Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro National Council of La Raza 2015 Annual Conference
Monday, July 13, 2015
Kansas City, MO

As prepared for delivery

Hello, NCLR! Thank you very much for that warm welcome, and good afternoon. My thanks to Arantxa Loizaga for her very kind introduction. It's always nice to see a former San Antonian doing great things.

I'd also like to thank NCLR's President and CEO, the one and only, Janet Murguia. She's been a champion for the Latino community, and I'm proud to call her a friend. My thanks to your Chair Daniel Ortega, and NCLR's Board of Directors and staff for their incredible leadership.

Finally, let me thank all of you for the work you're doing across the United States to make a difference. I'm grateful for your efforts and honored to be with you this afternoon.

Nine days ago on July 4th, families, friends and neighbors across the nation gathered together to celebrate the birth of American independence. With flags in our hands and pride in our hearts, we remembered the band of patriots who, with conviction and courage, decided to risk everything for the cause of freedom.

We honored the single, but powerful idea that guides our democracy and our way of life: that all people are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we reflected on the rich history that's unfolded since 1776 - a journey that's proven our great nation to be a place of unlimited possibilities and a beacon of hope around the world.

Back in the 19th century it was said that "America is another name for opportunity", and through the course of history, people from all backgrounds have proven these words to be true in their own lives, in their own way, in their own time.

This is where Ellen Ochoa was able to reach the stars, making the journey from humble beginnings in La Mesa, California to become the first Latina in outer space. This is where, nearly 80 years ago, the Unanue family was able to buy the "Goya" name for one dollar and build that brand into a business empire. This is where one of our nation's greatest legal minds, Sonia Sotomayor, was able to go from public housing in The Bronx all the way to the Supreme Court.

But it's important to remember that opportunity has never been guaranteed. Each generation has had to strive, to work, and to fight to make it real. Now it's our generation's challenge to build on this legacy by answering a fundamental question: how do we ensure that the United States remains the undisputed land of opportunity in the 21st century?

The answer is by shaping a future where every child has the chance to thrive, where every person has the chance to succeed, and where every idea can flourish - and Latinos will play a vital role in meeting this challenge.

The Latino community stands at the intersection of two dynamics that will determine prosperity in the 21st century global economy. The first is that brainpower is the new currency of success.

And, for the first time, America finds itself in an unprecedented competition for jobs and investment with rising nations around the world that are producing millions of young, talented graduates with the intelligence, drive and ability to innovate and to develop new technologies that will define progress in this century.

The second is that Latinos comprise the youngest and fastest growing segment of our nation's population. The 2010 Census revealed that 23 percent of children under 17 are Latino.

Now, more than ever, America's destiny is intertwined with the Latino destiny. If educated well, Latinos can be a game-changing asset in keeping America tremendously competitive in this 21st century and beyond.

And that's something all Americans can get behind - like all Americans, Latinos love this nation, and want it to prosper and remain strong. Unfortunately there are some who continue to attack this community for who we are and where we're from.

Last month, as he announced his campaign for President, Republican Donald Trump stated that immigrants coming from Mexico were criminals and rapists. Mr. Trump's remarks would be laughable, if they weren't so insulting to the very notion of America.

Ours is a nation of immigrants, a nation that's made stronger in this 21st century by the energy and entrepreneurial spirit that they bring into the larger American family. Consider the story of 17-year-old Fernando Rojas from Fullerton, California.

The son of Mexican immigrants-his father a machine operator and his mother a seamstress-Fernando graduated from high school earlier this year as a national speech and debate champion, and a co-valedictorian with a 4.8 GPA. And incredibly, he was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools - every single one of them.

Fernando credits his parents for teaching him to work hard and never give up. That strength, that determination, that success - that's the immigrant story, that's our American story.

That's why Americans from all backgrounds are standing up to, and speaking out against Trump's rhetoric. As mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. CEOs, small business owners and hard-working employees. Soldiers, cops, firefighters and teachers who serve our nation every single day - Latinos are making America stronger.

So Donald Trump and his conservative allies ought to hear this: Americans will not stand for your rhetoric or your hatred - not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

We are one America, and we must choose a different course for our nation-not one where personal success comes at the expense of others-but a future where opportunity and prosperity expand.

Just look at the last two weeks. First, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, and now millions of Americans will be able to keep their healthcare. Then the Court ruled for marriage equality. It told us what we already knew in our hearts: that all Americans have the right to live and love freely.

Last week we watched that symbol of division, of hate-the Confederate flag-finally come down from the State Capital in South Carolina. And we also learned that more Americans are working again. The unemployment rate is down to 5.3 percent, and we've seen a record 64 straight months of private sector job growth and 12.8 million new jobs.

So how do we build on that success? The answer is to invest in opportunity. It means making pre-K universal so that every child can get a strong start in life. It means making college more affordable so that all folks who're willing to work hard can get the skills they need to compete.

It means investing in job training and apprenticeships to give folks of modest means a pathway to the middle class. It means raising the minimum wage. It means finally, once and for all, passing comprehensive immigration reform, and not settling for the second class status that Republicans would impose on some immigrant families.

And it means putting good and decent housing within reach of all hardworking Americans. At HUD, we call ourselves the Department of Opportunity because where you live impacts how you live - the education your children receive, the grocery stores you have access to, the financial security you can build for the future.

We work hard to help people achieve their dreams. Our Federal Housing Administration insures half of all home loans to Latinos, and we've taken strong steps to make homeownership more affordable and accessible for responsible families, helping spark the growth we're seeing in our housing market.

Through our Community Development Block Grants and our HOME initiative, we're investing in neighborhoods to lift up communities across the nation, which is why we're fighting against the Congressional Republican proposal to cut HOME by 93 percent, so we can keep affordable housing development, construction jobs and economic investment going across the nation.

And last Wednesday, we produced a new fair housing rule to help give every family an equal chance to access quality housing near good schools, transportation and jobs - no matter who they are, what they look like, how they worship or where they're from.

Our entire nation is richer when everyone has the chance to prosper, and we look forward to collaborating with you to build a future where there are no limits for any American.

Janet - you and I know this won't be easy. Progress is never a given. We've got to work for it. But we can accomplish incredible things if we keep working together to advance opportunity for all.

And I know that NCLR will keep on doing what you do: advocating, educating, negotiating, collaborating, legislating, activating, facilitating, mediating, reinvigorating, coordinating, validating, motivating, jubilating, sometimes agitating and always elevating our nation to greater progress.

Oh, and making sure that the Latino community elects the next President of the United States in 2016. You know that when we invest in people, we invest in our nation's future. That when opportunity reaches all, everyone benefits. That when the Latino community succeeds, our entire nation succeeds.

I still believe that the American Dream isn't a sprint or a marathon, but a relay. Fernando Rojas's parents came from Mexico to America. They didn't go to college or even finish high school. But they worked hard and 51 days from now, their son will give them a kiss and an abrazo, waive goodbye and start college at Yale.

That, my fellow Americans, is the magic of our nation, and the future of our Latino community.

Thank you very much.


Content Archived: March 17, 2017