Iowa Senator Tom Harkin will be the Luther College commencement speaker Sunday, May 25, when Luther confers degrees on the graduates of the class of 2014.
Commencement ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. in Carlson Stadium on the campus of Luther College. Tickets are required for admission.
Harkin has represented Iowa in Congress for nearly 40 years. First winning election to the U.S. House in 1974, he represented Iowa's Fifth Congressional District for 10 years. In 1984, Harkin challenged an incumbent senator and won. Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008.
Since arriving to Congress, Harkin has championed critical legislation that seeks to improve the lives and protect the rights of American citizens.
His signature legislative achievement, the Americans with Disabilities Act, changed the landscape of America by requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair accessible. It also legislated changes to provide workplace accommodations for people with disabilities.
Believing that learning starts at birth and preparation for learning starts before birth, Harkin has worked to shape education policies from kindergarten through higher education.
In addition, Harkin fought to reform the nation's health care system. He pioneered U.S. human rights legislation and his work to bolster the middle class continues today.
Harkin is uniquely positioned as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee and the Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. He has been a member of the Agriculture Committee since his first term in Congress and as the former chairman of the Committee, he oversaw the Senate passage and enactment into law of two farm bills.
Harkin, 73, announced in January 2013 that he would not seek re-election in 2014.
Born in Cumming, the son of an Iowa coal miner and a Slovenian immigrant, Harkin still lives in the house where he was born.
After graduating from Iowa State University on a Navy ROTC scholarship, Harkin served as a jet pilot in the Navy for five years and continued to fly in the Naval Reserves for nearly two decades. He met his wife, Ruth, at Catholic University of America Law School where they both earned law degrees. They have two grown daughters, Amy and Jenny, and three grandchildren.