San Antonio Mayor Castro to deliver Democratic Convention keynote

Olivier Knox

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro will deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Democrats announced Tuesday in a move showcasing the weight of the Latino vote in the hard-fought 2012 campaign.

Castro, 37, will be the first Latino keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. He and first lady Michelle Obama will address the gathering on its opening night, Sept. 4.

In a video message, Castro called the high-profile mission "an honor I don't take lightly" and quipped "I've got some big shoes to fill"—a direct reference to the 2004 Democratic Convention, where a little-known Senate candidate from Illinois delivered the keynote speech. Four years later, Barack Obama was president.

Castro's video sounds like something of a dry run. He defends Obama's landmark health care overhaul, his record on national security and veterans' issues, and says the president "brought the economy back from the brink" after the 2007-2008 global financial meltdown. He also trumpets Obama's pursuit of the auto industry bailout and knocks Mitt Romney's editorial on the issue, which was entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." And he highlights private sector job growth—which the president's re-election campaign hopes will prove an antidote to stubbornly high national unemployment of 8.2 percent and gloomy growth forecasts.

"I know he's not done yet. We've got a lot more work to do," Castro said. "Estamos unidos!" (We are united).

The news cements Castro's standing as a rising star in Democratic politics. A convention press release highlights that Castro was "raised by a single mother" in "the working-class West Side of San Antonio" and went on—like Obama—to get a Harvard Law School degree.

"Having both the first lady and Mayor Castro speak on the opening night of our convention will bring together two incredible leaders whose life stories both embody the promise of America, that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention chair.