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Democrats choose San Antonio mayor as keynote speaker at convention

July 31, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • Marking a first for Latinos, the Democratic party announced that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has been chosen to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4.
Marking a first for Latinos, the Democratic party announced that San Antonio… (Pat Sullivan / Associated…)

A 37-year-old Latino mayor and rising star in Texas politics will deliver the keynote speech on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, the organizing committee said Tuesday.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will speak at the convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, a choice likely aimed at rallying the country’s Latino voters. First Lady Michelle Obama will also speak on opening night, said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who chairs the convention committee. 

“Having both the first lady and Mayor Castro speak on the opening night of our convention will bring together two incredible leaders whose life stories both embody the promise of America, that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it,” Villaraigosa said in a statement.

Castro is in his second term as mayor of San Antonio, which is the seventh-largest city in the nation. He is a twin who was raised by a single mother, attended public schools, and went to Stanford for his bachelor's degree and then on to Harvard for law school. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is running for Congress in Texas’ 20th District. Both brothers are seen as up-and-comers in Latino Democratic circles.

In 2004, a relatively unknown Sen. Barack Obama gave a keynote address on the second night of the convention. The speech, which emphasized racial and political reconciliation, helped vault him onto the national political stage.

This speech could do the same for Castro, but the selection is likely more focused on heightening enthusiasm among Latino voters. He’s the first Latino to keynote a Democratic convention speech.

In a speech posted on YouTube, Castro referred to Obama’s 2004 convention speech and their shared humble beginnings.

“I know I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” he said. “I remember watching his speech in 2004 and being inspired. When Obama talked about the audacity of hope, I thought back to my mother saying that if you didn’t like the ways things were, you could dare to change them.”

In the video, Castro praises Obama’s healthcare bill as well as his efforts to bring troops home and find jobs for veterans. He mentions Obama’s bailout of the auto industry and criticizes Romney by name for opposing the bailout. He ends his speech with a Spanish phrase, “Estamos unidos,” which means “We are united.”

The committee has also announced that former President Clinton will speak at the convention Wednesday night, a triumphant return for a politician who was speaking against Obama last time around. He’ll speak after Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is running against Republican Scott Brown in a tight Massachusetts Senate race.

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

Twitter: @alanasemuels

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