and distinction from Stanford in 1996 and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School in 2000.
He returned home to Texas and in 2001, at the age of 26, became San Antonio’s youngest elected city council man at the time. Eight years later, Castro was elected mayor and won re-election in 2011 with nearly 82 percent of the vote. He delivered the keynote address at both the 2012 Democratic National Convention and Texas State Democratic Convention, and was named to Time Magazine’s “40 under 40” list of rising stars in American politics in 2010.
Among several initiatives led by Castro in San Antonio is the passage of a tax referendum that will support full-day pre-kindergarten to thousands of four-year olds and the establishment of Café College, a one-stop center offering guidance on college admissions, financial aid and standardized test preparation to any student in the area.
“Julián gives new meaning to what it means to work tirelessly for the future of one’s community,” said UW Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement Luis Fraga who previously served as a political science professor at Stanford and had the Castro brothers as students there.
Castro said that his way of using his talent for others is through public service. He encouraged UW students to use their talents for others as well, whether in public service or not.
“Many of you volunteer through student organizations now or at your churches, or later on in neighborhood organizations or professional organizations,” he said. “In the years to come and in all the places that life will take you, find a way to use the beautiful opportunity, the talent and the intelligence that you have, and the “corazón” – the heart – and compassion for others, to make sure you hand that baton of opportunity on.”
Following his remarks, Castro fielded questions from the audience for approximately 30 minutes. The event was sponsored by the UW Diversity Research Institute, the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, Kelly ECC and the Department of Political Science.
Photos by Emile Pitre and Erin Rowley