Engaging a few words with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

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This weekend UT will welcome the ACL for policy nerds, the Texas Tribune Ideas Festival. By bringing in leaders in the fields of race and Immigration, law and order, trade and transportation, public and higher education, energy and environment and health and human services, the Tribune festival encourages thought, discussion and awkward flirting between civically engaged types. The Daily Texan interviewed San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be speaking Saturday at the festival.

Q: You are speaking on the “Future of Texas Politics” this weekend at the Texas Tribune Ideas Festival. In one sentence, what do you believe the future looks like for Texas?
A: The great state of Texas is at a tipping point, and we must change our view about investing in our future growth and prosperity.

Q: Why should UT students spend the weekend listening to policy ideas instead of playing Frisbee in Zilker Park?
A: Because policies have a real impact on students’ lives. The future economic success of Texas hinges upon our willingness to invest in education, roads and other infrastructure so that once today’s college students graduate, they can find jobs and build careers in an economically competitive, vibrant state.

Q: You told the New York Times in 2010 that you supported affirmative action policies in college admission decisions. What would you say in defense of such policies to a high-achieving student who believed they had been denied admission to UT because of affirmative action?
A: America has made a lot of progress, and I look forward to the day when affirmative action is no longer necessary. But for now, all students benefit from a college environment that is diverse and reflects the entire spectrum of the American experience.

Q: In Texas and across the nation, public universities have faced decreased funding from state legislatures and criticism from reformers for wasteful spending, pitting higher education against business-minded reform. In your view, how should the state of Texas support (or not support) higher education?
A: We need to invest more significantly in our public colleges and universities precisely because higher education is a business-minded issue. From 1973 to 2010, the number of jobs in the United States requiring more than a high school degree increased from 28 percent to more than 60 percent. In order to continue to attract the jobs of the 21st century, Texas must have a highly educated workforce.

Q: In 2010, the New York Times said in a profile that senior members of the Obama campaign were “notic[ing] and audition[ing]” you. With your recent turn on the stage at the Democratic National Convention, the American people have begun to “notice and audition” you as well. How does it feel to have the nation’s attention in this way? Do you ever fear that you might audition poorly?
A: It’s an honor, but I never felt like the opportunity was for myself alone. I looked at the keynote address as an opportunity to tell America about the vibrant community we have in San Antonio.

Q: Like Obama, you support the DREAM Act, part of which allows undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children to obtain six years of conditional residency for completing two years at a four-year university. In your opinion, does the DREAM Act do enough to support undocumented immigrants at universities?
A: Obviously it depends on which piece of legislation you’re talking about. But I fully support any legislative effort to give legal status to immigrants who have played by the rules and are morally blameless for being brought here as children.

Q: What inspired you to launch “Café College,” the college advising center in downtown San Antonio that offers free services to the city’s students?
A: I was inspired to create Café College after learning that the student to counselor ratio in our public schools is more than 400-to-1. I wanted to do something about that while still working with our school districts, not competing with them. Since we opened the doors in 2010, more than 10,000 students and their parents have received college test prep, admissions advice and help with filling out financial aid paperwork.

Q: Is your daughter aware of how endearing America found her flipping her hair during your speech at the DNC?
A: I’m saving the video for her wedding day!