Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
League of United Latin American Citizens - Unity Luncheon
July 14, 2016

As prepared for delivery

Gracias, Tsi-Tsi-Ki [Félix]. Gracias, a todos. Muchas gracias!

Buenas tardes, LULAC! To all of you from California, New York, Arizona, my home state of Texas, and everywhere in between:

It's so great to be with y'all. President Rocha, Executive Director Wilkes, and LULAC's Board Members do outstanding work every day, and our nation is a stronger and fairer place because of it.

The same is true of the business leaders, educators, activists, and voices for change - especially the young people - who help make LULAC what it is today. Thank you for your work.

I join you today as a beneficiary of the amazing progress that LULAC has helped our nation achieve. And as a partner in meeting the challenges that lie ahead.

When LULAC was founded, it wasn't uncommon to see store windows in Texas and throughout the Southwest with signs that read "No dogs or Mexicans allowed."

Hispanics stood up against that bigotry and intolerance - and LULAC made sure they didn't stand alone.

You pushed for economic justice for working people, including for immigrants, whose labor has always been part of the backbone of our nation's prosperity. You helped to desegregate schools, so more Garcias and Gonzalezes, more Hernandezes and Rochas could get a good education.

You helped to open up the ballot box to more citizens and made our government more responsive to the will of the people. You fought, and you won.

And as I look across the nation today, I see a better America. A nation that's more open and accepting. An economy that's stronger and more inclusive. And a government that's more responsive to the people it serves.

There's no question that we've achieved a lot together. But I don't have to tell y'all that we have a ways to go to build an America where opportunity is within reach for everyone.

In fact, too many American children still begin life facing a disadvantage because of nothing more than the zip code where they're born. Last year the Washington Post ran a story that compared life expectancy rates in Baltimore's neighborhoods to nations around the world.

They found that fourteen Baltimore neighborhoods, including Sandtown-Winchester - where Freddie Gray grew up - have lower life expectancies than North Korea. That's what decades of disinvestment looks like. Decades of failing schools and shuttered storefronts.

Decades of boarded up homes and empty factories. And generations of young people who aren't just left behind in our nation's progress, but are left out of it completely.

Some have suggested that the challenges of Sandtown-Winchester or of Ferguson or of South Los Angeles - that they're for the folks who live there to solve. But we know better. We know that the struggles of those communities are our struggles.

Helping to lift those neighborhoods up and giving the children who live there a strong start in life isn't just the right thing to do. It's also the smart thing to do. Not just for the Latino community, but for the entire nation.

Think of all the potential doctors or teachers or artists or community leaders we're losing because the obstacles facing our young people are just too high.

In this great nation, we don't believe that it should matter where you're born, or who your parents are, or what language you speak at home. Everyone in the United States should be able to make it if they work hard.

This is perhaps the central challenge our generation has to meet - ensuring that every American can share in the promise of America.

We had some truly terrible reminders last week of just how urgent it is that we meet that challenge and heal the divisions in our nation.

Our nation's heart still hurts from the recent tragedies. We mourn for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were killed in separate encounters with law enforcement.

And we also grieve for the families of Sergeant Michael Smith, Officer Lorne Ahrens, Officer Brent Thompson, Officer Michael Krol, and Officer Patrick Zamarripa - the five officers who were gunned down in Dallas.

Yet even in the midst of our sorrow, there is, stirring especially among our nation's youth, a spark of hope, and the forging of a new bottom line for America.

A bottom line that says America must work for the people and not just the powerful. A bottom line that values human capital and not just financial capital. A bottom line that refuses to get stuck in extremes:

Liberal versus conservative. Immigrant versus native-born. Too big to fail versus too small to make a profit.

This new generation is forging a new bottom line because they recognize the only label that matters isn't "liberal" or "conservative". It's American.

They're rejecting the old script used by earlier generations and asking new questions:

Like, "Why is it that a corporation can grow as big as the market will allow, and it's seen as a good thing, but if you want to raise the minimum wage, some people think it's the end of the world?"

Don't just tell me how much profit your shareholders made. Tell me how much your employees' take home pay went up.

Don't just tell me how much money you spent on a new corporate headquarters. Tell me how much you invested in paid family leave.

Don't just tell me about your business plans for the next quarter. What about your plans for the next quarter-century?

You see, the most valuable asset that companies or organizations have aren't machines - it's people. And America's young people - our future nurses, engineers, architects, and police officers - deserve to be treated that way. They deserve a new bottom line.

And I'm not talking about something that would be a nice thing to do. I'm talking about something that will absolutely determine the future of our entire nation.

Because today, more than ever, the destiny of the United States is intertwined with the destiny of Latino Americans.

The Census tells us that the most common age among non-Hispanic Whites is 56. But the most common age among Latinos is nine.

As the future of those young Latinos goes - so goes the future of America.

So we have to give every person the chance to fully contribute to our nation's great story.

Folks like 18-year-old Fernando Rojas from Fullerton, California.

Fernando is the son of Mexican immigrants - his father a machine operator and his mother a seamstress.Fernando graduated from high school last year as a national speech and debate champion. He graduated tied for first in his class.

And incredibly, he was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools - every single one of them. Last fall, he began his studies at Yale.

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

We owe it to every child to make sure they have a fair shot to follow in Fernando's footsteps by going as far as their hard work will take them.

You're doing your part to build that new bottom line. And I'm proud to say that HUD is doing its part, too.

We're investing in affordable housing, especially housing for low-income Americans, so more working families can buy clothes for their children and make sure their kids have enough to eat.

We're using the full force of the law to protect the fair housing rights of every American, including folks who've been arrested or who're returning to their communities after serving time in jail or prison.

We're making responsible homeownership more affordable, including for more Latino families. In fact, our Federal Housing Administration insures half of all home loans to Latinos, something that's helped spark the growth we're seeing in the housing market.

And we're investing in brainpower by expanding broadband internet access and learning opportunities for public housing residents to give more young people the tools they need to compete in the 21st century global economy.

I'm convinced that we can shape a future where every child has the chance to thrive and where every person has the chance to succeed. That's the challenge before us. And it's a challenge that Latinos will play a vital role in helping our nation meet.

LULAC, time and again you've shown that your motto, "All for one and one for all" is more than just rhetoric. It's your record.

A record of engaging and empowering. A record of fighting for civil rights, for women's rights, fair housing rights, LGBT rights.

And a record of promoting an economy that works for everyone - from the factory worker to the school teacher to the small business owner.

With LULAC on the frontlines, our nation has achieved a lot, but there's much work that remains. We have to continue working to build a society based upon equality for all.

We have to fight for a day when we don't just send police to marginalized neighborhoods like north Baton Rouge - but we also send resources and investment, great public schools and thriving businesses.

And we have to fight for a day when our nation never has to grieve another tragedy like we witnessed in Dallas. And in Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Sandy Hook.

Reaching those dreams isn't inevitable, but it is possible. That's the task before us. It's the calling you've all answered. And it's the future that I believe we're already building together.

Thank you.


Content Archived: February 9, 2018