Retired Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) – who created and championed The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – will offer a talk, “Looking Forward: The ADA, Election, and You,” as part of the President’s Forum Series on Monday, Nov. 14, providing insight into his public service work and his reflections on the past, present and future of American politics.
The talk, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.
In 1974, Harkin was elected to Congress from Iowa’s Fifth Congressional District. In 1984, after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Harkin challenged an incumbent Senator and won. Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996 and again in 2002. In November 2008, he made history by becoming the first Iowa Democrat to win a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. Harkin retired from the U. S. Senate in January 2015.
As a young senator, he was tapped by Senator Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. Harkin knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. What emerged from that process would later become Harkin’s signature legislative achievement — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has become known as the “Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities.”
To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards, Harkin and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008.
Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa, the son of a coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother. To this day, he lives in the house in Cumming where he was born. In 1968, he married Ruth Raduenz, the daughter of a farmer and a schoolteacher from Minnesota. They have two daughters, Amy and Jenny, and three grandchildren.
Established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, the President’s Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. Recent guests include Michael B. Curry ’75, the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church; HWS Trustee and “60 Minutes” Correspondent Bill Whitaker ’73, L.H.D. ’97; and The Hon. Shireen Avis Fisher ’70, Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.