Audio Description

This exhibit is about 4 feet tall and 12 feet long and reads from right to left.

Above the right corner of the exhibit, a teal sign with white letters reads Representing Iowans.

The exhibit is divided into 2 main sections.

The first section on the right show a photo of Senator Harkin blended into the green backgrouind.

In the photo, the smiling Senator holds a dark t-shir that reads

Give em hell Harkin – Announcement Day – Winterset, Iowa – September 23, 1992

Below is a title in black letters that reads

Listening, Serving and Strengthening

The text below reads

Throughout his time in office, Tom Harkin had a strong connection with his constituents. He and his staff were passionate about their duty to serve Iowans – through outreach on issues and policies, responding to constituent correspondence, assisting in special projects work to help organizations apply for federal grants, and casework.

Casework includes congressional staff members assisting constituents with problems with agencies. Through his mobile office and work days, he sought to engage with Iowans from all corners of the state and listen to their concerns and ideas.

He worked to strengthen the state by securing federal funding for infrastructure and other programs. His steak fry gave Iowans the opportunity to interact with presidential candidates for over 37 years.

A photo blended into the background shows Senator Harkin using American sign language to communicate with a woman constituent in his mobile office.

The lower left area of this section contains a quote from a speech Senator Harkin delivered March 11, 1996 in Cumming, Iowa.

The quote reads

My family story isn’t much different from the family stories of most Iowans. Travel across our great state as I have been so privileged to do – go to our small towns, our neighborhoods, our churches, ourchools. Work with Iowans – as I have been able to do in my workdays in every corner of our state. And just listen.

You will hear similar Iowa stories about struggle and survival, about strength and success. That’s who we are.

Moving left, the next section of this exhibit is comprised of text and photos over a dark blue background.

This section is divided into 4 vertical sections.

The first is titled Mobile Office.

There is a color photo of Senator and Ruth Harkin gassing up a black Van.

A sign on the side of the van reads

Mobile office of senator Tom Harkin. For Official Use Only

The text below reads

During his first term in office, Congressman Harkin was the first member to create a mobile office to make himself more accessible to Iowans. He and his staff would use this specially-equipped van to bring constituent services to Iowa’s 99 counties. Its first iteration was a mobile home and transformed into a van by Senator Harkin’s final term. In 2012, the Harkin office logged their 100 thousandth constituent assistance case.

Below that paragraph is a black and white photo of the senator sitting on a picnic table talking to constituents. Behind him is parked a small mobile home that housed one of his early mobile offices.

Moving to the left, the next vertical section is title Work Days

There is a color photo showing the hard hatted senator using a hammer at a construction site.

The text below reads

During Tom Harkin’s successful 1974 campaign for Congress, he started conducting work days – full days spent on the job with Iowans. Throughout his time in office, he served as a daycare, aide, police officer, radio disc jockey, grain elevator employee, construction worker and postal worker among many others. Senator Harkin used these days to inform his work as a legislator – whether it was exploring the need for new legislation or to see how well enacted bills worked. The work days also gave the opportunity for him to really hear from his constituents in a way that was different from more traditional formats.

Below that paragraph, a quote from Senator Harkin reads

After I’ve been there a while and they befin to see that I’m really there to work, not just to watch them work or to shake their hands, they really begin to loosen up and tell me what’s on their minds.

Moving left, the next section is titled Appropriations

A photo shows the senator looking at blueprints with a man in a suit.

The text below reads:

Throughout his career, Senator Harkin successfully leveraged federal funding for projects that strengthened the state. In 198, he created the Harkin School Grant Program to modernize and repair schools in the state. Between 1998 and 2010, he secured nearly $133 million for the program that assisted over 300 school districts to improve fire protection and build new classrooms. Other Iowa initiatives include strengthening infrastructure, securing federal funding for medical research in the state, ensuring communities receive the support needed to recover from natural disasters, and preventing future disasters through flood control.

Below the paragraph is a color photo of Senator Harkin wearing a hardhat speaking to two women in hardhats at a groundbreaking event.

Moving to the left, the next section is titled Harkin Steak Fry

There is a large color photograph shot from behind Senator Harkin at the 2000 Harkin Steak Fry. He is standing at a podium on a hayrack filled with hay bales. With his hand on Ruth’s shoulder, he looks out at the sea of people in the crowd.

The caption reads

Despite the rain, the 26th annual Harkin Steak Fry in 2000 drew one of the largest crowds in the history of the event. Former President Bill Clinton headlined the event in the run up to the 2004 presidential election. Other guests included Democratic presidential hopefuls John Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, Howard Dean, Carol Moseley Brown and Dennis Kucinich.

A paragraph below the photo reads

In 1972, the first steak fry associated with Tom Harkin was held on a farm near Cumming, Iowa. Then it was known as the Kiernan Steak Fry and the event drew 53 people. The Kiernan Steak Fry took place every other year until Harkin ran for the Senate in 1984. Then the Harkin Steak Fry became an annual event.

At the 1991 Steak Fry, Tom Harkin announced that he was running for President of the United States. From there, the event would grow to become one of the most important events in Iowa politics and an event where Iowans can interact with potential presidential candidates.

In 1992, the event moved to the Indianola Balloon Field where Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton was on hand to speak to a crowd of 5,000. The final Harkin Steak Fry took place on Sunday, September 14, 2014. Close to 10,000 people attended the final event to hear speeches from former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Moving left, the final panel in the exhibit is an interactive display that includes notecards filled out by attendees in a frame.

Above the frame, the title asks What is your favorite memory of Tom and Ruth Harkin?

The frame contains 9 slots for attendees to display their notecards. There are blank notecards and pens below the frame.

A few of the notecards read

  • Willing to work across the aisles.
  • That he represented real Iowans
  • The ADA

To the right of the exhibit is a sign that reads Archival Display a gift from the Rasmussen Foundation in honor of Sandra and Jim Rasmussen.

You can learn more at harkininstitute dot drake dot edu