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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

San Antonio mayor: Changing demographics an ‘asset or albatross’

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro told a packed audience at UALR that the way Americans approach shifting Hispanic/Latino demographics will have “fundamental consequences” for America’s future role in the world.

Castro was delivering a talk on “The Political Implications of Shifting Demographics in the 21st Century” at UALR’s Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Julian CastroHis lecture was supported and presented through the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lectures series, one of the most popular UALR campus events.

The consequences will be felt in particular in states like Arkansas, where there has been a 114 percent growth in Hispanic and Latino communities, Castro said. The shifting demographics affect not only who is voting in America, he said, but also the electoral outcomes as well as the conversation about which issues are important.

“We have a young and growing minority population, and we have an aging, non-Hispanic, white community, both with different life experiences,” he said.

These differing experiences produce people who see issues quite differently, according to Castro, who added that the changing demographics can either be an “asset or an albatross” for the U.S.

Julian CastroCastro added that for the first time, other countries are producing students who can outcompete American students. It is in America’s best economic interest to address the accessibility of education to minority populations, he said.

“If we ensure our young people receive an education, we ensure another century of American prosperity and dominance,” he said.

Higher education plays a unique and compelling role in the shifting demographics of the American 21st-century, according to Castro. Not only are college campuses often among the “most diverse places” in the U.S., they are a great place for people to discover the truth that “even though they look different, people are fundamentally much like we are.”

Earlier in the day, Castro met with UALR students for a master class in which he hit on similar themes.

He spoke about ways to improve higher education accessibility, such as San Antonio’s recent addition of Café College, a one-stop center offering guidance on college admissions, financial aid, and standardized test preparation to students in the San Antonio area.

When asked by one student about his political plans, Castro said he intends to serve out the rest of his term as mayor and then run for the office again in 2015.

A San Antonio native, Castro is the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city. He won reelection last year with more than 80 percent of San Antonio’s vote and delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Underwritten by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the lectures bring nationally known speakers to the Little Rock community, including anthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey and civil rights leader Julian Bond.