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Jonathan Reynolds - University of North Texas

Julian Castro speaks about politics at event

Profile image for By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro shared his experience in politics with students at the University of North Texas on Wednesday.

Castro talked about his skepticism of politics as a child, growing up with activist parents.

“For me, I did not like politics growing up,” he said.

Castro’s mom carried a red purse to symbolize women’s pay equity, he said, as the audience clapped.

“What kind of wore off on Joaquin and me, was participating in democracy can make a difference,” Castro said.

Castro, who grew up in San Antonio, was elected mayor in 2009 at age 34. He was re-elected in 2011.

He told media before the event that he plans to run for mayoral re-election in 2015 and plans to serve through 2017.

“After that I’d look around and see what’s possible,” Castro said.

He was the first Hispanic to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in September and attendees clapped as he shared the story about being invited.

“What do you say to that? No?” he said. “Of course I was excited.”

Students, UNT officials and city officials turned out for what was originally scheduled to be a class lecture.

The event called “A Conversation on Political Leadership in the Future of American Politics” became a discussion between Castro and his mentor Luis Ricardo Fraga, a professor of political science at the University of Washington. Fraga is the co-chairman of the Higher Education Committee on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

“It kind of grew,” said Valerie Martinez-Ebers, UNT professor of political science, who invited Fraga to speak to her Latino politics class.

She has known Fraga for about 20 years and they have co-authored books together, including Latino Lives in America: Making it Home.

When Fraga was invited, he asked if Castro could also come.

Martinez-Ebers said Fraga connects with former students everywhere he travels.

“He stays in touch with all the people he mentors,” she said.

Fraga said he wants UNT students to think about relationships they want to develop.

Fraga met Castro and his twin brother, Joaquin, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, when they were sophomores at Stanford University, he said.

At that time, the brothers had an understanding of politics and leadership he hadn’t seen before, Fraga said.

They saw public service as something you do to help other people, he said.

Castro talked about voting demographics, especially regarding Latino voters.

“I look forward to the day Latinos are so integrated into politics they’re like every other voter,” Castro said. “And that day is coming.”

Politicians tend to spend money on those who already vote, Castro said, and that needs to change.

“We have to get them to see they have a role to play in the process,” he said.

Castro said his approach to political leadership was investing in the skills and knowledge of the people in San Antonio.

Castro said he focused on long-term issues that won’t necessarily get resolved by the time his term in office is over. One of those initiatives was expanding high-quality pre-kindergarten services to more than 22,000 4-year-olds over the next eight years.

He said he hopes his legacy will be that every child can get an education and reach his or her dreams.

Castro said part of the reason some people don’t get into politics is because they think they have to compromise who they are and will be scrutinized.

The scrutiny does become greater and greater the higher a person moves into politics, he said.

“From my own experience, you can be who you are, not lose yourself, and go into politics,” Castro said.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is .