Children with a dream are counting on all of us.
They live in suburbs and cities and farming communities. They are black and white and brown.
Some of them are curled up right now in a kindergarten reading corner listening to the teacher read the Cat in the Hat.
And some of them are writing a research paper on the Civil War. And some of them are putting on a football helmet and getting ready for after-school practice.
And some of them are putting on a cap and gown and getting ready to deliver the valedictorian speech.
They are your neighbors. They are you kids’ friends. And they love this country.
They were brought here years ago, some of them when they were babies, and they don’t have the proper papers. But they’ve lived most of their lives here. For many this is the only home they have ever known.
For whatever reasons their parents came, the decision to come was not made by these children.
The Dream Act was written for undocumented children who apply themselves in school and behave themselves and stay out of trouble.
The Dream Act is all about kids who don’t take anything for granted. Not their education. Not their responsibilities as a member of society. It was written for kids who have the dream to graduate and go to college and stay here – where they were raised.
They grew up here. They go to church here. They go to school here. This is their home.
I’m a teacher, so I have a bias. I believe the American Dream is a journey – a journey in the pursuit of happiness. I believe the ticket to that journey is a high school diploma.
I believe that if you upgrade that ticket to a trade school or a community college or a university, you’ve got a first-class seat to a better life.
I’ve seen educators try to give their students the gift of that Dream.
I’ve seen Donna School District in Texas. I visited Rivas Elementary. About 90% English Language Learners. About 90% free lunch. Tough times for those families.
And while the first graders were filing down the hall, I noticed they all had uniforms – a blue golf shirt and kaki pants (very fashionable), but a few kids had regular T-shirts, and I whispered to their teacher, “Is there a reason some of the kids don’t have a uniform?” I thought maybe they couldn’t afford it.
She smiled. She called a little boy in a T-shirt over to me. She said, “Miguel. Tell Miss Lily about your shirt.” This little 6 year old said, “It’s the college I want to go to when I graduate.”
See, you don’t have to wear the uniform if you wear a college shirt.
They’ve got Texas university mascots painted all over the walls. Kids from Head Start preschool to the 12th grade, have been taught to remove the word “if” from their vocabulary. They never say “if” I go to college. They say, “When” I go to college.
But without the Dream Act, a lot of these kids will just have the T-shirt. These gorgeous children will be condemned to live in limbo- in the shadows of the country they love, surviving in an underground economy where they will be exploited and abused and where their gifts and talents will be lost to our communities – to our country’s future.
I am the daughter of an immigrant. I am living my mother’s American Dream. I went to college on scholarships and students loans and as a starving folk singer. This great country made an investment in my dream to become a teacher, and I like to think it was a good investment.
Imagine us making that investment in these children’s dreams. Giving these good, hard-working, visionary children the same opportunity to walk across a stage and graduate and to walk towards something better. To walk out of the shadows and into the light of a country that will finally accept them as “our” children. To give them a country that they can finally call home.
God bless these children and make us worthy of their dreams.