Saturday, 1 February 2014


Until recently, the prospect of living a life without  legal documentation had never occurred to me.
I, like many, had always deemed my passport to be an accessory for plane tickets and the source of an embarrassing photograph.  After a brief but powerful speech, however, I came to the realization that documentation carries important rights overlooked by those fortunate enough to possess them and denied to those who should (in my opinion) be equally as entitled to them.

 The speech was delivered by Carlos Saavedra, a man who introduced himself as someone who, like the audience he was addressing, had once been a teenager with aspirations to attend university. Mr. Saavedra spoke of his childhood ambitions to become a professional pianist and of his teenage intentions to earn a university degree. While his words were tinged with reminiscence, the struggles he detailed were still relevant today and easily relatable to my peers and I. We all nodded solemnly as he spoke of the pressure he faced in high school to meet the expectations of his teachers, and there was a murmur of agreement when he criticized society for conditioning teenagers to believe that they only have one educational path to pursue.  The relatable nature of the topics discussed, however, was fleeting. As Mr. Saavedra subsequently detailed the challenges he faced when attempting to apply for university, my empathy turned to disbelief. The idea of a someone being unable to attend university due to lack of legal documentation was a foreign concept to me, and one which immediately seemed unjust, especially when considering Mr. Saavedra’s circumstances. Mr. Saavedra had moved to America at an early age, and as such he had always considered Boston to be his home. The idea of a teenager being denied basic civil rights in their home, especially when the circumstances they found themselves in were beyond their control, was a heart breaking reality to be presented with. And as Mr. Saavedra provided further examples of the hardships of an undocumented life, such as the inability to travel or drive or pay lower fees for university, I couldn’t help but feel a sense anger toward a government that had denied an innocent child of the freedoms that his very classmates were entitled to.

It seemed that anger was also Mr. Saavedra’s initial reaction. However, in an inspirational turn of events, Mr. Saavedra spoke of his decision to turn his anger and indignation into motivation. The treatment he was subjected to as an undocumented teenager encouraged him to begin his long and successful campaign for equality and reforms to immigration laws. Now, Mr. Saavedra is an important American activist and a leading voice in the fight to humanize the immigration debate; and I found his ability to turn his suffering into an opportunity for change incredibly admirable. I was also inspired by his ongoing dedication to the cause even after obtaining personal results, for it showed his ability to remain empathetic towards others regardless of others’ indifference towards him. 

  Overall, Carlos Saavedra’s speech instilled in me a newfound appreciation for certain aspects of my life that I had previously taken for granted; but more importantly, it inspired me to fight for what I truly believe in. As a teenager making important decisions for my future, Mr. Saavedra’s resolve to fight personal and widespread injustices was the encouragement I needed to pursue my own dreams and an invaluable experience to have. 

- Clara

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