Presented by Rev. Roger Bertschausen of 
Toward Community: Unity in Diversity
at the annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 13, 2002

As I stand here to present the Unity in Diversity award, I can't help but say "It's a great day in Menasha!" Whether he's in Menasha or not, Mayor Joe Laux always likes to include this line in his speeches. He has dedicated himself to making every day great in Menasha for all the people who live there-regardless of their race or ethnicity or class or anything else. He is a very worthy winner of this year's Unity in Diversity award.

Joe did not always have an appreciation for diversity. He talks about how as a kid growing up in this area, diversity was not something he thought about very much. Then a college class at UWGB opened his eyes to this issue-and more importantly opened his heart. He learned that everybody has inherent worth, and that we each have a choice between building walls that keep out people different from ourselves or opening the door and inviting others in. He learned that there are other stories of other cultures in Northeast Wisconsin besides the dominant culture-stories of Native American and African American and Hmong American and Hispanic and other communities. And he learned that beneath all of the important differences between people and communities, there is also so much that we share in common. He has always remembered his learnings from that class and has dedicated himself to opening doors, to reaching out, to learning about other cultures, to welcoming everybody in. 

He has done this in many ways, such as in leading the City of Menasha to become the first municipality in our area to pass a proclamation welcoming diversity. A down-to-earth guy, Joe characteristically has never shied away from the nitty gritty of diversity work-from personally welcoming individuals of diverse backgrounds to Menasha to cooking a mean bowl of chili at the BABES chili cook-off. When we contacted Joe to make sure he was planning to come to tonight's service-without telling him about this award of course-he volunteered to help usher. This is classic Joe: always eager to roll up his sleeves and get to work. And he's not doing this diversity work because it's politically expedient or to get in the limelight. He's doing it because it's the right thing to do.

Joe's dedication to promoting an appreciation for diversity led him to join Toward Community: Unity in Diversity in the mid-1990s. In the years since, he has been involved in many of our projects, most notably as the co-chair in recent years of Foods of All Nations. A busy man, he surely doesn't need more meetings to attend or more projects to lead. But he has dug into our work with gusto, and we are grateful for Joe's tangible commitment to Toward Community.

Maybe more than anything, Joe works to bring people of diverse backgrounds together. Tonight we recognize Joe's outstanding contributions by presenting him with this year's Unity in Diversity award. Joe Laux is a man who is helping to make real in Menasha and in the Fox Cities Martin Luther King's dream for America.

Mayor Joe, I am honored to present you with this year's Unity in Diversity award.