U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar – who became the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate in 2006 – visited Iowa State University on Thursday, Aug. 31, as the 30th recipient of the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics. The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics has sponsored this annual speaker series since fall 1996 through the generous support of donors.
As part of her visit to Iowa State, Klobuchar discussed women and leadership during a public lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on ISU’s central campus. The presentation was followed by a reception in the South Ballroom of the MU. Both events were free and open to the public.
“Following the 2016 election, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in Iowa and across the United States of women interested in running for local, state and federal political office,” said Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center director. “We thought this would be a great time to host a woman political leader with a record of bipartisan leadership to encourage and inspire others to consider public service.”
Klobuchar was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 in an open-seat race, earning 58 percent of the vote. She was re-elected in 2012 with 65 percent of the vote. In the U.S. Senate, Klobuchar has built a reputation of working across party lines. For example, as a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, she was part of a conference committee that reached an agreement between the Senate and the House on a long-term Farm Bill in 2014. In addition, Klobuchar has worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass landmark pieces of legislation to end human trafficking and to combat the opioid epidemic. In 2016, an analysis by Medill News Service ranked her first among all 100 U.S. senators in sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills that were enacted into law in the 114th Congress.
Currently, Klobuchar serves on the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which has had several nationally televised hearings in 2017; the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. She is the ranking member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee; the joint Economic Committee; and the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Klobuchar chairs the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.
Before serving in the U.S. Senate, Klobuchar headed the largest prosecutor’s office in Minnesota for eight years, making the prosecution of violent and career criminals her top priority. She led the effort for successful passage of Minnesota’s first felony Driving While Intoxicated law and received the leadership award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Her safe schools initiative, community prosecution efforts, and criminal justice reforms earned national awards from both the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton justice departments. As a private citizen and before being elected to public office, Klobuchar was the leading advocate for successful passage of one of the first laws in the country guaranteeing 48-hour hospital stays for new mothers and their babies.
Her work has gained national recognition. The American Prospect named her a “woman to watch,” and Working Mother magazine designated her as “Best in Congress” for her efforts on behalf of working families. She also received an award from the Service Women’s Action Network for her work to fight sexual assault in the military, and the Disabled American Veterans honored her work to improve the lives of America’s veterans. Klobuchar also received the Outstanding Member of the Senate Award from the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition and the Above and Beyond Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
Klobuchar graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School. Her senior essay in college, published as the book “Uncovering the Dome,” chronicles the 10-year-history behind the building of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and is still used at colleges and universities across the country.
Klobuchar is the 30th prominent woman leader to visit Iowa State University through the sponsorship of the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics. The chair was established in 1995 to honor the Iowa native and longtime political and civic leader. Smith – the first woman to chair the Republican National Committee – was a mentor, friend and role model to many in the world of politics and civic, government and community affairs.
The purpose of the chair is to bring nationally known political leaders, scholars and activists to Iowa State to enrich the experiences of students and educate citizens about the role of women in the political process.