Former housing secretary urges students to be the change for a better America

February 28, 2022

Julian Castro sitting on chair and speaking to students at event

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro urges college students to lead by example.

He stressed the importance of being together in such momentous times and of how important it is to be involved in college political groups — the very place his career in politics began.

“We are truly living in momentous times, in fact, these last two years — since March 2020 — have been unlike anything we’ve ever seen in human history,” he said. “A pandemic that’s now killed more than 900,000 Americans and millions more around the world, a recession that came with a racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd and the resistance and pushback that calls for improving policing and accountability in America and in so many ways making ours a fairer and more just society for Black Americans and for all historically disadvantaged groups. An attack on democracy on January 6 and in state legislatures across the country as legislators try to suppress the vote in different ways and then today the news that Russia has invaded Ukraine.”

He reflected on how it feels like the world is going back to the time of the Cold War, to a different moment in American history, how the stakes are high and can keep getting higher. He said he is also reminded of the international mood after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“What I remember about September 12th was that on the news there were images of people not here in the United States but overseas in Europe and in Latin America and communities in Asia and Africa of people weeping and lighting candles saying prayers to the people of the United States,” Castro said. “It struck me because I knew that was a sadness and an expression for the loss of life of almost 3,000 people. But I think that it was also an expression of sadness to the blow to the values that for many people the United States has represented, of democracy, opportunity, freedom and equality.”

Castro said that the United States is far from perfect and is a work in progress, but that the nation and its people are always working toward those ideals of the values in order for the nation to reach its full potential.

“As human beings, we’re committed to bettering one another, we work toward a day where every person can get good healthcare, where everyone can get a safe, decent place to live,” said Castro. “Every person has a job that pays a living wage, where everyone has a chance to live free from discrimination no matter who they are or what they look like or where they come from or what accent they have or long they've been in our country. We fundamentally work toward a time where every person is able to reach their dreams. That is what we stand for. That is the vision we must pursue as Democrats."

Castro emphasized the importance of the younger generation — the very individuals sitting at the event.

“You represent our hope to embrace the values that have made this nation special,” he said. “Many people, I’m sure, have told you in your life as a young person that you’re the future, and that’s true, you are, but you know what, you’re also the present.”

Castro stressed that the nation needs their talents and enthusiasm more than ever.

“Your nation needs you right now in so many ways as active engaged citizens,” he told the students. “We need you as people committed to those values that have made the United States strong. We need you getting other people involved in our democracy so that it gets stronger and stronger in the face of attacks against it.”

He encouraged students to give serious consideration to seeking public office.

“Always make sure that it’s fundamentally about others and not about you,” Castro urged. “The people that I’ve seen get in trouble in public service have been folks who were in it for the wrong reasons. They wanted the title or they want the tickets for the ballgame or they’re interested in getting their friend's contracts. Always make sure you’re in it because you want to do things FOR people and not TO people.”

The best public service work is about building others up, he said, not tearing them down.

“Together we can build a better America, one built on hope instead of fear, on unity instead of division, on honesty and integrity instead of lies and on all of that progress that others have helped make possible along the way and that you will help ensure that we continue to become an even better country for the decades to come,” he concluded.

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