CHARLOTTE, N.C.--The Democrats attempted to build on their advantage with young people and Latino voters Tuesday night as the party's national convention featured 37-year-old Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, as the keynote speaker.
Castro gave a highly personal address that emphasized his family's roots in Mexico, how his relatives moved to San Antonio to find a better life, and the work ethic that propelled him and his twin brother Joaquin to earn law degrees and embark on political careers. "I stand before you tonight as a young American, a proud American, of a generation born as the Cold War receded, shaped by the tragedy of 9/11, connected by the digital revolution and determined to re-elect the man who will make the 21st Century another American century—President Barack Obama."
Castro went on to explain his particular American success story—growing up with his mother Rosie and grandmother Victoria under very difficult circumstances but overcoming adversity to make a better life. Victoria, who eagerly anticipated having grandchildren, "was so excited that the day before Joaquin and I were born she entered a menudo cook-off, and she won $300," Castro said. "That's how she paid our hospital bill."
But Castro took a different tack in explaining the American Dream than upwardly mobile Republicans did last week at their convention in Tampa. While the GOP emphasis was on how individuals had built successful lives on their own, Castro, echoing Obama, said it took more than individual effort to succeed.
"Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them," Castro said." 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," especially through government encouragement of education.
Castro criticized Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for not understanding that government has a proper role in empowering people and helping them to help themselves, and the mayor said Romney and the Republicans want to slash programs that hard-working Americans rely on.
"In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay," Castro said.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook or Twitter.