I’m writing this toward the end of June, so I can’t really know what the weather’s like the day you’re reading this, but the summer started with a scorching, long and dry heat wave. I hope by the time this reaches you we’ve either cooled down or are having more typical Minnesota heat and rain.
Right in the middle of the heat wave we had Rick Cardenas’ memorial celebration on June 13. The heat wasn’t a factor, though; we enjoyed strong breezes and chatting in the shade. It was great to be in the company of more than 100 people who loved and admired Rick. It was an outstanding event, with several proclamations from our politicians celebrating Rick and his successes in making Minnesota more disability-friendly.
Throughout the speeches we heard many people say, “We need a new Rick.” The last speaker was Rick’s grandnephew and he proclaimed, “I am the new Rick.” He went on to talk about the momentum we have today, and how if we keep it up we can make things happen. It really was like Rick speaking through him. It was very moving and just shows how much Rick inspired so many around him, including one of the youngest in the crowd. His nephew understood Rick’s message, that you have to speak out for what you want and for what is best for the community.
Maybe it was that young person’s influence, but I found myself thinking about the impact of Amanda Gorman, the first youth poet laureate of the United States. Gorman read her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden. The poem is posted on YouTube, along with many videos of her reading more of her poetry and excerpts from the two books she has written. Both books became best sellers after her reading at the inauguration.
I was so impressed by her I did some research and it turns out she has a disability. She was born with auditory sensitivity disorder and is hypersensitive to sound. That caused a speech impediment for which she had speech therapy for years. She doesn’t think of her disability as a weakness but as a source of strength, “because since I was experiencing these obstacles in terms of my auditory and vocal skills, I became really good at reading and writing.”
She also worked very hard at performing her poetry. You wouldn’t know it when she is reading aloud, but when she speaks one-on-one in interviews you can detect the speech disorder. She surely hasn’t let her disability slow her down. She is a prominent example for all of us that we must speak out, and speak clearly, with the right words and honestly, to be heard and to make change. She proclaimed that she will be running for president in 2036, but I hope it doesn’t take that long for the first female president. From what we know of her now, she has the potential to be a wise leader.
Gorman received a Milken Family Foundation scholarship. She graduated in 2020 from Harvard, with highest honors. Her degree is in sociology. The executive director of Urban Word NYC jokingly said, “her bio goes out of date about every two weeks.” We will be seeing a lot more of her over the years, I can guarantee you that.
We don’t really know what is happening in the special session at the capitol except that they are trying to iron out budget recommendations behind closed doors. Things looked very hopeful for the disability-related agenda a week into the session, but it soon became very unclear what would happen. We will get the news out to you on Facebook or Twitter as soon as we know something solid.
Have a good summer. Don’t get sunburnt.