On Tuesday night, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro made history when he took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to deliver his keynote address, becoming the first Latino to do so in the party’s history.
The reaction has generally been positive, but I think that’s out of necessity. Most people didn’t know what to expect, and for the most part, Castro’s remarks turned out to be slightly better than okay.
Having seen him speaking before, I was a little less impressed with the man who many were hoping would deliver a speech as stellar as the one a younger Barack Obama delivered back in 2004. I remember that speech; Castro’s never came close.
For starters, the opening — including the introductory remarks by twin brother Joaquín — was virtually transplanted in its entirety from the speech Castro gave at the Texas Democratic Convention in early June. About five minutes into last night’s address, I was beginning to think the 37-year-old mayor planned to reuse the whole speech. So it came with great relief that, after talking about his background and his family, he entered into the new parts he had written especially for the DNC.
There were a few good lines, specifically the one about Romney’s healthcare stance:
“When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to respecting women’s rights, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says…. [Crowd yells 'No'] Actually… [Applause] Mitt Romney said, ‘Yes,’ and now he says, ‘No.’ Gov. Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain’t pretty.”
And then there was the line about his mother and grandmother:
“My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.”
Still, there were other speakers last night who gave much more rousing speeches than Castro did, most notably, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and current Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. It was Governor Patrick who, in a last-minute divergence from the script, delivered one of the most memorable lines of the night: “It’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe!” (His speech original read: “stiffen our backbone.”)
The undisputed rock star of the entire evening, however — outshining everyone like the moon outshines everything in the night sky — was First Lady Michelle Obama, who delivered perhaps the greatest speech ever delivered by spouse at any national convention. Her most memorable line, which encapsulated the message of her speech, came when she said, “In the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political — they’re personal.” Her purpose was to draw a clear distinction between the incumbent president and his Republican opponent, conveying the message that Governor Mitt Romney doesn’t understand the American Dream but that President Obama lives the American Dream.
In all, it was a great opening day at the DNC that has the potential to overshadow all three days of last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa — even Romney’s address wasn’t nearly as good as the First Lady’s.
And to think, we still haven’t heard Bill.