Tom Harkin is a product of small town Iowa who has not forgotten his origins. He was born November 19, 1939 to a coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother who passed away when Tom was ten years old. Tom, his three brothers and two sisters and their parents shared a two- bedroom home in Cumming, Iowa (population 150). Tom is a fourth generation Iowan, a father of two, a Navy veteran, and a graduate of Iowa State University.
Tom first came to Washington, D.C. in 1969 to join the staff of Iowa Congressman Neal Smith. As a staff member accompanying a congressional delegation to South Vietnam
, he revealed to the world the infamous "tiger cages" inside a South Vietnamese prison
camp at Con Son Island. Withstanding tremendous pressure to withhold the sensitive information, Tom's photographs and detailed account of the tiger cages were published in Life Magazine, exposing a cover-up
and unearthing the shocking, inhuman conditions political prisoners
were forced to endure. As a result, hundreds of tortured political prisoners