Kathy Flores

Presented on behalf of Toward Community: Unity in Diversity to
Kathy Fredericks
by Roger Bertschausen

on January 12, 2003

Remarks by the Rev. Roger Bertschausen, Chair of Toward Community: Unity in Diversity:

The Unity in Diversity award is given each year to a person in our community whose efforts most affirm the mission of Toward Community: Unity in Diversity. Our mission is to build connections and community among groups and individuals in the Fox Valley through celebration, education and advocacy for the broad spectrum of human diversity.

As always, the Executive Committee of Toward Community had many richly deserving nominees to consider for this year's award. We decided this year to give an honorable mention in addition to recognizing the winner of the award. The honorable mention goes to Nick Ross, a student at Neenah High School who courageously, tenaciously and against long odds led the successful effort to create a Gay Straight Alliance at his high school. With this honorable mention, we salute Nick for his tremendous work at Neenah High School and in our wider community.

And now it is my great honor to present the 2003 Unity in Diversity award to a person who has with great courage and ability done so much to promote the values embodied in the mission of Toward Community. When I think of this year's winner and her incredibly deep commitment to celebrating, educating about and advocating for diversity, the word that comes to mind is "passion." Kathy Fredericks, the winner of the 2003 Unity in Diversity award, is passionate about diversity. For Kathy, promoting diversity is not just an intellectual exercise; it is even more importantly a matter of the heart. When she sees people in our community mistreated and even hated because of their race or their religion or their gender or their sexual orientation, she feels their exclusion and their hurt not just in her head, but in her heart.

And then she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. For Kathy, it's not just a matter of head and heart; it's also a matter of hands. When she sees discrimination, without a moment's hesitation she digs into the work of fighting that discrimination. She's in the trenches, fighting discrimination with every resource and every ounce of energy and courage she can muster. As has been so evident in the civil rights movement over the last fifty years, the fight against discrimination cannot be won without people who are willing to lay it on the line and non-violently fight the battles in the trenches. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kathy is a non-violent fighter for equality.

I have to acknowledge that Kathy's style and approach do not always make her popular-sometimes even among some of her allies. The same, of course, could be said about Dr. King. Sometimes, as Dr. King said so eloquently, we need to be maladjusted. In 1957, he told a group of college students:

There are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism.

And so Dr. King encouraged his listeners then and throughout his life to speak and act out against such things powerfully and tenaciously and forcefully. This is exactly what Kathy Fredericks does right here in our community, and with this award we say, "Right on, sister!"

I could go on at length about all that Kathy has done to promote diversity and equality in our area. She has truly made a difference-in the workplace, in the schools, in the wider community. She was an active advocate for diversity when she worked at the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, helping the African American, Latin American and Gay/Lesbian employee networks get going. As chair of Toward Community a few years ago, she led our efforts to promote diversity in the workplace and to stand up against hate crimes and hate organizations. She also guided Toward Community toward becoming more inclusive in its understanding of diversity by including the diversity of sexual orientation. As a parent and citizen, she has worked hard in the Neenah school system to promote diversity, including by helping STAND (Students and Teachers Advocating Neenah's Diversity) get started and supporting the effort to create a Gay/Straight Alliance. For her work in Neenah, she was given the Friendship in Education Award by the Neenah Education Association. She has been a devoted employee and now volunteer at Harmony Café, doing much in both capacities to help launch this exciting new diversity meeting place. And now she continues her work to make the world a better, more just place through her job at Harbor House. And this is only a small slice of what Kathy has done over the last ten years.

As I look ahead to the coming years and the ongoing fight for equality, I know Kathy--fueled by her tremendous passion and commitment--will be there in the trenches, using her mind and heart and hands to non-violently win the fight. We will all be the better because of her work.

It is an honor to present Kathy Fredericks the 2003 Unity in Diversity award.