Julian Castro Brings Post-Racial Politics To DNC

Julian Castro is the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio. And on Tuesday he will make his national debut as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Audie Cornish talks to him about his Latino heritage, the possibility of post-racial politics and whether he sees a presidential run in his future.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

As we mentioned, one of the Democratic Party's rising stars, Julian Castro, delivers the keynote address tonight. He is the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio. Castro's mother was a Chicana activist in 1970's Texas, but her son belongs to a new class of young minority politicians who are often labeled post-racial. Our co-host Audie Cornish is in Charlotte, and she sat down with Castro to talk about that and what he plans to say tonight.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Mayor Julian Castro, welcome to the program.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Thanks very much for having me.

CORNISH: There's been a lot of comparisons drawn between you and President Obama, especially this whole idea of post-racial politics. What does that term even mean to you when you hear that?

CASTRO: You know, it's a difficult term because I think it means different things to different folks. But I do believe that President Obama is part of a generation of minority politicians who have benefitted from the struggles of generations past. They're the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights movement, and are able to be comfortable in a corporate boardroom or in a legislative chamber or out in a neighborhood and see the glass as half-full.

CORNISH: For you and your own family, you come from a political family, and your mom, Rosie Castro - obviously well-known in Texas for her politics, and very much closely identified with Chicano politics, Mexican-American politics. So it seems like you might come at this from a different perspective than President Obama, because you have this background of someone politically who was very closely identified with the identity politics of that period, the '70s.

CASTRO: Well, you know, there's no doubt that in my own life, I was blessed with a mother who was very active in the democratic process. And even though I didn't like, you know, being dragged to rallies and other things, growing up, I did get a very deep respect for the democratic process and the importance of participating in it.

And for the Hispanic community today, that's exactly our challenge, is that way too many folks in the community right now don't feel like they're part of the process. They don't participate in it. By that, I mean they don't vote enough at the rate that we should.

CORNISH: At what point do you feel, as you were growing up, did your politics sort of diverge from your mother? And did you forge your own political identity that wasn't a Chicano identity?

CASTRO: Yeah, well, I don't think that ever was necessarily the case. You know, over the years, you know, as I started thinking about getting involved in politics, I also could plainly tell that we're in a different America today than my mother and my grandmother grew up in. And so, of course, since the circumstances have changed, the politics are different. That's natural.

It's clear that there's still work to do. Our nation, of course, is not perfect, but this generation of minority elected officials is less burdened than we would have been 40 years ago, 50 years ago and, of course, beyond that.

CORNISH: Now, what do you plan on saying to this audience, to a national audience, which is really looking to hear from Democrats to maybe rebut the things that they heard last week at the Republican National Convention?

CASTRO: I'll be talking about America as the land of opportunity, how we created that opportunity in the past and what President Obama is doing now to ensure that America is the land of opportunity in the future and compare that a little bit to the other candidate and spell out the choice that we have in this election.

The president has a good case to make. And what folks want to hear is they want to hear that case and then also, okay, well, what are you going to do in the future? And I'm confident that he can make that case, and then on November 6th, folks will decide to put their faith in President Obama again.

CORNISH: Well, Mayor Julian Castro, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CASTRO: Thank you very much for having me.

BLOCK: That's my co-host, Audie Cornish, talking with tonight's keynote speaker, Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio.

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