Special Lectures and Collaborations (Events)

The Harkin Institute hosts many events and programs outside our regular series and annual lectures, most frequently at its home at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. These lectures, panels, screenings and receptions are focused not only around the institute’s four focus areas (Labor and Employment, People with Disabilities, Retirement Security, and Wellness and Nutrition) but also cover content related to other various issues affecting social justice, fairness, and opportunity. The Harkin Institute has collaborated with organizations such as the World Food Prize Foundation, Iowa Public Television, and the Association of University Centers on Disability to host events. If your organization is interested in partnering with The Harkin Institute to sponsor an event, please email harkininstitute@drake.edu.


Robert Putnam
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis with Robert Putnam (Events)

On July 10, 2015, 600 members of the central Iowa community started their day with coffee and Robert Putnam, one of the most publicly engaged social scientists of our time.

The rising inequality gap in America will be a major issue leading up to the next election. Robert Putnam is the expert on the topic. Politicians as diverse as President Obama, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Paul Ryan have consulted with him on this issue, and he came to the Harkin Institute to discuss these issues with Iowa.

It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. Through vivid storytelling, Putman will shared with the audience the dynamic change in American society over the last 25 years—the widening class-based opportunity gap evident in family stability issues, poor-quality schools, and lack of social supports for low-income children. Attendees learned how America faced the same kind of gap at the end of the 19th century and how we overcame it. Most importantly, Putnam offered policy proposals that crossed party lines and to reverse the opportunity gap for our children.

Follow the conversation that ensued at #OurKids https://twitter.com/hashtag/ourkids?src=hash and the resulting media coverage here. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2015/07/10/robert-putnam-des-moines-register-editorial-board-kids-iowa-caucuses/29988381/

You can hear Putnam’s full hour interview with Iowa Public Radio’s River to Riverprogram here http://iowapublicradio.org/programs/river-river#stream/0.

This event was sponsored by the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement, Every Child Matters, Save the Children Action Network, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, the Iowa Community Action Association, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Child & Family Policy Center, the United Way of Central Iowa, the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children, and Make it Work.


24th ADA Anniversary Roundtable
ADA Anniversary Roundtable (Events)


[Video] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZY6fgmTiig&feature=youtu.be


The 24th Americans with Disabilities Act Anniversary Roundtable with Senator Tom Harkin

Friday, July 25, 2014

‌Presented by The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University. Senator Tom Harkin (Retired), who has been a longtime disability rights leader, was the Senate sponsor of the ADA. He opened the roundtable with his reflections on its passage, which was accomplished with bipartisan support. Attendees learned about the important changes that have occurred since the passage of the ADA, and what equal opportunity, independent living, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency challenges still lay ahead.

The panelists included:

  • Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa and former president of Des Moines University.
  • Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Council for Civil Rights and professor of public interest law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia.
  • Steve Bartlett, president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable in Washington, D.C.; former mayor of Dallas; and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council for Independent Living.
  • Michele Meadors, Ms. Wheelchair Iowa

Sheslow Auditorium is accessible for those who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. Interpreters and CART were provided.

Download the ADA Anniversary Roundtable Program (PDF) http://www.drake.edu/media/departmentsoffices/harkininstitute/images/ADA%20Roundtable%20Program.pdf.

*** 2016 Post-Election Panel (Events)

The Media, the Constitution, and the 2016 Race

Thursday, November 17, 2016
7 p.m.
Sheslow Auditorium, Drake University

The Harkin Institute, in conjunction with Iowa Public Television, welcomed a panel of former politicians, media experts, and an academic to weigh in on the 2016 presidential race. Panelists included:

  • Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa news director
  • Kathie Obradovich, Des Moines Register political columnist
  • Dennis Goldford, Drake University professor of political science
  • Jim Leach, Former Rep. (R-Iowa), 1977-2007
  • Dave Nagle, Former Rep. (D-Iowa), 1987-1993
  • Dean Borg, Iowa Press moderator and host

Dennis Goldford, The Harkin Institute’s Flansburg Fellow, opened with remarks about modern media’s impact on America as the “extended republic” described in the U.S. Constitution. His riveting discussion examined the way TV, talk radio, and the internet appeal to consumers’ emotions while usually focusing on only one point of view, thus guiding us away from the reasoned deliberation intended by our Constitution’s authors.

A crowd of nearly 300 joined in, watching from the audience as IPTV recorded Iowa Press.

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Des Moines, IA 50311


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The Harkin Institute is located at Drake University, one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the Midwest. A midsized, private university in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake offers the benefits and resources of a larger institution along with the advantages of intimate class sizes and close personal relationships. Drake University’s mission is to provide an exceptional learning environment that prepares students for meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments, and responsible global citizenship. The Drake experience is distinguished by collaborative learning among students, faculty, and staff and by the integration of the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation.