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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

2017 Dole Leadership Prize Awarded to Senator Tom Harkin

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas has announced that it will honor retired U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin as the recipient of the 2017 Dole Leadership Prize.

Harkin received the award at a public program on Oct. 29 at the Dole Institute. The program can now be viewed online. The Senator spoke at length about the ADA and the role of people with disabilities and their ongoing advocacy.

“Senator Harkin shares Senator Dole’s belief in bipartisanship, civil discourse and respect for the other side,” Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy said. “We look forward to honoring his long service to our country.”

“I am honored and humbled to join the list of renowned public servants to receive this recognition,” Harkin said. “Senator Dole and I share a commitment to promoting civic engagement, civil discourse and cooperation. This was prevalent during our shared time in the U.S. Senate, particularly in our work on behalf of people with disabilities, and continues to guide our work even today.” 

First elected to Congress in 1974, Harkin represented the state of Iowa in Washington, D.C., for over four decades. He served 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa’s 5th Congressional District before winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1984. In November 2008, Harkin became the first Iowa Democrat to win a fifth term in the Senate. His long career focused on issues related to health care access and nutrition, farm policy, labor issues and more.

Harkin’s signature legislative achievement was the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a young senator, he was tapped by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. What emerged from that process was the ADA, which changed the landscape of the U.S. to better accommodate people with disabilities. Harkin and Dole joined forces to champion the ADA, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

Harkin retired from office in January 2015. His career papers are housed at The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University.

The Dole Leadership Prize is awarded annually to an individual or group whose public service leadership inspires others. The award includes a $25,000 cash award. Previous winners of the Dole Leadership Prize include John Kemp, Nelson Mandela, Wounded Warrior Project, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Women Air Service Pilots of WWII, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former U.S. senators Howard Baker, Nancy Kassebaum and George McGovern, former Polish President Lech Walesa, Congressman John Lewis and former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting political and civic participation as well as civil discourse in a bipartisan, philosophically balanced manner. It is located on KU’s West District and houses the Dole Archive and Special Collections. Through its robust public programming, congressional archive and museum, the Dole Institute strives to celebrate public service and the legacies of U.S. Senators Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. The university’s mission is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. The KU News Service is the central public relations office for the Lawrence campus.

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