A Conversation with Former Secretary of HUD and 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Julían Castro

By: Veronica Pacheco

This past week, KPU had the privilege of hosting our first event of the Fall semester with former HUD Secretary and Presidential Candidate Julián Castro, who spoke to the AU community about voting and advocacy. The conversation spanned many different topics, including the power of voting to the current presidential administration to student activism on college campuses. He stressed the importance of activism during our country’s current political climate, along with encouraging voting in the upcoming election.

As the first event of the year, it was important for the Kennedy Political Union to host a conversation on voting and advocacy. These issues are not only relevant, but they are also topics our students care about tremendously. Even as a virtual event, the student turnout made it clear that they wanted to hear from Secretary Castro. His experience and dedication to public service as Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a former Presidential Candidate allowed students to hear from a voice who has served in different governmental roles. He also offered his perspective as someone who understands the election process beyond the presidency, with state and local elections being crucial foundations for change.

It can be said that as one of the most politically active campuses in the country, American University students do not need to be convinced to vote as they understand its importance. However, it is those outside of our AU bubble that we should encourage. Whether U.S.-born or naturalized, it is a privilege to vote and in many ways, it can have direct impacts on communities across this country. Secretary Castro’s upbringing as the grandson of Mexican immigrants, especially with a mother who was involved with the Chicano movement in the 60s highlighted how elected officials enact policies that affect marginalized communities.

Toward the end of the event, Secretary Castro spoke directly at Latinx students, stressing them to hold a sense of pride in ourselves and in how far we’ve come. As the daughter of two Caribbean immigrants, seeing how his passion for public service was inspired by his upbringing reminded me of how my experiences have played a role in my own advocacy. Seeing someone like me who has held public office is a reminder in itself of the power of our activism, especially when it personally affects our community. For those who feel subpar in comparison to their peers at a PWI, remember that we’ve earned our spot through our own hard work and accomplishments. Not only do we represent our culture and heritage, but also the very community we fight and advocate for each day.

As an attendee of this event, what stood out to me most was his focus on student activism during this time in our country. We are living in a time of social justice movements with an upcoming election that has highlighted more than ever how divisive we are as a society. For the many of us who hope to work in politics or do advocacy work, there is this feeling of hopelessness in how we can make a difference in the world we’re living in. If there was one thing I got from this conversation, it was the idea of being a changemaker and how that starts with something as simple as voting. If we have friends or family members who aren’t politically active, even something as simple as convincing them to exercise their right to vote is one step towards making that change. Whether that be a local or presidential election, your vote makes it possible to better our livelihoods in the long run. It was important for KPU to start the year strong with a speaker who could motivate the student body by talking about voting, which is all on our minds this election season. Secretary Castro reminded us of why so many students are constant advocates for specific policies or stances. As said best by our speaker, student advocacy starts with something as small as voting and gives our generation a say in the world we will eventually inhabit in the future.

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