CHARLOTTE, N.C.—In a speech that instantly invoked comparisons to Barack Obama's star-making turn at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro invoked his personal story as the descendent of Mexican immigrants to press the case that Mitt Romney "just doesn't get it" when it comes to the struggles of average Americans.
Castro, the first Latino to deliver the DNC keynote, spoke of the "unlikely journey" that led him from a poor upbringing in Texas to a rising star of the Democratic party. He talked about his grandmother, an orphan, who immigrated to the United States and dropped out of school in the fourth grade to work and support her family.
She barely scraped by, Castro said, but did what it took to give his mother a better life. She, in turn, gave him and his twin brother, Joaquin, a Texas congressional candidate, a better life too.
"My family's story isn't special. What's special is the America that makes our story possible. Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation," Castro said. "No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward."
But echoing other speakers during the first night of the DNC, Castro argued that the path would not be "forward" if Romney is elected. He accused the former Massachusetts governor of being out of touch with average Americans.
Making reference to Romney's status as the son of a former Michigan governor and auto industry executive, Castro called Romney a "good guy" but said "he just has no idea how good he's had it."
"Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks, we've heard that before," Castro said. "First they called it "trickle-down." Then "supply-side." Now it's "Romney-Ryan." Or is it "Ryan-Romney"? Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price."
He accused Romney of flip-flopping on issues including health care reform—insisting Romney has undergone "an extreme makeover." Castro insisted Obama "gets it" and "understands that when we invest in people we're investing in our shared prosperity."
In an obvious appeal to Latino voters, Castro pointed to Obama's support of the DREAM Act, which grants American citizenship to some children of immigrants, as proof that Obama believes in the American dream he benefited from as a child. He cast Obama as a president whose influence would be felt for generations to come.
"The American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don't always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor," he said. "The days we live in are not easy ones, but we have seen days like this before, and America prevailed. With the wisdom of our founders and the values of our families, America prevailed. With each generation going further than the last, America prevailed. And with the opportunity we build today for a shared prosperity tomorrow, America will prevail. It begins with re-electing Barack Obama. It begins with you. It begins now."