Julián for the Future
For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 5, 2019
Contact: Sawyer Hackett

Secretary Julián Castro’s Foreign Policy Speech on the Future of American Leadership

SAN ANTONIO, TX (December 5, 2019) – Today, presidential candidate, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under President Obama and former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julián Castro, will share his vision for the future of American leadership with a speech on foreign policy at Stanford University.

“We need to reclaim our role as a beacon of hope for the poor and place of refuge for the vulnerable,” said Secretary Castro. “We have to be a nation of moral authority that stands up for human rights, that pushes back against tyranny anywhere, that promotes peace and prosperity everywhere.”

Secretary Castro will outline a new foreign policy that reflects our values, one that complements inclusive prosperity at home and supports collective security abroad. The Secretary’s vision emphasizes the role of America’s moral leadership on human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. As President, he will prioritize diplomacy, rebuild the U.S. State Department, forge new alliances and work to overcome global challenges like defeating the climate crisis and outcompeting China. This approach stands in contrast to the current administration which has alienated our allies and emboldened our adversaries.

Secretary Castro’s remarks will be livestreamed here at 10AM PT and can be viewed below:
Secretary Julián Castro
Remarks - The Future of American Leadership
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Stanford University
As Prepared

Thank you, and good morning! Thank you Elena, for the kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to join all of you today. Thank you to Stanford in Government, El Centro, the U.S. Grand Strategy speaker series, and the Freeman Spogli Institute for hosting us. Stanford is a special place for me. It was here that my brother, Joaquin, and I first saw a world outside of our hometown.

My brother and I grew up on the West Side of San Antonio -- a community of humble and hardworking families. My mom raised us as a single-parent, who without the help of Pell Grants and Perkins Loans, could have never afforded to send us to this remarkable institution.

The Bay Area opened my eyes to what was possible for a community like San Antonio in the future: well-educated, higher-income, diverse, inclusive, and globally-competitive. My experience here sparked an interest in public service and a desire to expand opportunity to everyone.

I was born as the Vietnam War ended, raised in the twilight of the Cold War, and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union as a teenager. When I arrived here in the fall of ‘92, the United States was at its pinnacle of power. Many believed that authoritarianism was in permanent retreat, and that America as the dominant superpower would lead a free and increasingly democratic world. At the time I began my career in public service in 2001, the world looked very different than it does today. That year, the terrorist attacks on September 11th killed almost 3,000 people. As a young leader in my community, I saw how Americans came together in the days after tragedy, but I also saw how some in our country succumbed to open displays of nationalism and nativism, and how we launched open-ended conflicts that have hurt our nation’s standing and moral credibility. The scars of those years persist, even as we experience challenges, but I believe a more promising chapter of our American story can yet be written.

My own family’s American story is one example of that promise. In 1922, my grandmother moved here from Mexico as an orphan. She had no formal education, spoke sparse English, and her documents said that her reason for coming here was simply, “to live.” She passed away a few months before my brother and I graduated from Stanford. But if she were here today, she would have thought it extraordinary that only two generations later one grandson, my brother Joaquin, is a member of the United States Congress who represents the community she found a home in, and I’m here to share my vision for the future of American leadership.

We need a new foreign policy that reflects our values, one that complements inclusive prosperity at home and supports collective security abroad.

We need a new vision for the future that pursues a more just world by defending democracy and a more peaceful planet through diplomacy.

When people around the world think about what the United States of America stands for they often say three things: freedom, democracy, and opportunity for all. But today everyone, from students protesting in the streets to leaders laughing in public meetings, is wondering about the future of American leadership.

I have an answer: to reclaim our role as a beacon of hope for the vulnerable and place of refuge for the vulnerable. We have to be a nation of moral authority that stands up for human rights, that pushes back against tyranny anywhere, that promotes peace and prosperity everywhere.

Today our allies question our commitment and our adversaries are emboldened. The current administration is more interested in photo-ops with dictators than progress on nuclear nonproliferation. President Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal and abandoned our Kurdish partners in Syria. He cozies up to Vladimir Putin while alienating our NATO allies. But even this president’s failures and broken promises ignore the larger challenges: climate change, endless war, inequality and poverty, mass migration and non-proliferation, cyber security and artificial intelligence. 

Authoritarianism is on the rise. From China and Hungary to Russia and Brazil, strongmen are consolidating political and economic power to benefit themselves and their cronies at the expense of their citizens and democracy. It is no accident that these are also the leaders most determined to scapegoat immigrants, LGBTQ people, or religious and ethnic minorities. There is a disturbing trend of a renewed divide between democratic nations and authoritarian states. We are entering a new era of geopolitical competition between open societies and closed states. Authoritarians are actively seeking to expand spheres of influence, export models of authoritarian control, and stir hatred and division in open societies. 

As an open society, we are more vulnerable to foreign interference. During the 2016 elections, and at this moment, Russia and other adversaries seek to take advantage of our nation’s divisions. This is why our security abroad is inseparable from the health of our democracy at home. We cannot credibly say we support fair elections in Ukraine or Venezuela, if we cannot guarantee them in the state of Georgia. We must work to heal our country and prepare our society to face adversaries that seek to divide us from within.

We also have to hold our allies and partners accountable for safeguarding democracy. Our nation’s commitment to the rule of law, human rights, workers, and the environment must be unwavering. Even NATO allies like Hungary, Poland, and Turkey should be accountable for suppressing free speech and enabling the rise of nationalism at the expense of ethnic or religious minorities. We can no longer separate our interests from our values, and it is important we demonstrate that to our partners and allies.

Every day, leaders face choices on what kind of society they want to build. As we speak, Israel’s leaders face that same choice. I believe the United States has an interest in Israel’s continued security and prosperity, as we do in the rights of the Palestinian people to live without fear in a future they can choose for themselves. As Israeli leaders across the spectrum speak to ideas of unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank, continuing to expand settlements, actions that make a two-state solution more distant, if not impossible, we must make clear that this stands against our values and interests.

And our democratic values must also guide our actions when we seek new partners and reassess existing ones, such as our relationship with  Saudi Arabia, especially in the wake of the Saudi-led War in Yemen and the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi [Kha-SHOW-k-JEE].

The free press is under assault worldwide, from the imprisonments of Jason Rezaian [Rey-zah-ian] in Iran, Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo [CHA-sow-you] in Burma, and Ilham Tohti in China. A free and independent press is a guardian of democracy, holding governments accountable to the public interest. U.S. foreign policy must support the freedom of the press, not undermine it while coddling tyrants who suppress it.

Technology too has created new challenges and opportunities for free societies. Companies right here in Silicon Valley have a responsibility not just to their shareholders, but for how their products impact people here in the United States and worldwide. Facebook allowed its platform to spread hate in Burma and the genocide against the Rohingya. A white nationalist terrorist in New Zealand live-streamed his attack on a mosque. The video was shared on Facebook 1.5 million times within 24 hours. That attack in turn inspired a domestic terror attack in El Paso, where a gunman drove 10 hours to kill Latinos, targeting people who he came to see as the enemy.

I believe we can still live up to the promise of openness that the Internet offers, but we need to be vigilant, and that means taking seriously the need for rules and accountability, while taking care also to oppose those, such as the Chinese government, who would use new technologies to control their citizens and persecute minorities. For better or for worse, just as capital flows freely in a global world, so too do opinions. Inspiration can catch fire and but hate can also spread like a pandemic. We need a new generation of leaders to ensure technology is ultimately a force for good, not ill.

The United States is entrenched in numerous wars around the world. The last 20 years of war have cost the American people over 6.4 trillion dollars, and as many as 800,000 lives have been lost. The next president must bring these conflicts to a responsible conclusion. This will involve bringing our combat troops home and re-committing to diplomacy, seeking to prevent conflict in the first place. We cannot remain stuck in the quagmire of proliferating violence that is sapping our moral credibility and undermining our military readiness.

We find ourselves in this situation, in part, because Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to declare war. Eighteen years ago in the wake of 9/11, Congress passed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force for the conflict in Afghanistan. But now that same bill is used to enable military action in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and West Africa. It’s wrong, it undermines our credibility, and further removes the American people from the war-making process. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. We must restore this fundamental principle.

I am highly skeptical of what military action alone can accomplish, but there are times when the United States must be willing to use force such as in direct defense of our people, our territory, and our treaty allies. But when we take military action, it should be in accordance with our values and we should only act when we are confident we will make the situation better. And when we need to use force it should be in coordination with our allies, be limited, with clear achievable objectives and a plan for what comes next.

The United States also needs to prioritize and modernize the defense budget with a vision towards deterring future conflict. We need to invest in innovation and industries of the future in order to maintain a technological edge over competitors. Our national security priorities must go beyond legacy platforms the Department of Defense says they don’t need and towards investments for the future in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cybersecurity. We also need to invest in people, in human capital and brainpower. Most importantly, greatest defense is when our military strength backs up principled diplomacy.

Diplomacy, backed by the weight of our national power and built on the foundations of our values, is often more effective than a rifle. Victory across a conference table can change the world in ways that action on a battlefield cannot. From President H.W. Bush’s peaceful management of the collapse of the Soviet Union to President Obama’s persistent negotiation of the Iran Nuclear Deal, diplomacy has prevented conflict and achieved key national security interests.

I believe the United States should recommit to the Iran nuclear deal and ensure the Iranians are brought in compliance. We must defend the set of rules and norms that prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Our nation has a responsibility with our Japanese and South Korean allies to conduct diplomacy with North Korea in a professional manner that advances our collective security.

We have a responsibility to live up to our aspirations for a world free from the specter of nuclear weapons. Our credibility to negotiate new arms control agreements is dependent on living up to our past agreements such as the New START and INF Treaty. There is a long-history of bipartisanship in non-proliferation, and the United States must build on that legacy of achieving security through diplomacy.

However, President Trump has proposed a thirty-percent cut to the State Department, undermined career diplomats and appointed wealthy donors without foreign policy experience as ambassadors. Under this administration, half of our country’s senior-most diplomats have retired and applications to join the Foreign Service are down fifty percent from under President Obama’s first year in office. Trump has slandered public servants like Ambassador Yovanovitch for standing for the rule of law and rejecting corruption. We must restore integrity and decency to the Oval Office.

The American people deserve a foreign policy that puts diplomacy and people first. We can do this by increasing the size of the Foreign Service, investing in educational  and training opportunities such as graduate school, and exchanges to other agencies and the private sector. America's diplomats should also reflect the diversity of the American people. That means we need to invest in recruitment by strengthening fellowship programs that bring aspiring diplomats from underrepresented communities. Professional diplomacy also means ending the practice of selling ambassadorships to the highest bidder. Our relationships with sovereign nations, no matter how small the country or beautiful the beaches, should be managed by those with deep expertise, not deep wallets.

America must invest in more inclusive and fair international institutions. Our nation is stronger when we support an international system built on rules—rules that make it harder to pursue armed conflict and easier to cooperate peacefully. The United States helped build the institutional order we have today in the aftermath of World War II, and that legacy has tended to give us unique sway in the global rules of the game.  But durable institutions can’t be centered on a single great power. We have to support international institutions generally while encouraging fair and inclusive reforms specifically. For example, I believe in the United Nations’ mission to ‘maintain international peace and security.’ But I also believe the UN Security Council needs to include the democratic voices of countries like Japan, Germany, and India so that they remain vested in the UN’s success.

A new foreign policy, built on progressive values, must make room for new voices to rise up and be valued as equal partners. Just as the United States built up a system of alliances and institutions after World War II for the 20th Century, now is the time to reimagine those organizations and forge new alliances for the 21st Century. President Obama recognized this, prioritizing diplomacy with Southeast Asia and promoting programs that strengthened civil societies in the region. He made a breakthrough in our relationship with the people of the African continent. I believe engagement in these regions will provide opportunities for us at home and abroad.

This starts with a 21st Century Marshall Plan for Central America. We need to partner with the nations of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala in a holistic effort to bolster the rule of law, respect human rights, and ensure justice. I the people of these nations to be able to find opportunity and safety at home, rather than risking everything on a dangerous journey north. We have to address the root causes of mass migration: insecurity, inequality, and injustice. That’s why we will help them in building up democratic systems like independent courts, a fair judicial process, and accountable police forces. These are not short-term bandaids, but long-term investments that actually improve people’s lives.

In Latin America more broadly, we are at an inflection point. There is no greater example of the shortfalls of the old Washington Consensus of deregulation, privatization, and austerity than in countries such as Chile and Mexico. Inequality skyrocketed, poverty entrenched, and oligarchy ensued. We have much work to do to regain the trust and confidence of nations in Latin America, and that starts with treating them as partners and with respect, not countries we bully and threaten.

President Obama set out to “bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas” by normalizing relations with Cuba. In continuing this effort, recognizing that it is everyday Cubans and their American families that suffer the most from decades of embargo. In Venezuela, the Trump administration’s saber-rattling has done nothing to weaken the Maduro dictatorship. Our nation’s commitment to democratic values means working with partners in the region to secure free and fair elections, while also alleviating the suffering of the Venezuelan people. We should lift the sanctions that have hurt the Venezuelan people, focusing pressure on Maduro and his allies, welcome Venezuelan refugees to our shores, including by granting Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans, and provide assistance to countries like Colombia that are hosting them now.

We must also repair our relationship with Mexico. One out of every ten Americans trace their roots to Mexico. The country is a top trading partner and democratic ally, and we should commit to improving life on both sides of our border. Common sense gun safety legislation would deny cartels the weapons of war that do not belong on American or Mexican streets. The war on drugs at home fuels conflict in Mexico and suffering at home. And we need to finally fix our broken immigration system. No more separating families. No more children in cages. No more playing games with asylum seekers. We’re better than this. 

One of our biggest challenges on the horizon is our relationship with China. I believe in healthy competition, and I’m confident that America can out-compete, out-innovate, and out-work any competitor. This Administration has pursued a failed trade war that inflicts more pain on American consumers that on China, and leaves our nation isolated in the Indo-Pacific. We need a different path, one that pushes back against Chinese coercion, in partnership with our allies and in line with our values.

We have steadfast allies in the region including Australia, Japan, and South Korea, and growing partnerships with nations like India and Vietnam. Building off the work of President Obama, we must continue to invest time, energy, and resources in these relationships and repair the reputational damage of the past three years. President Trump has frayed our alliances with careless decisions and cheap talk.  Instead of arms control diplomacy with the North Korean regime, we got narcissistic photo ops and false promises of denuclearization. Meanwhile, the president has been too tepid to speak out against human rights abuses of Uighurs in Xinjiang and has offered little support to the courageous protesters in Hong Kong. Only two weeks ago Trump equivocated, saying he stands with the protestors but that he also stands with Xi Jinping. So let us be unequivocal: America must always speak up for human rights, regardless of the economic appeal of any nation’s market.

The United States has important economic relationships in the Indo-Pacific, including  with China, which has become our largest trading partner. For years, the Chinese government has offered corporations a deal they readily accepted: short-term profits and market access in exchange for technology transfers that hurt the competitiveness of our nation’s economy in the long run  Their economic practices, such as this, have too often found willing partners in the United States, but we have a responsibility to push back. Yet, the answer is not Donald Trump’s trade war, which he has pursued alone,without allies. He has levied taxes on American consumers, hurt family farmers who lose exports to China, and compensated well-connected farmers who grow richer, with no end in sight. His actions  mirror the corrupt practices of the Chinese government we look to confront. China’s economic growth would be welcomed, if they play by the rules. Instead, Beijing insists on an uneven playing field that we must rebalance. We need to rally our allies and partners around the world around a unified vision for fair economic competition. Together we can create clear safeguards for sensitive technologies, respect for intellectual property, and ensure American workers are the biggest winner.

Finally, we must defeat the greatest challenge of our time. The climate crisis is an existential threat to life on this planet. Our future depends on marshalling the world to overcome this challenge. And the United States is the nation best equipped the lead this effort.

The credibility of that leadership however, will depend on what we accomplish here at home. We must pass a Green New Deal that invest billions in research and development, green manufacturing, sustainable infrastructure, and builds a better future for us all. We will recommit to the Paris Climate Accords, as we push for stronger goals. American leadership can help our partners in managing climate-driven migration and work with countries in their transitions. That includes helping countries in Africa and Latin America leapfrog dirty fuels into clean energy to contributing to the Green Climate Fund to fight for climate equity. And as the case of Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Amazon fires shows, standing up to authoritarianism is part of standing up for our climate.

Combating climate change will create trillions of dollars in economic opportunity around the world, which every nation is keen to dominate. China’s renewable energy investments are twice those of America’s. Last year, the Chinese manufactured three times as many electric vehicles as we produced. I believe this global clean energy revolution should be fueled by American workers and American technology. And we need to support exports of clean technology and invest in climate-friendly infrastructure projects.

I believe that defeating climate change is the calling of our generation. And while this is a crisis, it’s also an opportunity. Millions of new jobs will be created in green industries, thousands of people’s health will be improved with less pollution, hundreds of new technologies will transform daily life, all while we save our planet and secure our future.

Here, at the edge of the continent, almost at the start of a new decade, looking west across the Pacific, and feeling hopeful about the future, Americans have an opportunity to pursue a more peaceful, a more prosperous, a more democratic and a more just world. Yes, the challenges we face are serious, but so is our capacity for greatness. I know it’s easy to feel beat down by the cynics, to feel defeated by the chaos in Washington, but we have reason to reject pessimism and embrace optimism. A new generation of leadership, those in this room and so many others, young folks like all of you, are ready to make progress a reality, defeat climate change, start new enterprises, and serve the common good. And, together we will pursue a more just world.

Thank you. Que Dios los bendiga. And may God bless the United States of America.
About Secretary Julián Castro
Julián Castro served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama from 2014-2017. Before that, he was Mayor of his native San Antonio, Texas — the youngest mayor of a Top 50 American city at the time. In 2012, he gave a rousing keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, during which he described the American Dream as a relay to be passed from generation to generation. In 2018, Castro founded Opportunity First, an organization to invest in the next generation of progressive leaders. In October 2018, Little, Brown published Castro’s memoir, An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up from My American Dream. On January 12, 2019, Secretary Castro announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Follow Julián Castro on TwitterFacebook and InstagramJulianfortheFuture.com and Julianparaelfuturo.com.