Former presidential candidate encourages QU students to engage in politics

Jack Spiegel, Staff Writer

A conversation with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Feb. 24, left community members excited to put Quinnipiac University on the nation’s political map.

Clarice L. Buckman Theater was packed as Castro spoke with Quinnipiac Democrats’ President Paul Cappuzzo who told The Chronicle that having the opportunity to interview Castro was something he could not put words to.

“It’s just unimaginable how excited I was to be up there,” Cappuzzo said.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro answered questions from audience members at Quinnipiac University Feb. 24. (Daniel Passapera)

In the nearly 25-minute address to the crowd, Castro covered a wide range of topics, from the crisis in Ukraine to the importance of young people being involved in politics.

In addition to praising the efforts of college-aged Democrats, Castro said they are “the lifeline of the Democratic party.”

Castro also said in places like Connecticut, voters built up coalitions, which helped “lead to President (Joe) Biden’s victory in November 2020.”

While speaking on the current geopolitical climate of the world, Castro said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reminded him of the Cold War. On Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special military operation,” leading experts to believe Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, would fall within days.

Castro told The Chronicle that he praises the Biden administration’s handling of the war in Ukraine. He also said that “ramping up sanctions against individuals and companies” should be on the table.

In his speech, Castro stated his disagreement with his Republican counterparts, while pushing for progressive policies like the advancement of LGBTQ rights, equal access to the ballot box and a fair corporate tax system.

Additionally, Castro told The Chronicle that students can get involved in political discourse by following current events and volunteering on different civic efforts, especially political campaigns.

In terms of his next steps, Castro said that he is not running for office in 2022, but may “jump back in at some point in the future.” Currently, Castro is a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC.

The second half of the event was a question-and-answer style town hall with previously submitted questions from community members largely focusing on domestic issues. One question brought up concerns about the equitable distribution of funds in the Biden administration’s Build Back Better bill. “With a lot of federal money before, they didn’t reach the people, the places often- times that they needed to be the most, especially people of color,” Castro said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention executive order, which was administered under the Trump administration immigration policy and further continued under the Biden administration. The policy prevents asylum claims in the name of public health.

“You can test people, you can even re- quire vaccination when you want it,” Castro said. “There are other ways to make sure that these people who are coming from desperate circumstances and applying for asylum have the opportunity to do that.”

Given the event’s coinciding timing with political science classes, Cappuzzo said he was pleased with the event’s turnout.

Castro’s close ties to Biden grabbed the attention of many in terms of the Ukraine crisis. “It was interesting to see him comment on the Ukraine stuff especially since it was really escalating that day,” said Matt Hawryluk, a senior marketing major.

President Judy Olian was also in attendance and told The Chronicle it is “natural” for Quinnipiac to obtain such a high profile speaker.

“We want to make it possible for our students to be engaged in public service and political movements whether they’re local or national,” Olian said.

Political science professor Scott McLean told The Chronicle having Castro visit proves that Quinnipiac is a flagship university with the ability to host high profile guests.

“I just like the story of how he got involved in politics and that he didn’t really plan to have a life in public service,” McLean said. “It sometimes happens for people and you get excited about an issue that draws you further into it.”

Castro praised the calls for leadership among the younger generation.

“You are present,” Castro said. “I came here tonight to say that we need you. Your nation needs you right now.”

Cappuzzo told The Chronicle that they are working on obtaining another speaker for later in the semester.