This November, voters in Maryland will cast ballots on Question 4—a referendum on a statewide version of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Maryland community colleges. Several weeks ago, Rev. Evan Keely, Interim Senior Minister at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, preached on the topic of immigration and education in a powerful sermon entitled “Dream. Act.” Here is an excerpt:
I want everyone in this congregation to do two things. I want us to dream and I want us to act. I want us to dream, together, as a people of faith, of a world in which access to education is increased. I want us to dream of a world in which people who want to make a contribution to our society are given the chance to do so. Then, I want us to act to make that dream a reality. Dream of a future, here in the state of Maryland, where obstacles to education will be lowered. Because we all know—as my family history demonstrates, as the history of the American Republic demonstrates, as the history of the world demonstrates over and over again—that education is a key, sometimes perhaps even the key, to a better future.
Education breaks cycles of poverty and despair. Education equips people to contribute meaningfully to society. Education, especially higher education here in the USA, is very expensive. That’s a fact. If we can lower those barriers, if we can create more opportunity for people to get an education—people who want to expand their horizons, people who want to give back, people who want to contribute something to society—if we can make that just a little bit easier, why in the name of God wouldn’t we?
All these young scholars who would be the direct beneficiaries of the DREAM Act are asking for is the right and the opportunity—as people who were brought to this country as children, people who live here in Maryland, people who have attended and graduated from a high school here in Maryland, whose families have paid taxes here in Maryland, who have a good character—all these people are asking for is a chance. And I think we have a moral responsibility as a people of faith to do everything we can to give them this chance.
This is where we move from dreaming to acting… This is a question of faith for us. This is a question of living our faith. This is question of being a Unitarian Universalist in the world and how we live our faith… [We must] show that people of all walks of life support this initiative, not a small group of people who want special rights or amnesty. The message that we proclaim to the world by showing publically our support for Question 4 is that all of us, all of us, stand to benefit when hardworking people are given the chance to make a contribution to society. An investment in education, which is what the DREAM Act is, is an investment in the betterment of society.
[The holy work of justice] is a difficult struggle. There is a lot of work for us to do together, but we have the resources and the talent and the means to move our country forward in a direction that we as a people of faith believe is right and the direction that is best for all of our people.
[Our faith teaches] the holy power of people coming together, people who are different—people with different backgrounds and different ideas and different experiences and different ways of loving and different ways of looking—coming together and seeing each other not as “alien,” not as “other,” not as a threat, not using the word “illegal” as a noun, but to see in the face of someone different from ourselves, to see the holy there, to see the divine there, to discover the divine in the interaction which may at times feel threatening and confusing and awkward and a little scary…That is at the core of our faith.
Racism and xenophobia try to convince us that certain people are different, they are not as good as the “we” that we perceive ourselves to be. In other words, racism and xenophobia put up a wall of judgment and fear that prevent us from encountering one another as human beings. So by voting for Question 4, we are knocking down that wall of judgment and fear. Like a mighty trumpet blast of love, we’re knocking down that wall and reaching out to one another in understanding and hope. By voting for Question 4, we’re saying no to racism and xenophobia. We are saying yes to being in relationship with others as human beings.
Click here to download an audio recording of Rev. Keely’s full sermon, “Dream. Act.” If you’re a Maryland resident and would like to get involved with the DREAM Act campaign, click here to learn more.