Iowa's Legacy of Policymaking Inspires LEND Trainees

December 13, 2021

Earlier this semester, Iowa LEND trainees, faculty and staff traveled to the Tom and Ruth Harkin Center in Des Moines, Iowa.  The Center serves as the home of the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University.

The trainees enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the work of the Harkin Institute, and about the significant legacy of former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, from Joseph Jones, the Executive Director of the Harkin Institute. Jones spoke about his previous experience, working as a legislative assistant to Senator Harkin in Washington, D.C. This gave trainees a look at what goes on behind the scenes in policy making. It also demonstrated the important role legislative staff play in educating their legislators about issues. This experience complements the policy curriculum for Iowa LEND, which includes meeting with current state and federal legislators.

While trainees and staff toured the center, they learned about universal and inclusive design from its architect, Kevin Nordmeyer. Input from a diverse committee of people with disabilities inspired the design of the building, resulting in a peaceful, welcoming and accessible space.

During the trip, the group also visited the archives for Senator Harkin, which include a copy of the signed American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Senator Harkin sponsored the ADA, which was signed into law in 1990, and continues to be one of the most consequential pieces of legislation for people with disabilities.

“This trip was both informative and inspiring for all who participated,” says Kelly Von Lehmden, Training Director of Iowa’s LEND program. “We plan to make it an annual event for our LEND trainees.”

For questions about policy-related training and the Iowa LEND program, get in touch with Von Lehmden at [email protected].