Trail of Dreams

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Four students set out on a journey on January 1st, 2010.  They were frustrated at having excelled in their high school scholastic careers only to find out that their access to a college education was extremely limited due to their status as being undocumented immigrants.  They walked 1,500 miles and on May 1, 2010 they arrived at Washington D.C. to demand that President Obama come through on the promise of immigration reform that he'd made on his presidential campaign.  Their story is here: www.trail2010.org.   What follows is my blog entry on their website.

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Let me introduce myself.  My name is Gregg Martin and I have had the honor of accompanying these amazing and courageous individuals for about a week now.  They have honored me even further by asking me to contribute to their blog, and this is my first post.  In order for the reader to be able to put what I write in proper perspective, I need to briefly explain who I am and why I asked Felipe, Juan, Carlos, and Gaby if I could join them on their journey.

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I am 50 years old, white, male, and a retired navy chief petty officer.  Although always aware of the need for change in our country’s immigration system, my interest started becoming acute after I heard about the Bracero Program that started at the beginning of World War II and lasted until 1964.  The program came about when the United States approached Mexico for help during the critical labor shortage caused by the United States’ entry into the war, and without Mexico’s help, practically every one of America’s crops would have rotted in the field for lack of anyone to harvest them.

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I wanted to learn more about this significant piece of our American history and started researching.  Each book or article I read would reference another event or period in the history between Mexico and America, and before long I had studied the entire history between Mexico and America from the moment Mexico won her independence from Spain up until today.  What I learned was that my country has unjustly treated Hispanics for a very long time, exploiting or rejecting them, depending upon the state of our economy and whether or not we needed their labor.

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It has long been one of my firm convictions that if you are aware of a problem but don’t do anything to help resolve it, you are in fact part of that problem.  I am now aware of a problem…a very big problem…one that is growing worse, not better, and one that is destroying our country.  That problem is ignorance of history and of the fact that the Hispanic population of our country—documented or otherwise—has played an enormous part in making our United States the wonderful country that it is.  This ignorance is distorting the perceptions of my fellow Americans and allowing the passing of unconscionable legislation such as the new law in Arizona that essentially mandates racial profiling.

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Another one of my unshakable convictions is that the overwhelming majority of Americans desperately want to do the right thing at all costs.  Ignorance of the facts as well as being influenced by the lies and misinformation being promulgated by a small but very vocal minority has caused good people to do the wrong thing.  Knowing this, I have no choice but to work for change.  If I didn’t, I would then be part of the problem…and I have too much self-respect and respect for my fellow Americans to allow that.

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These four students and the team supporting them on their quest for change gained my immediate respect the first time I read about them.  Having been with them on The Trail for a little over a week now and learning more about them individually and collectively has caused that respect to turn into admiration.  I am sincerely grateful to them for letting me be a part of the Trail of Dreams.  Felipe, Juan, Carlos, Gaby, and a rapidly growing number of students just like them are going to change this world, there is no question in my mind whatsoever.  And I am going to be there to see it.