The Performing Arts Complex auditorium was full of eager students, professors and other listeners waiting to hear a speech by former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro last Wednesday on the Edinburg campus.
Castro’s speech, the first in this year’s Distinguished Speaker Series, inspired and challenged students to continue their education.
He recounted his early life, overcoming struggles and his career.
Castro’s mother raised him and his twin brother, Joaquin, as a single mother. They grew up in San Antonio. He spoke about how on April 3, 1992, he and his brother ran to the mailbox after applying to colleges. There, they opened packets welcoming both to the Stanford University Class of 1996.
Castro said his grandmother was extremely proud they were receiving a great opportunity. She could still remember living through a time when there were signs stating, “No Mexicans or dogs allowed.”
With his grandmother’s and mother’s help, federal work-study, grants and loans, the brothers were able to attend the university. Later, the two became lawyers after graduating from Harvard Law School.
Castro also described his excitement of being appointed by then-President Barack Obama to lead HUD.
“I remember the day, because it’s not every day that the president of the United States calls you and asks you if you want a job,” Castro said. “I don’t know about you all, but not in my life. I had just eaten at Panda Express, and I was in a parking lot ready to leave. And, of course, I took his call.”
He emphasized three pieces of advice.
His first was, “Whether you’re 13 or 33, find those people who believe in you, who are going to look out for you and surround yourself with those folks.”
His second, “Always believe in yourself. … When you’re honest with other folks about who you are, and you believe in yourself, it gives them license to be who they are. … There’s a value in having confidence in who you are.”
For his last piece of advice, he said to always be prepared.
“That’s more than half the ballgame,” Castro said. “… If you are prepared in life, you’re well ahead of 90 percent of other people.”
At the end of his speech, many attendees stood to ask questions, including two students.
Veronica Sandoval, who is pursuing a master’s degree, asked for advice to women hoping to go into politics, since it is still “overwhelmingly male.”
Castro agreed and recounted how he had told his daughter she could be anything, including president. He said his daughter, however, told him right away, “That’s for boys.” Castro was surprised and told his daughter that she could be president if she wanted to.
“I would tell all young people, especially young girls, not to be discouraged and that they can be anything in the world they want,” he said.
Jose Escobedo asked for Castro’s opinion on immigration. Escobedo said his cousins still have to wait 10 years before being approved to live legally in the U.S. He said many others, however, get in illegally and later receive the benefits of regular citizens.
Castro said he brought up a good point.
“We need to go about the business of improving both of those … that more folks are coming in through the approved legal means,” he said. “We need to speed up that process.”
On Jan. 30, 2018, Diane Guerrero, who stars in the Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black,” will be the next guest for the Distinguished Speakers Series.
For more information, contact Student Involvement at 666-7364 or 882-5111.