CHARLOTTE, N.C. – San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gave a ringing endorsement of President Obama on Tuesday in a convention keynote address that defended the commander-in-chief's record and introduced the young Texas politician as the embodiment of the American dream.
Castro, the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city, also made history as the first Hispanic to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention -- a role that propelled the 37-year-old from political obscurity to national prominence.
"My family's story isn't special," said Castro. "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. No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward."
Castro's family narrative begins with his grandmother, a Mexican orphan, who immigrated as a young girl to the U.S. in 1920 and taught herself how to read and write. Castro and his twin brother, Joaquin -- a Texas state legislator favored to win election to Congress this year -- were raised by their single mother, Rosie.
"My grandmother spent her whole life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by, but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in life, so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one," he said. "My mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone."
Included in Castro's inspirational, rags-to-riches speech Tuesday were also hard hits on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., whose budget plan Castro said "dismantles" the middle class.
"We know that in our free market economy some will prosper more than others," Castro said. "What we don't accept is the idea that some folks won't even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America. In fact, that's exactly what they're promising us."
Castro also sought to portray Romney as anti-women's rights, and hit the former Massachusetts governor for what he described as a reversal in his view on health care.
"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 … actually ... Mitt Romney said, "Yes," and now he says, "No."
Castro went on to tout Obama's record as president, while also promote his own causes as mayor of San Antonio -- in particular, education reform.
"When Detroit was in trouble, President Obama saved the auto industry and saved a million jobs," Castro said.
"Seven presidents before him — Republicans and Democrats — tried to expand health care to all Americans. President Obama got it done," he said. "He made a historic investment to lift our nation's public schools and expanded Pell grants so that more young people can afford college. And because he knows that we don't have an ounce of talent to waste, the president took action to lift the shadow of deportation from a generation of young, law-abiding immigrants called dreamers."
The highly coveted speaking slot propelled Castro into the national spotlight Tuesday, further fueling speculation that the young mayor -- who few had heard of before he was selected for the address -- is eyeing higher office, possibly as governor of Texas or even the country's first Hispanic president. It was just eight years ago when then-Senator Obama used the same primetime speaking slot to rise to national prominence.
The decision to tap Castro as the convention's keynote speaker also speaks to the Democratic Party's push to secure Hispanic voters -- the country's fastest growing minority and a critical voting bloc in the election.