Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama and previous mayor of San Antonio, visited as part of the Institute for Latino Studies’ celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Castro spoke in front of an audience of students, faculty, and staff in the Eck Visitors Center on Tuesday, October 5th. The event was a fireside-chat Q&A moderated by his former professor and ILS director Luis Ricardo Fraga. It focused on his career in public service, including his experience running for president in 2020, and how he understands the future of American politics.
“For a professor of Political Science to see one of his former students commit to a life of public service — of inclusion, social justice, and using government to serve the common good — is a dream come true,” said Fraga, the Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C., Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership and the Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science. “I am confident that Julián Castro will again be in public office. Our nation will, without a doubt, benefit from his service in the future as it has benefited from his past service.”
In his Q&A, Castro spoke of his formative experiences growing up in San Antonio, and the steps he took as mayor to invest in education. “I wanted to make sure that other people could have those kinds of opportunities that [his brother Joaquin Castro] and I felt very blessed to have," said Castro. "I saw educational improvement as essential to that.”
Those initiatives included the creation of a free college counseling service called CAFE College and universal pre-kindergarten in San Antonio during his term as mayor.
Castro’s remarks hit close to home for many in the audience. “It was inspiring seeing a Latino in action fighting not only for Latinos, but all marginalized groups who deserve better,” said sophomore LSSP scholar Sofia Casillas.
Castro’s discussion of the future of the Democratic party was particularly insightful to members of the College Democrats of Notre Dame, who sponsored a post-reception to the event. Castro closed the main portion of the Q&A with a message to the students in the audience.
“We need people [to run for office] who are energetic, who are passionate, who are in it for the right reasons,” he said. “We need you for that.”
The talk marked the last event of the Institute’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, running from September 15th to October 15th. Other events organized by the Institute included a virtual panel with the Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame, a tour of the historic Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, and a concert by Latin-GRAMMY nominated group Mariachi Herencia de México.