Audio Description

This exhibit is 8 feet wide and 5 feet tall, about 12 inches deep and is protected by glass.

It is organized in 4 vertical sections reading from right to left with photos, artifacts and text information over a blue background.

The title Early Days is displayed in large black text on a green bar.

Beneath it, the first section has a text box titled A Humble Beginning.

Text below reads

Thomas Richard Harkin was born on November 19. 1939 in Cumming, Iowa to Patrick and Frances Harkin. His father was an Iris American coalminer and handyman and his mother was an immigrant from Slovenia.

The youngest of six children, he grew up in a two bedroom house. At the age of ten, his mother died and he spent time living with his sister Mary Ann in Wyoming abnd his sister Sylvia in Dexter, Iowa.

After his freshman year, he attended Dowling High School in Des Moines. He watched his older brother attend college and he wanted that for himself too.

Below is a quote dated 1974

It reads

All I can promise is that I will bring to congress my background, my common sense and what I have learned from the people of iowa, to work for openness and honesty in government and do the very best I can.

A photo below shows Tom and Ruth handing out campaign literature as the knock doors during a congressional campaign.

Below the photo is a blue text box that is titled An Investigation on Con Son Island.

The text reads

While working for Congressman Neal Smith, Tom accompanied a congressional delegation to Vietnam. During the trip, Tom visited with American journalist Don Luce, who told him about a prison on Con Son island where prisoners were being kept in tiger cage cells. With a hand-drawn map in hand, Tom convinced Representative Augustus Hawkins and Representative William Anderson to visit the prison with him and Luce accompanied the group as a translator. When they were inside, Harkin photographed the evidence of the inhumane conditions.

Displayed below is a Life Magazine opened to an article titled The Tiger Cages of Con Son.

A caption card titled Life Magazine Article

The text reads

When he returned from Vietnam, Tom made the photos public, despite pressure to suppress his discoveries. The photographs were published in LIFE magazine, bringing attention to the abuse and torture that they had witnessed.

Moving left, a photo shows Tom and Ruth Harkin on the campaign trail in 1972.

A text box below is titled A Chance Encounter

Text reads

On a trip to Tokyo, Japan, Tom would meet Ruth Raduenz, a civilian US Army employee running a service club in Korea. It was a chance encounter and the Hie Shinto Shrine that would end up lasting a lifetime.

Ruth Raduenz was born in 1944 in Vesta, Minnesota. The daughter of a farmer and teacher, she majored in English at the University of Minnesota. She and Tom would marry in Des Moines In July 1968. That winter, they moved to Washington DC where they both attended law school while Tom worked for Iowa Congressman Neal Smith.

Below the text box is a certificate and service patch.

The certificate reads

7th United States Infantry Division

To all bayoneteers wherever they may be on this 27th day of September, 1967.

Miss Ruth Raduenz was duly appointed an honorary member of the 7th United States Infantry Division.

A caption card reads

Army Special Services Patch and Certificate

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Ruth Raduenz went to work for the US Army Special Services. She managed a service club near the demilitarized zone in Korea at Camp Hovey. The club supported 2500 soldiers with entertainment, educational services and socialization.

Below is a campaign flier with a photo of Ruth Harkin and text that reads

Ruth Harkin for County Attorney

Below is a caption card titled campaign literature

The text reads

Ruth Harkin was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1972 and ran a successful campaign for Story County Attorney. During her time in office, she gave birth to her first child, Amy, in July 1976. Determined to nurse her baby, Ruth emptied a storage space in her office in the courthouse to serve as a nursery, so she was able to take her daughter to work.

Moving left, the next section begins with a photo of Tom Harkin in the cockpit of an F-8 plane while stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba.

A Text box below is titled A Ladder of Opportunity

The text reads

Tom accepted a Navy ROTC scholarship to attend Iowa State University. He started out as an engineering major, but one day he spotted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visiting campus through the lens of his surveror’s level and he began to feel the pull of politics and government.

He would go on to lead ISU’s Young Democrats and worked on history professor EB Smith’s campaign for Senate. While Smith did not win the election, Harkin gained valuiable experience in campaign politics.

Upon graduation in 1962, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy and completed flight training in Pensacola, Florida. He received his wings at the Naval Air Station in Beeville, Texas. From there he was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Buba and Atsugi, Japan. At Atsugi, he shuttled damaged aircraft from Southeast Asia.

Below the text box are two campaign buttons from EB Smith’s 1962 campaign for US Senate.

Below the campaign buttons are 2 epaulets from Senator Harkin’s Navy uniform. They are navy blue with 3 gold stripes and a gold star.

A card below reads

These ornamental shoulder pieces indicate rank. These epaulets show that Harkin was a Lieutenant Commander. The star indicates that he served as a line officer.

Below are 2 silver model airplanes mounted on pedestals.

A card reads

As a Navy pilot, Harkin flew the F-8 Crusader and F-4 Phantom.

Moving left, the final vertical section begins with a photo of Tom Harkin as a boy – standing in front of a barn with 2 brothers.

The caption reads

Tom Harkin grew up in a close knit community in Cumming, Iowa.

Many memories of his childhood center around the church and the American Legion Club.

In high school, he worked a variety of jobs – on farms,  on the railroad and other construction sites, as a paper boy and at a des moines bottling plant.

Below the photo is a quote from Tom Harkin’s Announcement Speech given on March, 11, 1996 in Cumming iowa.

It reads

We never had much money, but we were rich in family, rich in faith and rich in friends and neighbors.

Next, a grey text box with white letters is titled A Run for Office

It reads

Tom and Ruth both ran for public office in 1972. While Tom campaigned to represent Iowa’s 5th District in Congress, Ruth sought the office of County Attorney in Story County.

Tom lost his bid for the House of Representatives, but Ruth won election.

At that time, she was the only female county attorney in the state of Iowa, and only the second woman in Iowa’s history to be elected county attorney.

Ruth was the first female elected county attorney in Story County and she was the only Democrat in the county courthouse.

In 1974, she ran unopposed and was reelected.

Despite his earlier loss, Tom persevered and launched a second campaign for Congress and was elected with 51% of the vote.

Below is a framed WPA card.

A card next to the frame reads

Works Progress Administration card.

This WPA card belonged to Senator Harkin’s father, Patrick F. Harkin. It is dated July 19, 1939 – four months to the day before his son Tom was born. He reported for work on a project south of Des Moines called Lake Ahquabi.

Senator Harkin hung this card by the door in his office as a reminder of hope the government can provide.

The final artifact in this exhibit is a yearbook with a dark blue cover. Embossed text reads 1954 and Cummings Braves.

A caption card reads

Eighth grade yearbook that belonged to a young Tom Harkin. He attended Cumming Independent School.

According to the yearbook, his favorite subject was spelling and after graduation he planned to attend college.

You can learn more at harkininstitute dot drake dot edu