Self-Advocacy Online Blog

Remembering Rick Cardenas


Cliff Poetz is a Community Liaison with the Institute on Community Integration and a founding member of People First Minnesota.  He can be reached at


Self-advocates lost a great friend and mentor with the recent passing of Rick Cardenas on March 10th.  Rick was very important to the Minnesota Self-Advocacy Movement in many ways.  In his many years as Co-Director of Advocating Change Together, he supported self-advocates through conferences, workshops, individual and group training, personal counseling, and leadership in important social actions.  Rick’s contributions are too many to list.  When I think of Rick I think of his key role in getting the Minnesota Legislature to officially apologize for the more than a century of discrimination and mistreatment of Minnesotans with developmental disabilities who had been placed in the state’s public institutions.  I also remember him as the chief organizer of “Remembering with Dignity,” leading us in the research, advocating for legislation, obtaining state funding, and replacing numbered headstones at the state institution graveyards with the names of the people who had for long been just numbers.  But I think anyone who knew him would mention other ways that he changed the world for people with disabilities.  I know we would all agree that among Rick’s most remarkable qualities were his kindness, commitment, humor, and love of all people.  Rick will be remembered forever for all he did for self-advocates in Minnesota and beyond.  

(Photo below: Tini, Cliff Poetz, John Daggy, and Rick Cardenas at the Faribault State School cemetery, 1996.)

From right: Rick Cardenas, John Daggy, Cliff Poetz, and Tini at the Faribault State School cemetery, 1996. White cross in background.