Senator Tom Harkin
In 1974, Tom Harkin was elected to Congress from Iowa's 5th Congressional District. In 1984, after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Harkin ran for the U.S. Senate and won returning to the Senate in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008. He made history by becoming the first Iowa Democrat to win a consecutive second term in the U.S. Senate. He is the longest serving elected Democrat in Congress in Iowa history. He retired from the U.S. Senate in January 2015. Young senator, Tom, was asked by Senator Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of Americans with disabilities. He knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, who was deaf. What emerged from that process would become his signature legislative achievement – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is known as the "Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities” and changed the landscape of America, requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair accessible, and to provide workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. To preserve the intent of the ADA after court rulings weakened its standards, he, and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill ensuring continued protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008. For his ongoing work to people with disabilities everywhere, Senator Harkin was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.