Donald L. Ritter
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Donald Lawrence "Don" Ritter (born October 21, 1940) was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. He represented Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district in the Lehigh Valley from 1979 to 1993.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Academic and private work
- 3 House of Representatives
- 4 Post Congressional Career
- 5 Personal
- 6 Sources
- 7 References
- 8 External links
- 9 Additional Sources
Early life and education
Ritter was born in Washington Heights, Manhattan, in New York City, the son of Frank and Ruth Ritter, Frank was born in Hungary, who lived in Manhattan and later The Bronx. Ritter attended New York City's P.S. 70 Elementary School, the Joseph H. Wade Junior High School, P.S. 117 and the Bronx High School of Science. He then attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, graduating with a B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering in 1961. He went on to receive an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963 and an Sc.D. (Doctor of Science in Physical Metallurgy) from M.I.T. in 1966. He worked as a research assistant at M.I.T. (while obtaining his doctorate) from 1961 to 1966.
Academic and private work
After graduation from M.I.T. Ritter was a scientific exchange fellow for the United States National Academy of Sciences-Soviet Academy of Sciences, Baikov Institute in Moscow from 1967 to 1968. He was an assistant professor at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and a contract consultant for General Dynamics, Pomona from 1968 to 1969.
He was a metallurgy faculty member and assistant to the vice president for research at Lehigh University from 1969 to 1976, and later the manager of research program development at Lehigh University from 1976 to 1979. He also worked as an engineering consultant to industry.
House of Representatives
After winning a 5-way primary election, Ritter was elected as a Republican to the 96th United States Congress in 1979, upsetting 16-year incumbent Democrat Fred B. Rooney. He was reelected to six succeeding Congresses. He held the seat for seven terms, or 14 years, until losing it to challenger Paul F. McHale, Jr. in a tight 1992 election with Ross Perot running as an Independent and George H. W. Bush, at the top of the ticket, getting just 36% of the vote.
Ritter represented the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, including the cities of (Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton). As a senior member of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce and United States House Committee on Science and Technology, Ritter sought to bring a greater degree of science to the legislative process, particularly to environmental and energy regulation, and was often referred to by peers as a "scientist-congressman." He is one of the few doctoral/Sc.D.-level scientists to ever serve in the U.S. Congress.
Ritter's Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania district had a substantial industrial (corporate and labor union) and university and college constituency. Ritter was a supporter of free market, small government policies, though he also cast trade votes in favor of his district's steel and apparel industries. At the same time, Ritter supported the North American Free Trade Agreement when it was debated and passed in the House.
Ritter was the leading advocate in the Congress for the use of Risk assessment to put hazards, particularly energy and environmental ones, in more rational perspective that he believed better prioritized and reduced risks that were most dangerous to people's health and the environment. Ritter's Risk legislation was part of the "Contract with America" and passed into law in 1995.
Ritter was a Congressional champion for the Total Quality Movement (TQM) in the United States, building bridges into the U.S. Congress for world TQM founders and leaders such as W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran and Armand V. Feigenbaum. He also started Quality Valley USA in his district to further Total Quality Management and the economic advantage to be derived from it by its citizens, businesses and workers.
In his district, Ritter promoted the Lehigh River as a "linear environmental center-of-gravity" to serve the leisure, recreation and creative economic development needs of his constituents. Later, Ritter authored, along with neighboring Pennsylvania Congressman Peter H. Kostmayer, legislation that created the Lehigh-Delaware National Heritage Corridor, which has since become a primary environmental and recreational focus in the Lehigh Valley.
Ritter also championed human rights. Having lived in the former Soviet Union and speaking fluent Russian, he opposed what he saw as Soviet expansionist activity in Afghanistan, Cuba, Central America, Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, Ukraine and elsewhere. In addition to his service on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ritter was the founding chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Baltic States and Ukraine whose co-chairman was Dennis Hertel (D-MI), and U.S. Senator Don Riegle (D-MI). In addition to being one of the few Sc.D.-level scientists in the history of the Congress, he also was one of the few to ever speak Russian fluently.
With respect to Ritter's 14-year voting record in the U.S. Congress, he enjoyed consistently high rankings from conservative interest groups and correspondingly low rankings from liberal ones. However, he represented a district that, while ancestrally Democratic, had a considerable tinge of social conservatism. Also, substantial numbers of Hungarian, Polish, Slovak and Ukrainian-Americans resided in his Lehigh Valley district and supported Ritter's strong anti-Communism.
Congressional initiatives on Afghanistan
Ritter speaks fluent Russian and had studied Russian Language and Literature, culture and history as a hobby while at M.I.T. He was introduced to Russian language study by the pioneering teacher, Alexander (Isaacovich) Lipson who was teaching at Harvard and M.I.T. at the time.
Ritter's experience with Afghanistan began with the Soviet Union's invasion of that country in 1979. He spent the next 10 years in Congress working with Afghans to evict the Soviet invaders.
He authored the "Material Assistance" to Afghanistan legislation in the Congress (Ritter-Tsongas) in 1982, created the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan (Ritter-Humphrey) to promote such "material assistance" of all kinds to the Afghan resistance, convened meetings on Afghanistan with representatives of the United States Department of State, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation to enhance U.S. assistance to the Afghan resistance fighters, and used his ranking position on the Congressional Helsinki Commission, extending its purview away from its traditional focus on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, to call attention to the Soviets' illegal invasion, occupation and destruction of Afghanistan, which violated the USSR-signed Helsinki Accords.
Post Congressional Career
National Environmental Policy Institute, NEPI, 1993-2002;
For some nine years after leaving Congress, Ritter served as founder, chairman and president of the National Environmental Policy Institute (NEPI). NEPI sought environmental policy changes in the 1990s towards greater involvement of states and localities in national policy making. Ritter engaged a greater grassroots involvement to move some of the decision-making out of a politicized Washington DC and provide more fact and science-based decision making. NEPI engaged an expanded, less partisan contingent of citizens and decision-makers from the states, cities and localities as well as federal elected and other officials.
NEPI conducted "working groups" of some 40 to 50 individuals from different perspectives, such as "Reinventing EPA and Environmental Policy", which at the time built on Vice President Al Gore's "Reinventing Government". NEPI was concerned with "Democratizing Environmental Policy" (an NEPI Working Group) which meant involving States and localities. Both involved greater involvement of the scientific community and bipartisan representation from the states and localities, plus leadership in the Congress and the Administration. Numerous publications resulted from NEPI and collaborating institutions and individuals. NEPI's Working Group and annual national "Reinventing EPA and Environmental Policy" Conferences in Washington drew participation of some 250-300 people and leadership from those same bodies, including Governors, Mayors, State Legislators, Chairmen of Congressional Committees, Cabinet members, Environmental Protection Agency Administrators and White House officials, environmental advocacy group, leaders, and leading legal and scientific figures. NEPI also conducted several working groups on policy implication of highly technical but policy-significant issues of Bioavailability and Sediments.
Afghanistan Engagement after Congress
While heading NEPI, Ritter, with Philip Smith, a foreign policy adviser and Afghanistan specialist in Ritter's Congressional office, assisting, founded the Afghanistan Foundation in Washington, D.C., which Ritter chaired in 1996. Smith served as Executive Director of the Afghanistan Foundation, prior to Ritter's departure from the Afghanistan Foundation in 2000. The Afghanistan Foundation was the only major effort to pay attention to the turmoil occurring in Afghanistan at the time, turmoil which eventually led to the 9-11 tragedy. The Afghanistan Foundsation as founded by Ritter ceased to exist as originally constituted when Ritter left and was morphed into the Afghanistan America Foundation with some of the same parties still engaged.
Since 2002, Ritter has been active in developing a market economy in Afghanistan as a businessman and investor in Afghan companies and public policy wise in promoting free market policies of the Afghan government through the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) (founding member) and the USAID-supported Afghan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) which later became the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) which today is the lead Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan. In context with his work at AACC, Ritter has worked with Mahmud Karzai, or Mahmood Karzai (also spelled Mahmoud Karzai). Ritter and Karzai, one of the brothers of President Hamid Karzai that includes the assassinated, Ahmad Wali Karzai and current Presidential candidate, Qayoum Karzai, jointly authored several opinion editorials in The Washington Times together.
Ritter, for the last four years has served as the President and CEO of the AACC whose annual U.S. Afghanistan Business Matchmaking Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is recognized as the world's leading Afghanistan-based, business and investment event of the year. AACC will celebrate its 10th Annual such event in December 2014.
Ritter was a resident of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley, for 25 years, prior to his divorce from his former wife Edith Ritter. He now resides in Washington, D.C., but spends significant time in Afghanistan since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Ritter was formerly married to Edith Duerksen Ritter, previously of Canada with whom he has two children, a son, Jason Alexei, and a daughter, Kristina Larissa. Ritter currently resides on Washington, DC and Warrenton, VA with his partner of 12 years, Victoria Stack.
- Donald L. Ritter at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- The Political Graveyard
- Afghanistan Foundation
- Leffler, Pete, and Cattabiani, Mario, and O'Matz, Megan, The Morning Call (5 July 1998), "Capitol Ideas: Ritter Redux" http://articles.mcall.com/1998-07-05/news/3218322_1_ritter-universities-voting
- Afghanistan Foundation, http://wwww.afghanistan-foundation.org
- Ritter, Don and Karzai, Mahmood, Washington Times (9 January 2003), "Afghanistan needs an economy; Security hinges on development." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-96276448.html
- Ritter, Don and Karzai, Mahmood, Washington Times, (19 July 2004) "Rebuilding Afghanistan; Business and the power of a free-market economy" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-119454233.html
- Official website
- A-ACC official website
- Donald Lawrence Ritter biography on the Lehigh University Engineering Heritage Initiative
- Afghanistan Foundation
- Donald L. Ritter at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- The Political Graveyard
- Afghanistan Foundation, www.afghanistan-foundation.org
|United States House of Representatives|
Fred B. Rooney
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district
Paul F. McHale, Jr.