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April 1, 2019 - Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro declared that, "We need to move forward as one nation with one destiny, and that destiny for us in the United States in the 21st century is to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest, and the most prosperous nation on Earth."
Julián Castro—Transcript of Opening Remarks

Buenas días ¿cómo están? First of all, I want to thank all of the organizations that helped put together this We the People forum. It's wonderful to be here. Thank you all very much for having us candidates. This is one of the first presidential candidate forums that we've had. And so I'm sure you all are going to have a very exciting day. I want to do just two quick things. I wanted to start off today by telling you a little bit about myself and about my vision, and then I want to tell you a quick story.

You know I have, I feel like I need a name tag these days because I have a twin brother Joaquin. Some of y'all may have seen my twin brother. Joaquin likes to go around telling people that the way to tell us apart is that I'm a minute uglier than he is. But I'm actually a minute older.

We grew up on the west side of San Antonio with my mother and my grandmother. And my grandmother had come over from Mexico when she was seven years old with her little sister because her parents died. She grew up on the west side of San Antonio, never finished elementary school; she worked as a maid, a cook and a babysitter. She raised my mom as a single parent. My mom raised my brother and me as a single parent. Joaquin and I are proud products of the public schools of San Antonio, Texas.

I had the chance to go to college, go to law school, came back home with my brother—I couldn't get rid of him—became the first of my family be a professional, a lawyer, and then eventually got elected to the city council at the age of 26. I served for four years and then four years after that I was elected mayor of San Antonio, until I got a call on April 16, 2014 from President Barack Obama. I had just driven through the drive through at Panda Express. And, you know, the phone sometimes it says unknown caller or blocked? It said private. So if you ever get a call that says private answer the phone.

I did, and I ended up serving two and a half years as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And during that time had the chance to travel to 100 different communities across 39 states and to see the challenges that our nation is grappling with from poverty and everything that is linked with it, housing, education, transportation, infrastructure, health, the environment that people grow up in.

I'm running for president because I believe that we need new leadership with a new vision for the future of this country. One that understands that we need to move forward as one nation with one destiny, and that destiny for us in the United States in the 21st century is to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest, and the most prosperous nation on Earth. Let me say that one more time, alright. The smartest, the healthiest, the fairest, and the most prosperous nation on Earth.

And I know that we're going to spend time answering questions and I'll get a chance to go into the issues more. But basically, we need to invest in things like universal pre-K for three and four year olds and improving our K through 12 system by paying teachers what they deserve and reducing class sizes, and making sure that no matter what the needs of the student are they can find those needs met at the school that they attend.

We need to make sure that higher education is universal too, that it's tuition free. In a world, in a world where jobs require more knowledge and more skill than ever before and we're competing against countries around the world that are producing tons and tons of young people that are intelligent and well educated, talented and innovative, creative, right, that means that we don't have a single person to waste. We need to make an investment in higher education.

If we want to be the healthiest nation on Earth, we need a different healthcare system I had a grandmother, the grandmother that I grew up with that had diabetes. Before she passed away in 1996 she had to have one of her feet amputated. But she had Medicare that whole time. I want to strengthen Medicare and then make sure that Medicare is available to all Americans in this country.

If we're going to be the fairest nation on Earth, we need to reform our justice system so that everybody is innocent until proven guilty, no matter the color of your skin or how much money you have. And so that police departments across the United States treat you the same no matter if you're black or white or what neighborhood you live in.

If we're going to be the most prosperous nation on Earth, it means prosperity for everybody. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We need to reform our immigration system. In a couple of days I'm going to present a bold immigration plan for America. We need to do simple things like make sure that women are paid equal pay for equal work in this country.

And also address issues like housing. I bet if we went through the transcripts of the debates for the last 40 years that not one single question has been asked of Republicans or Democrats about the issue of housing, even though we have an affordability crisis throughout our country. We need to invest in a big way in housing that is affordable for the middle class, the lower middle class and the poor, and to tackle long term existential threats to our country. My first executive order if I'm president will be to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, so that we can lead on sustainability.

So I'll get to talk a little bit more about my vision for the country and where I stand on the issues but let me tell you a very quick story.

I got back home from law school when I was 26 years old or 25. I got elected to the city council at 26. In between I got a job at the biggest law firm in town, in San Antonio. I was making $100,000 a year in the year 2000 and I bought a house, I bought a car like all of the things that you would want to do as you're starting your new life. And then got elected to the Council. At the time the City Council in San Antonio paid $20 a week. Basically, the most that you could make was $1,040 a year. And so everybody had another job.

I worked at that law firm. A few months after I got elected, they got a client that had a land deal that they wanted approved by the City Council. The land deal was to put a golf course over the city's water supply, the most environmentally sensitive part of the city. And there were one or two golf courses already, but I had concerns that this golf course didn't have a strong enough environmental plan. And so the chemicals that they would use as part of their operation might compromise the integrity of the drinking water. So I wanted to vote against that deal and my constituents wanted me to vote against it. But under the professional rules of conduct for lawyers in Texas, you can't go against the interests of the client. So, I was kind of stuck. My constituents were saying, hey what's going on, you know, aren't you going to vote against this. But my livelihood dependent basically on me shutting up.

So one day in January of 2002, I walked into the law firm and I quit my job. And then I went, and then I went and I voted against that land deal. And you know a lot of times, I know, before I went into politics, I worried that I would somehow have to change who I was to succeed in politics. You hear that politics can be dirty or corrupting. And I worried that I would have to play the game in order to be successful.

I was glad that I passed that first test. You know my house went into the foreclosure process, I had bill collectors calling, and little by little I was able to get back up on my feet. But I tell you that because there is no position where you get tested more than as president of the United States.

And I want you to know that if I'm elected president that I will fight every single day so that you and your family can have good health care when you need it; so that your children and your grandchildren can get a good education; and so that you can have good job opportunities, no matter who you are, where you live.

I look forward to sharing my vision. I look forward to this campaign. I look forward to fighting for you. Thank you very much.

Dennessa Atiles – community organizer from Sacramento [Indivisible]: "...As president how will you be a leader to restore the rights of formerly incarcerated people and ensure everyone is able to cast a vote regardless of past felony convictions."

SEIU members Gail Rogers from Tampa, Florida and Thomasine Wilson from Richmond, Virginia:  "...how would you stand with and rewrite the rules for workers like me and Thomasine to win our union and build power, challenge corporate power and make the government work for working people?"

Silver Light – a former educator from Buffalo, New York, who has spent years working in community programs and nonprofits [MoveOn]: "Two of the last three presidents became president after losing the popular vote...  As president how do you plan to address this distortion of our democracy and assure the will of the people is reflected in who serves as president in the future?"
Thomasine Wilson and Gail Rogers.
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