Featured Speakers

Hon. Alex Padilla - Morning Session Featured Speaker

Hon. Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State
Hon. Alex Padilla
Alex Padilla was sworn in as California Secretary of State on January 5, 2015. He is committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights.

Padilla previously served in the California State Senate (2006-2014) where he chaired the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications.

Padilla's parents emigrated from Mexico and raised their family in the working class community of Pacoima, California.  His father worked as a short order cook and his mother cleaned houses.  Padilla attended local public schools and went on to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He recently completed a five-year term as a member of the MIT Corporation (Board of Trustees).  Padilla is often asked how he moved from engineering to public service. He explains that in many ways they are similar; the goal of each is solving problems.

In 1999, at the age of 26, Padilla was elected to the Los Angeles City Council to represent the same east San Fernando Valley community where he grew up.  In 2001, his colleagues elected him to the first of three terms as Council President, becoming the youngest member and the first Latino to serve in this capacity.

In 2006, Padilla was elected to the California State Senate. He was reelected in 2010.  Over the course of eight years, Padilla established a diverse and groundbreaking legislative record.

There are approximately 1.5 million English Learners in California public schools. One in four k-12 students and about forty percent of all kindergarten students are English Learners.  Sadly, only about eleven percent of English Learners achieve English proficiency and earn reclassification each year.  Padilla authored a series of legislative measures to identify and implement best practices in English Learner curriculum and instruction statewide.  He also advocated for funding reform and accountability for schools and school districts with high concentrations of English Learner students.

Through research and legislative hearings, Padilla exposed a bottleneck in the college transfer process.  He wrote the law that streamlined the transfer process and created a clear and consistent pathway for community college students working to transfer to the California State University system.  Padilla also authored the law that requires California's elite university athletic programs to provide alternative scholarships to student-athletes who lose their athletic scholarships due to injury.

As an engineer, Padilla is committed to the promise of science and advanced technology.  To address concerns about the misuse of genetic information, Padilla authored the California Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act.  To reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on our roads, he authored the law requiring safety and performance standards for autonomous ("driverless") vehicles.  And, working with seismologists at CalTech, U.C. Berkeley, and the U.S. Geological Survey, Padilla authored a bill requiring the state to create a statewide Earthquake Early Warning System.

Padilla previously served as President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a non-partisan organization made up of more than 6,000 federal, state, and local officials dedicated to all aspects of civic engagement.

Padilla lives with his wife Angela and their three sons in the San Fernando Valley.

Maria del Rosario “Rosie” Castro - Afternoon Session Featured Speaker

Rosie Castro
Rosie Castro
Maria del Rosario “Rosie” Castro is a civil rights activist and educator from San Antonio, Texas, who has been involved in several prominent groups, such as the Young Democrats of America, the Mexican American Youth Organization, the Committee for Barrio Betterment, and the Raza Unida Party. She is the mother of former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Secretary of Housing Julián Castro and Texas Congressman Joaquín Castro.

Growing up in the San Antonio barrio, a low-income neighborhood on the West Side, Castro cited the beginning of her interest in social justice in witnessing the racial and economic boundaries that affected her family, especially her mother. Her mother, a Mexican immigrant who reached the fourth-grade, cleaned the houses of the affluent in Alamo Heights. As a young girl, Rosie was struck by the remarkable differences -- the streets and drainage, the sidewalks and schools. The inequities she observed in her youth inspired her social activism in college and beyond.

Rosie first worked as a volunteer for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign, and later she joined with the Mexican American Unity Council and helped to organize the organization’s boycott of the San Antonio Savings Association. With a scholarship from her valedictorian title and other financial means, she successfully enrolled at Our Lady of the Lake University. As a student at Our Lady of the Lake College (BA Spanish 1971, Sociology 1975), she joined with the Catholic Youth Association and organized the Young Democrats. In 1971, she became one of the first Chicanas to run for City Council. She helped found the La Raza Unida Party and became its Bexar County chair. Rosie was also active during the "Free Angela Davis" Campaign of 1971.

Castro received a Master's Degree in Public Administration from The University of Texas at San Antonio and worked at Palo Alto College, where she served as Interim Dean of Student Affairs from 2008 until she retired in 2013.

Rosie’s belief in the importance of education remains as strong today as it did more than 50 years ago and continues to advocate for social justice. She is an accomplished community activist, a published poet, and a tireless advocate for voter registration, for better political representation, and for better city services, particularly on the West Side of San Antonio. She also is involved in national organizations such as Latinas Represent, the Texas Organizing Project, and AARP.

In 2015, she was elected to the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2017 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Our Lady of the Lake University. But she is perhaps best known for supporting the political aspirations of her sons. Both Joaquin Castro and Julian Castro have cited Rosie's activism as the foundation for their political careers.

Rosie took her sons to political rallies and instilled in them a desire to serve. Julián delivered a moving tribute to Rosie during the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “My grandmother never owned a house,” Julián said. “She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter (Rosie) 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.”