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Donald L. Ritter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Donald L. Ritter
Don Ritter.png
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 15th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byFred B. Rooney
Succeeded byPaul McHale
Personal details
Donald Lawrence Ritter

(1940-10-21) October 21, 1940 (age 80)
Manhattan, New York
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Edith Duerksen Ritter
Alma materLehigh University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Donald Lawrence Ritter (born October 21, 1940) is a former 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.

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, and 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 (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963 and an Sc.D. (Doctor of Science in Physical Metallurgy) from MIT in 1966. He worked as a research assistant at MIT (while obtaining his doctorate) from 1961 to 1966.

Academic and private work

After graduation from MIT 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 five-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 State Representative Paul McHale 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 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, while his district was ancestrally Democratic, it had a considerable tinge of social conservatism. Also, it had a significant number of Hungarian, Polish, Slovak and Ukrainian-Americans who supported Ritter's strong anti-Communism. Partly due to this, after his initial run for Congress, he was reelected six more times without serious difficulty. For example, even in 1982 and 1986, which were bad years for Republicans nationally, Ritter was reelected with 57 percent and 56 percent of the vote, respectively.

Congressional initiatives on Afghanistan

Ritter speaks fluent Russian and had studied Russian Language and Literature, culture and history as a hobby while at MIT. He was introduced to Russian language study by the pioneering teacher, Alexander (Isaacovich) Lipson who was teaching at Harvard and MIT 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

From 1993 to 2002, 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

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.[1] 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.[2] 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 (also spelled Mahmoud or Mahmood Karzai). Ritter and Karzai (a brother of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the assassinated Ahmad Wali Karzai and the controversial Qayum Karzai), jointly authored several opinion editorials in The Washington Times.[3][4]

Ritter has served for four years 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.[citation needed] AACC celebrated its 10th Annual such event in December 2014.

Personal life

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 married to Edith Duerksen Ritter, previously of Canada with whom he has two children, a son, Jason Alexei, and a daughter, Kristina Larissa.

Ritter resides in Washington, D.C. and Warrenton, Virginia with his partner of 12 years, Victoria Stack.


  • United States Congress. "Donald L. Ritter (id: R000277)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • The Political Graveyard
  • Afghanistan Foundation


  1. ^ Leffler, Pete, and Cattabiani, Mario, and O'Matz, Megan, The Morning Call (5 July 1998), "Capitol Ideas: Ritter Redux"
  2. ^ Afghanistan Foundation, Archived 2019-01-30 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Ritter, Don and Karzai, Mahmood, Washington Times (9 January 2003), "Afghanistan needs an economy; Security hinges on development."
  4. ^ Ritter, Don and Karzai, Mahmood, Washington Times, (19 July 2004) "Rebuilding Afghanistan; Business and the power of a free-market economy"

External links

Additional Sources

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Fred B. Rooney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district

Succeeded by
Paul McHale
This page was last edited on 27 November 2020, at 18:11
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