Rep. Joaquin Castro visits Celebracion 2019
Rep. Joaquin Castro, who has become one of the most high-profile Latino members of Congress in recent years, stopped by Celebracion 2019 in San Antonio on Friday to praise the National Hispanic Institute’s work and to encourage the high school students in attendance to excel.
Though Joaquin Castro and his brother Julian — former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and now a 2020 Presidential candidate — did not actually attend NHI programs while at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, they’ve been supporters of NHI over the years. They’ve spoken at past Cele events and worked with civic leaders in San Antonio — including Analco Gonzalez, who introduced Rep. Castro on Friday. And Rep. Castro certainly recognizes that new generations of Latino leaders, including his new House colleagues Xochitl Torres Small and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are developing thanks to NHI.
“This is one of the organizations that I wish that I had been part of back then when I was your age,” he said, “because I think it would have been incredibly powerful and incredibly helpful. And I want to say, to Ernesto Nieto, to his sons, to his family, to his wife, to everybody that helped him along the way … congratulations on building an incredible organization that serves Latino students, and helps them off into wonderful careers, and to the world. We can all be very proud of you.”
In his introduction, Analco Gonzalez pointed out that for a lot of young Latino leaders, they hear “wait your turn,” with NHI’s simple response being, “Why?” Both Castro brothers started their political careers in their 20s, and so that resonated with Joaquin, but he sees that, in ways, as the end of a story rather than a beginning. Specifically, he saw it as a story that started with his grandmother coming to San Antonio from Mexico in the 1920s drawn to what the United States offered.
He remembers that story as something the family explored when Julian was preparing to deliver the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. They worked with a genealogist who found the document that allowed the twins’ grandmother to come to the United States. “And in that document, there’s a line that asks ‘purpose of visit,'” Rep. Castro recalled. “And someone who was with her had written, for her purpose, to live.”
He then recalled his mother’s work in the Civil Rights Movement — a movement that was crucial to shaping Ernesto Nieto’s worldview and the foundation of NHI — and then bridged to asking the students to think about their future and to dispense three key pieces of advice.
Those included, “You don’t have to know right away exactly what you want to do in 10 years, or in five years,” invited them to be more flexible in their journeys; “to follow your heart and mind alone,” which he admitted can be difficult given pressures from even well-meaning family members; and “the way that you believe in yourself is to surround yourself with people who believe in you, people that help lift you up” — which, of course, is how a number of Celebración participants get to the event in the first place.”