Candidate Julián Castro visits UNI


Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro greeted more than 30 UNI students, faculty and community members in the College Eye Room of the Maucker Union at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24. Castro was the third presidential candidate to visit UNI this past week, after appearances by Tom Steyer and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

Marketing and business management major Adalberto Castrejon introduced Castro.

“Growing up as a little kid in Iowa, there wasn’t a lot of people that looked like me [or] talked like me,” Castrejon said. “I want to thank Secretary Castro for being that individual for others, for children who see him on the TV and think ‘He talks like me, he looks like me and I can also be like him.’”

Castro began his speech by outlining the motivation behind his presidential campaign.

“I’m running for president because I believe that we need a country in the years to come where everyone counts,” he said. “That’s the kind of America that I want to build in the twenty-first century.”

Castro said that he believes voters in 2020 will look for a candidate with both experience and a strong vision for the country. He cited his own leadership experience as mayor of San Antonio and as President Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“I’ve been in charge of something, and I have a track record of getting things done,” he said. “Not every candidate can say that.”

In terms of his vision, Castro outlined the basic tenets of his platform. He discussed his plans to improve the public education system, including increasing teacher salaries, providing universal pre-K education and tuition-free public state universities and integrating trade education into public schools.

Castro also mentioned his plans for the nation’s health care system.

“In my vision for America’s health care future, we’re building out our system around Medicare,” he said. He added, however, that citizens with a strong private health insurance plan should be able to keep it: “We can accomplish both of those things.”

Castro also emphasized the need for economic equity. He mentioned his proposed inheritance tax and wealthy equality tax, stating that these measures would help America “expect more from those who are doing well.”

“In this country, we celebrate people’s success, but we also want to make sure that everyone has a chance to succeed, and that’s what my plan does,” he said.

Castro also stated that he would rejoin the Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, fix the nation’s “broken” immigration system and strengthen the American foster care system.

Castro’s mention of foster care was particularly striking for UNI math education professor Adam Feldhaus. Feldhaus and his wife, both of whom attended the event, have a personal connection to the foster care system, having adopted their son out of foster care.

“The fact that [Castro] has a plan to improve the foster care system, that’s not something I’ve heard a lot from the other candidates,” Feldhaus said.

Castro emphasized that another factor distinguishing him from the rest of the Democratic field is his willingness to take strong stances on divisive issues.

“I haven’t been afraid of speaking up about this very sensitive issue that other candidates are afraid to tackle,” he said, referencing his “First Chance” plan to reform the U.S. criminal justice system.

After taking audience questions, Castro ended the event with an appeal for monetary and promotional support. The campaign is at a “critical stage,” he said, as he works to earn a spot in the November Democratic debate. Earlier this week, the Castro campaign released a statement that unless the campaign can raise $800,000 by the end of October, Castro will be forced to drop out of the presidential race. In the most recent Des Moines Register poll, Castro was polling at less than 1% among Democratic candidates in the state of Iowa.

After the event, Castro posed for pictures with attendees.

“I thought it was very informative,” Feldhaus said. “I thought he did a really good job answering questions, and I thought he was very personable.”

Heden Perez, a sophomore TESOL major, also found Castro’s talk informative.

“It cleared up a lot of questions that I had about him […] his policy, and what he actually believed in, which was very clarifying,” Perez said.

As a Mexican American student, Perez said he feels Castro’s representation of the Latino community could be both valuable for citizens and beneficial in terms of voting power.

“I feel like if he is the Democratic nominee, he has a fairly decent chance of winning,” Perez said. “A lot of the younger Latino generation is grown up, and I feel like we have more power […] I feel like it will motivate them to vote, seeing a Latino man run for president, fighting against the poor excuse of a president we have now.”

“What really struck me is that he wants to move forward America,” Perez added, referencing a point made by Castro at the conclusion of the event.

“I don’t want to go backward. I don’t want to make America anything again,” Castro said. “I want to go forward. I want to make us better than we’ve ever been in the years ahead.”