People who have made a positive difference in the lives of Minnesotans with disabilities were among those honored January 19 at the state’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. Among those honored by Gov. Mark Dayton were Galinda Goss-Kuehn and Margot Imdieke Cross. Both were Distinguished Service Award winners.
This year’s state King Day events, which included a march and a celebration centered on youth, were held at Macalester College in St. Paul. The theme of the 2015 celebration, Where Do We Go From Here? Reconciliation, Redemption, & Justice for A Beloved Community, recognizes that in order to advance toward, and finally achieve King’s dream of equality for all Americans, every voice throughout Minnesota must be engaged in the continuing.
WCCO-TV anchor and reporter Angela Davis emceed this year’s event. The keynote speaker was Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright. Award winners were praised by Dayton and other services for their long years of service to Minnesota. Dayton noted that King’s work guides his work as governor. “Our work toward building stronger communities and a better Minnesota will not be complete until all of our futures are as bright and promising, as those most fortunate among us. The basic rights, liberties, and opportunities, which are enjoyed by one, should be guaranteed to all men and women, who are created equal in the eyes of God.”
One 2015 award winner is Goss-Kuehn, a deaf and universal interpreter, actress and advocate. Since 2009 Goss-Kuehn has worked for Communication Services for the Deaf, Inc. where she wears many hats. She is a teacher for the Deaf Adult Basic Education Program and works with deaf immigrants teaching English, Math, Drivers’ Education, Citizenship, Early Childhood Development and GED courses. She works with the Accuplacer Program, which helps evaluate students as they prepare for college.
Goss-Kuehn is known for her expertise in teaching with patience, compassion and excitement. She has helped many people gain access to programs and services, including helping immigrants prepare for and take their citizenship examinations. Goss-Kuehn has designed, developed and implemented a citizenship curriculum for deaf individuals who have no language or education background here. She has graduated more than 30 students from her program.
Born in Hawaii into a military family, Goss-Kuehn lived in many places before settling in Minnesota. She attended Gallaudet University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre arts. She continued her studies at the master’s level in linguistics. She is a member of the Alpha Psi Omega National Honorary Dramatic Fraternity. Goss-Kuehn is involved in deaf theatre as a producer, actress and director. She has won many awards including an Award of Excellence of America College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Goss-Kuehn also utilizes her skills for good causes, to raise awareness, and contribute to fundraisers that support the deaf community. She has held leadership positions in DEAF-MADC, including serving as president. (The organization was originally known as the Minnesota Association for Deaf Citizens.)
She has also held leadership roles in the Miss Deaf States and Miss Deaf America pageants, including stage manager and director. She founded the Deaf Night Out event, recently chaired the annual community picnic and won other community awards. In her spare time Goss-Kuehn enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons.
Margot Imdieke Cross has worked for the Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) for almost 30 years. She has held the position of accessibility specialist since 1987. She has also served as the MSCOD interim executive director. The council is Minnesota’s comprehensive disability resource for law-makers, agencies, non-profits, businesses and individuals with disabilities.
Cross, a licensed access specialist, provides information, referral and technical assistant to architects, law makers, individuals with disabilities, and the general public on state and federal access requirements, disability parking, housing access, transportation access and civil rights issues. She is the go-to person to make the environment more accessible for everyone, raising awareness about facilities ranging from small buildings to large sports stadiums. She has also spoke up on access to everything from transit vehicles to portable toilets at the capitol.
She works closely with the public and other agencies to ensure compliance to both physical and programmatic access. Cross also trains audiences on disability awareness, state and federal access requirements and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is considered to be an expert on ADA compliance. She also lends her expertise to those making plans for the emergency evacuation of people with disabilities and has been a leader in MSCOD’s efforts to promote safety for people with disabilities in emergency situations. She travels the state making presentations on various subjects.
Cross has served on a number of boards and councils. She served as a Minneapolis Civil Rights Commissioner for 11 years. For 20 years she served on and at times chaired the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities. She served on the board of directors of Access Press for seven years.She was the first recipient of the Access Press Charlie Smith Award. The award, which has been given since 2003, honors Minnesotans who provide outstanding service to the state’s disability community. She is married and lives in Minneapolis.
Other award winners were Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, Lifetime Achievement Award; and other Distinguished Service winners Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, Hennepin County District Court Judge Pamela G. Alexander, Minneapolis Foundation Vice President Luz Maria Frias and Lori Saroya, co-founder and leader of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota. Nominees are taken from various state councils and sent to a governor’s council that organizes the King Day events.