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Former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin remembers mentor Neal Smith

A conversation that includes the legacy of U.S. Rep. Neal Smith, takeaways from this week's school board elections, and the newest faultline in UAW-John Deere contract negotiations.

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa has had a storied political career, but this week he remembers how it got started: door-knocking with then little-known congressional candidate Neal Smith.

Born in Keokuk County near Hedrick, Smith enlisted in the military as a bomber pilot before being shot down. After receiving the Purple Heart, Smith went on to have the single longest career in the U.S. House of Representatives of any Iowan. Along the way, he was an advocate for wildlife conservation and bipartisan cooperation. According to Harkin, Smith was an advocate for good government.

"If you just have good people who are public-minded, government can make life better for people," Harkin said. "That's the Neal Smith I remember."

On this episode of River to River, it's Newsbuzz. Host Ben Kieffer also speaks with two reporters on the outcomes of this week's school board elections, connects with IPR's Grant Gerlock about the latest in the contract negotiations between John Deere and the UAW and talks with a writer from Guyana who reflects on his time visiting the United States. IPR Studio One host Cece Mitchell gives us two tracks to groove through this Friday afternoon.


  • Linh Ta, reporter for Axios Des Moines
  • Cleo Krejci, education reporter for Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Des Moines Register
  • Tom Harkin, former U.S. Senator
  • Grant Gerlock, IPR central Iowa reporter
  • Imam Baksh, storyteller, children’s book writer and teacher from Guyana
  • Cece Mitchell, host of IPR Studio One
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa