“I cannot help but feel that there was some divine plan that placed this continent here between the two great oceans to be found by people from any corner of the earth — people who had an extra ounce of desire for freedom and some extra courage to rise up and lead their families, their relatives, their friends, their nations and come here to eventually make this country.”
On Monday, December 10, seven members of Class I kicked off a forum on immigration with this quote from a speech given by Ronald Reagan in 1990. The Class I students were all part of the Contemporary Global Issues class taught by our Smith Fellow, Dr. Evan McCormick; they have spent the semester exploring geographic, political, and racial borders. The forum was a culmination of their ample research and classroom dialogue on the topic of immigration, and it was open to RL students, faculty, and staff.
After an introduction, including a brief history, important definitions, summaries of right- and left-leaning viewpoints on immigration reform, and the current state of border security, the Class I boys opened up the floor for conversation. Senior Sean Russell prompted the room with a question: Why now? What is it about the global economy, political climate, or social concerns that makes immigration such a hot-button issue in 2018?
Additional prompting wasn’t necessary: they were off. For the next hour, the Evans Choral Room was abuzz with spirited dialogue, the tone refreshingly respectful and earnest against the backdrop of national outrage and vitriol. Boys from all classes (including two brave souls from Class VI!) discussed economic anxiety, national fear post-9/11, and the way politicians leverage their stance on immigration in campaigns.
Boys posed difficult questions: Is immigration hurting our economy or helping it? Should priority be given to immigrants from one country over another? Do we have a responsibility to help asylum-seekers fleeing to the U.S.? What does the current national conversation reveal about our collective priorities and values? Are we misguided in pointing to immigration as the root of many of our country’s problems? And, even as the room celebrated those who had the “extra courage” to voice their opinions and speak up, all present shared a sense of gratitude also for those who chose to listen.
This is the fourth current events forum that RL has hosted since the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Last year, students engaged in discussion on the relevance and role of historical monuments in the wake of Charlottesville; RL and Winsor seniors came together to discuss DACA, in a session that featured Winsor alumna Rachel Casseus, an immigration law attorney; and last spring, Erin Dromgoole’s Contemporary Global Issues class led a forum on gun violence and gun control.