“Education is our future – it’s everything. We must not settle for anything short of excellence in our schools.” — Former Governor Jim Hunt

By Ian Smith-Overman

As the Dream Team grows and the next vote in the lame duck session of congress approaches, we have been looking all around for new allies and ways to exert pressure on Senator Hagan who continues to hide behind CIR rhetoric while denying our dreams. Hagan has consistently rebuffed our requests for a face to face meeting and insists that piece-meal legislation like the Dream Act is not her preference. Unlike Hagan, we cannot afford to sit on our hands and watch as real CIR fails to appear—our lives and our friends’ lives have been put on hold by senate inaction.

Most recently, a group of us met with former NC governor and education champion Jim Hunt—someone Hagan has spoken of as a political “mentor.” Going into the event, we knew Hunt was an important figure in North Carolina history, but we had no idea how much he worked to improve education in our state over the past 30 years, having been the driving force behind programs like Smart Start and setting the groundwork for More at Four.

Hunt was speaking at Flyleaf books in Chapel Hill, promoting his recent biography written by longtime aide, Gary Pearce. As we listened to Hunt outline highlights and goals of his career, it was clear he would be a natural ally of the DREAM Act, our team and improved access to higher education for all. After the talk ended, we waited in line preparing our quick statements to Hunt while he would sign our copy of his book.

We had a wish list going in: would Hunt support the DREAM Act? Would he help us pressure Hagan? Would he support what we were doing?

More than just support us, as soon as Hunt heard what we were fighting for, he let us know he was already going to bat for us. “I called her today, I talked to Hagan this afternoon and told her how important the DREAM Act is.”

We were excited and relieved; after so many show downs in which we felt a need to defend ourselves and prove our merits, here was a politician who knew our struggle and instantly validated our hard work.

Governor Hunt supported us simply for the fact that we as youth represent the future of NC and therefore need to be educated. Hunt also let us know that the battle would not end with the passage of the DREAM Act—that it was critical for us to remain engaged in the politics of our state and country.

As we walked out, Hunt wished us good luck and told us to stay in touch. In the parking lot, we stood around reflecting on the meeting with the former Governor, in a struggle that sometimes seems like a constant onslaught of difficulty and disappointment it feels good to know that someone out there in the establishment has got your back, without qualifications—without caveats.