Julian Castro in Unlikely Journey

On Civil Rights: Chicano; Jewish; gay: common thread is marginalization

Growing up, Joaquin and I were essentially immersed in Chicana activism. At Stanford, I thought about how relatively unknown, even invisible, the Chicano community was to the vast majority of Americans. I wasn't keenly aware of the discrimination others experienced. There were few Jewish, Native American, gay, or transgender people in my childhood circle.

I would not be surprised if other students heavily submerged in other ethnic cultures encountered the same sense of marginalization. [For a Stanford course, I read] "Imagining the Holocaust": the horrific account of what happened to Jews during World War II. At Stanford I was forced to pull back from my tight community and understand how a common thread ran through so many other cultures around the world where people had to fight for their rights. When one of these groups achieved a victory against discrimination, I felt like "we" had won.

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.111-3 Oct 16, 2018

On Education: Attended Catholic school and public elementary school

Mom had attended sixteen years of Catholic school, and while she opposed corporal punishment and didn't regularly attend church, she had appreciated the quality and stability that a Catholic school education had afforded her.

In 1985, my brother and I transferred to St. Mary's Catholic School for fifth grade. After the first month, my head began to feel like a balloon expanding, but unable to pop. Joaquin was fine, but I was reacting to something in that school atmosphere, and the physical pressure was too much. By Christmas break, I was popping two Tylenols a day. [We] mounted a campaign to get out of St. Mary's School. Although we loved Mom and wanted to please her, we were clearly not happy there.

Mom thoughtfully listened to our arguments, she relented in late spring. While our arguments were persuasive, I've come to realize that Mom's decision to put us back in public school was based more on her inability to afford the tuition at St. Mary's.

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p. 59-63 Oct 16, 2018

On Education: Our most chronic problem is inequity in education

It made my blood boil to think about the differences in opportunity among my Stanford classmates. Joaquin and I essentially had to forge our own path to Stanford ourselves while so many classmates were essentially put on a path to Palo Alto from very early on. They were all smart, deserving students who mostly worked hard to get there, but given the disparity in economic backgrounds, nobody could look at the routes taken to Stanford and say that they were equitable.

This inequity in our country's education system has never stopped seeming like one of our most chronic problems. It is painful to think of a kid forced to swim upstream, only to arrive at the same spot as somebody who had the opportunity placed in front of him.

Still, we'd gotten into Stanford, and now the rest was up to us. We didn't have the academic background that many of our classmates did, but we made up for that with sheer effort.

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.106-7 Oct 16, 2018

On Education: Graduated high school early to attend Stanford & Harvard Law

Looking back, my family's story almost feels like a lab experiment in the difference an education makes. My grandmother never forgave the theft of her education, and her daughter watched as that lack of education boxed her mother into a life of menial jobs. The daughter in turn struggled to raise us and stay above the poverty line, but she still found a way to complete her master's degree. Joaquin and I skipped a grade to graduate early while almost a third of our high school classmates dropped out. Then we travelled as a pair to one of the top law schools in the country, even though few in our social orbit had trod that path before. Being open and at the same time pushing oneself to get an education can be as beneficial as the education itself.

But part of that education is knowing how to fit the pursuit of knowledge into a balanced life. After Joaquin and I were accepted into Harvard, we decided to take a year off and be at home with Mom.

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.138-9 Oct 16, 2018

On Environment: Opposed golf course development to protect city's aquifer

My employer, Akin Gump [law firm], represented an Austin-based developer seeking to develop a 2,861-acre golf complex in San Antonio in partnership with the Professional Golf Association of America. The project, known as PGA Village, would sit atop some of the last remaining open acreage in the recharge zone San Antonio's drinking water supply. Battles over the aquifer preceded my time in office, and it remained a hot issue. Almost all hydrologists foresaw that fertilizers and recycled wastewater could leach into the aquifer below.

At the law firm, I explained that I felt an obligation to resign. [On the City Council], I said simply, "I'm voting no," becoming the first member of the city council to publicly announce opposition to the PGA Village. "Corporate subsidy; corporate welfare; are those reasons enough for giving away $60 million in taxes even if they establish superior safety." [The City Council voted in favor pf PGA Village but the project was killed later]

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.171-6 Oct 16, 2018

On Government Reform: 1995: Studied overcoming minority voter disenfranchisement

Luis Fraga joined the Stanford faculty in 1991, the year before Joaquin & I arrived. His courses focused on the impact of minority voting on the democratic process, particularly in urban communities. Joaquin & I sat down in his class, "Urban Politics & Policy," where he spent more than an hour passionately breaking down discriminatory election structures. Never before had a class aligned so completely with my life experiences.

Luis believed that minority elected officials could and should represent both their own communities and the larger community effectively.

Joaquin and I were familiar with the perspective of those fighting for the rights of one marginalized group. Luis was showing us that although that fight was worthy, it was vital to think about how EVERYBODY had to contribute so that we all could progress past the point of disenfranchisement. He said, "Candidates, especially minority candidates, are best served by appealing to an informed public interest. We all win that way."

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.121 Oct 16, 2018

On Principles & Values: Jo & Ju

1977: As kids, engaged in San Antonio city politics In 1977, San Antonio let voters decide if the city should change from an at-large system of elections to single-member districts. The referendum passed[.] This immediately diversified the face of public representation in San Antonio. Four years later, From an early age, Joaquin and I were taught the importance of political engagement, and we attended rallies and were even pictured in some of the campaign literature. By the age of eight, I lost count of how many times I heard my mother tell me, "As a citizen, you need to participate in the democratic process. I something is wrong you can change it. Your efforts may pay off in the long run, even if you don't get your way right now."
Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p. 40 Oct 16, 2018

On Technology: E-PALS: Set up email between Harvard students & Texas kids

[At Harvard Law], I said to Joaquin one day, "we need to get more people from neighborhoods like ours here. Something that exposes them to the possibilities. I saw so many kids [at home] that could cut it here. But I could tell them that if I told them that they'd laugh."

Joaquin thought about his pool of friends [among fellow law students and noted], "Most of them seem willing to help people who don't have the same advantages,"

"Why not ask them to help now?"

Three days later, Joaquin sat down next to me. "Electronic Partnership of Aspiring Law Students--E-PALS. That's it," he said.

E-PALS became an informal, email-based pen pal project between students at Harvard Law School and those in the law studies magnet program at Fox Tech High School in the San Antonio Independent School District.

More and more classmates became involved with E-PALS. We need to find more opportunities for small projects like this that culminate ambition.

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.149-51 Oct 16, 2018

On Technology: City Council 2000: pursue smart growth, knowledge economy

I began campaigning on Election Day 2000, seven months ahead of the city council election. My theory is that when running for office, a candidate needs to tell folk in simple terms what he or she stands for. I had shaved my initial list down and had two easy-to-understand phrases: smart growth and a knowledge economy.

I had my stump speech set on auto repeat and I would engage at almost any interaction. "Hi, I'm Juli n Castro. I'm running for city council because I believe we should pursue a smart growth, knowledge economy agenda to create opportunity in twenty-first-century industries and gave neighborhood residents a say in shaping the character of their neighborhoods."

As I soon found out, people want to know how you can improve life not just for them but for their neighbors as well. Overwhelmingly, they wanted to be part of a prosperous community. [He won the election.]

Source: An Unlikely Journey, by Julian Castro, p.160-1 Oct 16, 2018

The above quotations are from An Unlikely Journey
Waking Up from My American Dream

by Julian Castro
Click here for other excerpts from An Unlikely Journey
Waking Up from My American Dream

by Julian Castro
Click here for other excerpts by Julian Castro.
Click here for a profile of Julian Castro.
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Page last updated: May 21, 2019