The Panetta Institute’s Twentieth Nationwide Survey Finds That College Students Have Been Profoundly Impacted by COVID-19.   

In the spring of each year, the Panetta Institute commissions a poll of 800 students at four-year colleges across the country to study student attitudes and opinions on social trends, level of political involvement, personal career expectations and a variety of national and international issues.  The Panetta Institute uses the findings to help guide its curriculum and advance its mission, which is to encourage young people to consider careers in public service and prepare them for the challenges they’ll face as future leaders.  With more than two decades of collected data, the Panetta Institute’s Youth Engagement Survey has become a highly respected source of information for scholars and journalists interested in tracking the views of the country’s next generation of voters and decision makers.

COVID-19 Most Significant Issue for College Students 


This year’s poll was conducted from April 29 to May 5 and found 79% of the students polled said that COVID-19 is changing their life in a very or fairly major way; 70% are worried that someone in their immediate family might catch the coronavirus.

By 67% to 33% college students are more worried that the United States will move too quickly in loosening restrictions rather than taking too long. Students say that the coronavirus is the top issue for them personally at 39% with healthcare a distant second at 11%.

Majority of Students Prefer In-Person Classes 



On campus, students are generally satisfied with how their institution has handled the coronavirus, but they question the benefits of distance learning and its impact on the value of their education.




While 83% support their institution’s decisions in the face of this health emergency, a majority (58%) prefer in-person classes to online classes.










74% report that they miss attending classes in person a great deal or a fair amount, topped only by missing hanging out with friends at 84%.







64% of students have seriously considered demanding that their institutions reduce tuition while classes are being offered online, while 42% say they will seriously consider taking time off until classes return to being held in-person.





Finally, due to COVID-19, 41% say they will graduate from college later than planned, 20% will change their choice of a career or profession, and nearly half (47%) say their family has lost a significant amount of income due to COVID-19.

Assessment of Nation’s Direction 

Regarding their view of the country in general, college students describe the country as being “off on the wrong track” (56%) instead of moving in “the right direction” (44%), a slight an improvement over last year’s percentages, 64 percent and 36 percent respectively.



“While all Americans are being impacted by the coronavirus, it is clear from the survey that students in particular believe their lives are changing in a major way”, notes Institute chairman and former United States Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “Their concerns go deeper—to the direction of our country, to the health of our democracy and to the quality of our leaders.”

Indeed, when asked—how well would you say democracy is working in the United States today— 58% say very well or somewhat well while 35% say not too well and 7% not at all well.  Also, when asked about the country’s future, only 32% of students describe themselves as “more confident and secure,” with 68% saying they’re “more uncertain and concerned” – one of the most pessimistic views recorded by the survey in more than two decades.


One of the more remarkable trends over the survey’s history has been the rise in student concern about climate change. 85% of the students say that climate change is a very serious or somewhat serious problem.

“Here again we get an indication why students express such dismay with the direction of the country,” says Secretary Panetta. “With the lack of a national strategy to address climate change, students are worried about the consequences to them and the world they will inherit.

2020 Presidential Race 



Overall, students show a high level of interest in this year’s election at 61% with 84% of students being registered to vote, a figure higher than past election years.





Donald Trump remains unpopular on campus and trails Joe Biden by nearly two to one in this year’s poll at 65% of students disapproving of his performance in office.




















On every issue, the poll shows university students believe Joe Biden would do a better job than Donald Trump

Elections —  Mail In Ballots




Related to this year’s election, 57% students favor mail in ballots….









….  and a majority of them feel confident that our nation’s system of checks and balances between the three branches of government is working effectively.






Financial Distress

College students continue to experience serious personal financial distress — 56% have student loans, with an average debt exceeding $30,000.

“This kind of burden not only impacts bank accounts and the ability to make a future purchase like a home,” says Institute co-chair and CEO Sylvia M. Panetta. “It also puts serious constraints on students’ career choices after graduation.”


Public Service

Because of the Panetta Institute’s mission to promote civic involvement, our surveys always ask students about their level of interest in public service. This year’s study finds a record-tying percentage of students are interested in public service.

Level of interest to work in a program directly related to healthcare of frontline responders 57%;  in a national service program in exchange for a grant or financial assistance to help pay for college 61%; involved in activities to help their local community 67%; interested in working for a not-for-profit community organization or foundation after they graduate 43%; working in public health 41%; working in a job that is considered essential for dealing with the coronavirus 39%.



“This is a finding that boosts our spirits at the Institute,” says Mrs. Panetta, “and we’re also encouraged by students’ continuing high level of involvement in their communities.”

Click here for a more complete review of the findings.

Rescheduled 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series to the Fall

Due to the continuing public health concerns raised by the COVID-19 virus, and the likelihood that current limits on events will extend through May and possibly June, the Panetta Institute has decided to reschedule the remaining three events in its landmark Leon Panetta Lecture Series program to the Fall. 

Secretary Panetta stated: “As the nation and state continue to confront the coronavirus threat, it is likely that the current limits on public events will be extended through May and possibly June. It is our hope that based on the Governor’s thoughts that the state can gradually reopen during the summer months, we believe it is prudent to go ahead and reschedule the remaining lecture series events to the Fall.”

All tickets issued for the previously listed dates will be honored for the new dates and times. Additional tickets for the remaining three events in the 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series, scheduled for later this year at the Monterey Conference Center are available for interested parties and can be purchased by calling the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200. Individual tickets sell for $100.

Each of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series programs will be broadcast live throughout the Central Coast and the San Francisco Bay Area. The lectures are also available for viewing via live web-streaming at on the Leon Panetta Lecture Series YouTube channel, and are broadcast live on public radio.

For additional information on the lecture broadcast schedule, please call the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

New Dates in the Fall for Leon Panetta Lecture Series 2020 Events

John Kerry

James Mattis

Monday, August 31, 2020, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monterey Conference Center  – Decision 2020  – The Future of American Leadership in a Dangerous World, (originally scheduled Monday, May 18)   

John Kerry, Sixty-Eighth United States Secretary of State (2013 – 2017); and United States Senator from Massachusetts (1985-2013);

General James Mattis USMC (Ret.), Twenty-Sixth United States Secretary of Defense (2017-2018).

Monday, September 21, 2020, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monterey Conference Center Decision 2020 – An Economy on Borrowed Money, (originally scheduled for Monday, March 16)

Maya MacGuineas

Rosa Gumataotao

Todd Buchholz

Todd Buchholz, White House Director of Economic Policy (1989-1992) and Economic Analyst, CNBC;

Maya MacGuineas, President of  the Bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget;

Rosa Gumataotao Rios, Forty-Third Treasurer of the United States (2009-2016) and Former Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Monday, September 28, 2020, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monterey Conference Center – Decision 2020 – A Planet on Borrowed Time, (originally scheduled for Monday, April 20)

Rahm Emanuel

Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown, Governor of California (1975-1983) and (2011-2019);

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago (2011-2019), White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010) and United States Representative from Illinois (2003-2009);


Mary Robinson

David Wallace-Wells

  • Mary Robinson, First Woman President of Ireland (1990-1997)
  • and President of the
  • Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice
  • David Wallace-Wells, Leading American Journalist on Climate Change and the author of the 2019 book, The Uninhabitable Earth.

Panetta Institute Physically Closed During ‘Shelter In Place’ Order Yet Our Work Continues

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy currently is closed in compliance with the state of California’s orders to contain the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said, “We appreciate the community’s understanding as we take steps to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. We are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of the public, our employees and our volunteers.”

Speaking about the program changes and the work of the Institute, Secretary Leon E. Panetta said, “This is a challenging and unpredictable time. We appreciate our supporters’ understanding and cooperation as we respond to the requirements of this emergency. Though the immediate future remains uncertain, hopefully all government and private institutions, and the public will be able to effectively mobilize to contain this terrible threat as soon as possible. We remain confident that if we all do our part in this crisis, we will prevail and restore the health and strength of our community, our state and our nation. We believe the lectures are important events for our democracy.”

Innovative Afternoon Student Program Offers Students the Opportunity to Engage With National Leaders

Students from around the Monterey Bay and Northern California once again participated in the first event in 2020 Student Afternoon Program, a key segment of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.

More than 420 students were in attendance at the Monterey Conference Center on the afternoon of February 24 to listen to and ask questions of Secretary Leon Panetta and three speakers who appeared later that evening as part of the Lecture Series program.

Joining Secretary Panetta onstage before the students were Bret Baier, Chief Political Anchor, Fox News and host, Special Report with Bret Baier; David Gregory, CNN Commentator and Former Moderator, NBC’s Meet the Press; and Mara Liasson, National Correspondent, National Public Radio and Political Analyst, FOX News.

Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta commented, “Having students from all over the region attending is an opportunity for them to come face-to-face with some of the nation’s leading political and governmental leaders. The program for students is one of the most important things that we do at the Institute.”

In keeping with its mission of attracting young people to lives of public service, the Panetta Institute invites students from Central Coast and Northern California high schools, colleges, universities and the local military installations to the afternoon program. Several hundred students from around the Monterey Bay area then have the opportunity to participate in lively discussions with the featured speakers.

The Panetta Institute professors, Sonia Banks, J.D. and Richard Kezirian, Ph.D.,  present lectures that provide a historical, policy and political foundation to prepare students for the topics that are discussed by the speakers.

In addition, The Wednesday Seminar, scheduled prior to each Monday Lecture Series Student Afternoon Program, offers a specially selected group of fifteen to thirty-five students from underserved communities an advance review of the subject matter to be covered at the main event. The seminar  also provides extra time for special attention to any gaps in knowledge that these students might have.

Further, Mrs. Panetta and the Panetta Institute professors, as well as leading members of the Monterey Bay community, speak about the importance of lives of public service and the importance of active participation in our nation’s democracy.

Research Fellows Embark on Studies into Bipartisan Approaches to Today’s Biggest Issues

Seven law-school students from the Santa Clara University School of Law have begun their research on several key public-policy issues facing the nation today, from immigration and climate change to cyber-security and cost of higher education.

Fellows are studying at the Panetta Institute for the spring semester, examining and presenting realistic in-depth approaches to policy that address the concerns of competing interests. By the conclusion of the semester, each student will present a proposal that demonstrates the use of analytic tools as well as the knowledge of how policies move from the theoretical to actual implementation.

The semester began in January at the Panetta Institute with an orientation attended by the new fellows, Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Institute professors and representatives of Santa Clara University.

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law.  At the conclusion of the fall 2019 semester, a total of ninety-three law students have participated in this program.

The course of study was formulated by Secretary Leon Panetta and focuses on how public policy issues can be addressed by parties of competing interests and ultimately develop into consensus solutions acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans.

“Essentially, we are teaching the fellows the art of governing,” says Secretary Panetta. “They do research on both the Republican and the Democratic positions on major national issues and then develop a consensus on what compromise would look like.”

Each of the seven fellows have embarked on their in-depth research on the following topics:

  • Breanna Espe –U.S. TRADE POLICY/Trade with China in light of President Trump’s tariff.
  • Farouq Ghazzawi — SAUDI ARABIA/U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia in light of the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East and negotiating strategies vis-a-vis Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Victor Gonzalez — IMMIGRATION/What would comprehensive reform look like?
  • Morgen Olson — CYBER WARFARE/Preventing election interference.
  • Nenad Pesic — GUN CONTROL/Current federal laws and troubling loopholes when purchasing a gun.
  • Elias Rodriguez — CLIMATE CHANGE/Evaluating potential approaches to increased environmental regulations.
  • Robert Sisco — EDUCATION/Comprehensive reform of student loans and student debt.

Throughout the academic semester, fellows will explore the diverse political, social, and economic contexts within which public policy is developed. Fellows examine the history, foundations, and theories of public policy and gain real-world insight into the field. They examine demographic data, budget concerns and current social trends and themes to understand, analyze, and address the current policy issues that face the nation.

They are guided by Secretary Panetta and Institute professors Sonia Banks, an attorney and educator who leads the program; Fred Keeley, former California State Assemblyman; Bill Daniels, attorney and lecturer; and Richard Kezirian, an Institute professor.

“The Fellows Program focuses on research that would lead to policy solutions addressing this country’s very real problems. Panetta Institute Fellows examine not just the easy policy answers, but instead at what compromise between divided factions actually would look like,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “Participating students work directly with experienced professionals with legal, historical, educational and political perspectives.”

Failed Leadership in Iran and the United States Threatens the Peace, Secretary Panetta Writes in The Washington Post

Leaders of both the United States and Iran have failed to provide the leadership necessary to move forward toward peace in the Middle East, Secretary Panetta wrote in a Washington Post commentary on January 7.

Secretary Panetta: “Beware failed leadership.”

“As the nation begins a new year, the drums of war are beating more loudly than ever,” writes Secretary Panetta, “Yet we too easily forget, with memories of past wars fading, how they begin. History makes clear that, too often, the cause is failed leadership — struggling to exercise good judgment, miscalculating what others will do, sending mixed messages to adversaries, ignoring intelligence and relying on the false belief that power alone is enough to quickly prevail in any war.”

All the factors of failed leadership are present in the U.S.- Iranian relationship, according to Secretary Panetta. “Both sides had mistakenly assumed they could bully the other into doing what they wanted. Absent any willingness to stop and engage in serious negotiations, each side will be trapped in a cycle of punch and counterpunch.”

As for President Trump, writes Secretary Panetta, he was reluctant to respond to a series of Iranian attacks on bases and allies over the past year. Among his miscalculations:

  • Declining to act after Iran’s brazen September attack against Saudi oil facilities.
  • Suddenly withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria — abandoning Kurdish allies and allowing Turkey, Russia and Iran to expand their influence in Syria.
  • Signaling  that Middle Eastern countries should take care of their own problems.

Iran miscalculated as well:

  • Attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last June
  • Using proxy forces to go after U.S. bases and allies in the region.
  •  Firing rockets at a military base near Kirkuk on Dec. 27, killing an American contractor.

Then, writes Secretary Panetta, President Trump ordered F-15E fighters to attack Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy militia in Iraq and Syria, with reports of twenty-five people killed and fifty wounded. “Whether the White House anticipated the action’s consequences is not clear. But consequences happened.”

First, Secretary Panetta says, “Violent pro-Iranian protests endangered the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The United States responded with deployments of Marines and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division. The president then made the fateful decision to order the killing in Baghdad of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force. After rocket attacks against two U.S. bases in Iraq, the world is now waiting for the next shoe to drop.”

Soleimani’s death should not be mourned, writes Secretary Panetta. Soleimani was responsible  for killing thousands of innocent people and hundreds of U.S. military personnel over the years, “But the fact is that his killing, contrary to the president’s assertion, only increases the risk of war with Iran.”

The Iranian crisis now becomes critical. ” For the past three years, he has questioned the role of the U.S. global leadership, criticized alliances and often ignored the guidance of his more experienced military and diplomatic advisers. The reality of a potential war has caught up with his tweets.”

He concludes: “The fate of his presidency and the fate of the nation depend on whether Trump will finally get serious about the threat of war and his responsibilities as commander in chief.”

To read the complete commentary, click here.

Honorees at 2019 Jefferson-Lincoln Awards Gala Express Optimism That Cooperation Will Replace Polarization 

Featured at the twentieth Jefferson-Lincoln Dinner were, from left, Rep. Thomas Reed, former Sen. Alan Simpson, Janet Napolitano, Secretary Panetta, Mrs. Panetta and Joshua Gottheimer.

The Panetta Institute once again honored a slate of public servants at the twentieth annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards: An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service dinner and gala, held at the beautiful Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

Supporters of the Panetta Institute were treated to a sumptuous dining experience provided by a host of talented chefs led by local master chef Bert Cutino, as well as the honoring of the latest Jefferson-Lincoln Award recipients for their commitment to bipartisanship in representing the American people as well as their own constituents.

United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), University of California President Janet Napolitano, United States Representative Joshua S. Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) and United States Representative Thomas W. Reed II (R-New York) were the latest in a series of national figures to be honored not only for their years of public service, but also for their spirit of bipartisanship in representing the American people as well as their own constituents. Also appearing at the gala event were former United States Senator Alan Simpson, who accepted a Jefferson-Lincoln Award on behalf of Senator Alexander, and Garrett Ashley, president of the California State University Foundation.

UC President Janet Napolitano: “I see great hope.”

Honorees acknowledged the divisiveness of today’s governance, even as they expressed their optimism that the political dialogue can move toward more collaboration. UC President Janet Napolitano said, “I see great hope for us as I look at the upcoming generation.” She is encouraged, she said, by students that are committed to equality and policies that are based on a “fact-based foundation.”

Senator Alexander, speaking by video, commented on the “split-screen” aspect of Washington, D.C. “On one screen there is the polarization that catches the media’s attention. On the other, one would see collaboration.” He cited successful new legislation that rewrote education laws, approved a major medical research bill and a new strategy to fight opioid abuse.

Representative Reed, a member of the bipartisan “Problem Solvers” Congressional caucus, said his goal is to someday have the consensus-building group not necessary, because it would be replaced by a “Problem Solvers Congress.”

Representative Gottheimer said “America will always be greater when we remember how America was built — with bipartisan cooperation and a focus on the challenges of the time.”

Former Senator Alan Simpson: “Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

Also speaking was CSU Foundation’s Ashley, who commented that bipartisanship and leadership go hand-in-hand. “That is why CSU has supported the Panetta Institute for over twenty years, and why CSU looks forward to supporting the Panetta Institute for another twenty years.

Former Senator Simpson, who accepted the Jefferson-Lincoln Award on behalf of Alexander, recalled his career in Washington, observing: “The difference between my day and today … is the hatred between members of each party. And, hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

The Jefferson-Lincoln Awards dinner serves as the Panetta Institute’s major yearly fundraiser, benefitting Panetta Institute offerings, including Monterey County Reads, the Congressional Internship Program and the Student Leadership Program.

To inquire about sponsorship for Panetta Institute’s programs, call the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

PBS Journalist and Panetta Institute Honoree Jim Lehrer dies at 85

Jim Lehrer, the celebrated television newsman who co-founded what is now called the PBS NewsHour and who presided over twelve presidential debates, died January 23 at his home in Washington. He was 85.

Jim Lehrer was presented a Jefferson-Lincoln Award by Sylvia Panetta in 2009.

Mr. Lehrer was an honored by the Panetta Institute in 2009 with a Jefferson-Lincoln Award in honor of his setting an example for others in the journalism profession. Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said that Mr. Lehrer was “a model for fairness and reasoned discourse. He brought a civility to his work.”

In honoring Mr. Lehrer at the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards dinner, Mrs. Panetta presented the award “in recognition of his ability to challenge assumption while communicating respect and an open mind.”

Mr. Lehrer began his career as a newspaper reporter in Texas before switching to broadcast journalism in the late 1960s. He became co-anchor with newscaster Robert MacNeil in 1975. He moderated presidential debates from 1988 to 2012, and retired in 2011. He also was the author of more than twenty books.

Secretary Panetta Focuses on the Need for Literacy at Event Honoring Schools and Volunteers in Monterey County Reads Program

The award-winning Monterey County Reads entered its twenty-third year this fall, and the Panetta Institute honored those who have helped make it a success at the annual Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, September 20, 2019.

Secretary Panetta delivered the keynote address.

The celebration was held at the CSUMB University Center Ballroom, and honored the many reading volunteers and elementary school personnel that participated in the Institute’s landmark literacy initiative during the 2018-19 school year. .

In honor of their service and outstanding work in helping local elementary school children improve their reading skills, volunteers received certificates of recognition along with special pins. Participating schools also were awarded certificates noting their important involvement and support.

Providing the keynote address was Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. He praised volunteers, teachers and administrators for working together to provide literacy to the very children who need it most. “Literacy, the ability to read, is the key to the American Dream,” Secretary Panetta said.

“Thank God there are those like all of you,” he told the audience, “who care about helping our children.”

Secretary Panetta cited statistics showing increasing illiteracy nationwide, saying that thirty million people, a tenth of the population, cannot read. “It impacts the quality of our democracy. Teaching children to read is the key to our freedom.”

“Literacy is power,” Secretary Panetta said. “Knowledge is power. And providing that to the children of Monterey County is giving them a chance at succeeding in life.”

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta announced to the honorees that in the history of Monterey County Reads program volunteers have provided 134,500 hours of one-to-one reading, providing help to 19,200 children. “This afternoon we recognize a year’s worth of hard work and dedication.”

Simón Salinas, former State Senator and Monterey County supervisor, served as master of ceremonies.

“For more than two decades the residents of Monterey County have answered the call of service and given generously of their time on behalf of these children. This event gives us the opportunity to recognize their service and celebrate the impact of their good work.”

— Sylvia Panetta

“Secretary Panetta and I have always believed that the American Dream is to give our children a better life,” said Mrs. Panetta. “That’s what we did for own children and it’s what we strive to do for the students who participate in the Panetta Institute’s programs. However, this mission is most closely linked to our literacy initiative Monterey County Reads. Working together with teachers, school administrators, and the greater Monterey County community, we are helping the children in our region to have the skills they need to succeed, obtain a better a life and most importantly participate in our democracy.”

The ceremony also featured the presentation of a special Golden Threads longevity award to volunteers who have participated in the program for five and ten years.

Now in its twenty-third year, Monterey County Reads volunteers continue to work with children throughout Monterey County. These volunteers include parents, business owners, members of religious and service organizations as well as high school, college, university and military students, to name some. Volunteers receive training from literacy specialists, followed by on-site orientations before beginning regular one-to-one reading sessions with specially selected children in the early elementary grades.

 For more information regarding the event or about volunteering with Monterey County Reads, please call The Panetta Institute for Public Policy at 831-582-4200.

2019 Congressional Interns Return from Washington, D.C.; Celebrated Program Concludes its Twenty-First Year

Students participating in the Panetta Institute’s twenty-first Congressional Internship Program have returned to California from Congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-six students served one semester as interns in the California offices of the United States House of Representatives.

While in Washington, participants also attended weekly seminars in Washington held exclusively for them by the Institute. These seminars were led by Republican and Democratic members of Congress, top government officials and experts in a variety of fields, including the federal budget, healthcare, immigration, foreign policy and more.

Among the experts presenting to interns in Washington, D.C. were Dr. Pat Griffin, former assistant to the president for legislative affairs and partner, GriffinWilliams, LLC; Secretary Panetta; Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy and co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security; Tom Daschle, former United States Senate Majority Leader (D), South Dakota; Thomas Wickham, J.D., parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives; Alan Blinder, Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University; and Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

Interns also met with United States Representative Jimmy Panetta (D), Monterey, and toured the United States Supreme Court with Jamil N. Jaffer of the Antonin Scalia Law school.

The 2019 class of interns were nominated by the presidents of twenty-three CSU campuses, as well as Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University, and interviewed by Panetta Institute senior staff.

The Congressional Internship Program began in August with a two-week orientation. The many speakers addressing students at the intensive two-week program included Dan Balz, best-selling author and chief correspondent for The Washington Post; Thomas Wickham, parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives; and Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for the Secretary of Defense and director of the CIA.

Secretary Panetta taught a number of courses, along with Panetta Institute professors.

The semester-long public service experience was developed by Secretary and Mrs. Panetta and is sponsored by the Panetta Institute. It is widely considered to be one of the finest congressional intern programs in the nation.

Dan Balz, left, of The Washington Post, discusses the press’s role with Secretary Panetta.

Secretary Panetta said that the Congressional Internship Program gives students an opportunity  to learn how to channel their interest in public service by working in Congressional offices, directly participating in the democratic process.

“Our 2019 national survey of college students found that a majority describe the country as being ‘off on the wrong track,’ even though most of them rate the state of the economy as excellent or good,” said Secretary Panetta.

“Clearly, when students think about the condition of the country, they’re looking beyond just national prosperity and their own economic prospects,” Secretary Panetta continued. “Their concerns go deeper, to the health of our democracy and the quality of our leaders.”

“At the Panetta Institute we are encouraged by this finding and are committed to transferring this enthusiasm to a new generation of leaders,” Secretary Panetta added. “Our intern program gives these young men and women the training and resources they need to work in Washington and participate in our democracy.”

“Your program changed my life. I continue to see the benefits and the countless ways the Congressional Internship Program impacted me. I have spent my career in government, campaigns, policy and direct service. I am constantly reminded of ‘Panetta Lessons’ (as our cohort called them.) The Panetta Institute shines as an example of how we should all serve.”

–Christina Barron, 2006 intern


A  2017 intern, Emily Yonan of Saint Mary’s College of California, described her experience this way: “This internship has definitely increased my interest in pursuing a career in public service. Thank you for everything you do. None of what you did went unnoticed.”

Click here for more information about the Congressional Internship Program.

Panetta Institute Hosts Twentieth Annual Student Leadership Seminar for University Student Body Officers from Across California

Student leaders from throughout California began an eight-day program on Sunday, June 9, 2019 at The Panetta Institute for Public Policy for the twentieth annual Leadership Seminar. The objectives of the seminar are to teach young men and women about leadership principles, strategies and practices; to send them back to their campuses and communities as more effective leaders; and to encourage them to pursue lives of public service.

Students in the Leadership Program heard from nearly two dozen speakers during their eight-day session.

Following a full seven days of seminars, on Saturday, June 15, 2019, the participants gave presentations on their personal perceptions of leadership and their plans to apply the lessons they have learned to Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Panetta Institute professors and staff, and fellow student body officers.

Originally developed by a distinguished group of officials and visiting scholars, including former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; former U.S. Representative Barbara Kennelly; Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam of Harvard; the late John Gardner, formerly of Stanford; the late Alice Rivlin, former chair of the Federal Reserve, the Education for Leadership in Public Service course reaches out to young leaders and gives them the tools they need to succeed.

Twenty-six student body presidents and other student leaders from throughout the California State University system as well as Saint Mary’s College of California attended.

“It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you to all the staff that made the Leadership Seminar possible, not just for the week, but for the months beforehand that it takes to prepare for us to attend.”

— Aaron Castaneda, 2019 attendee 

This unique educational program featured classes on topics such as: leadership in Sacramento; in higher education; at the local, city and county levels; military leadership; leadership in sports; historical and ethical perspectives on leadership; leadership in criminal justice; media and journalism; community and grass-roots organizing; leadership challenges in the 21st century; and a discussion and exercise on consensus building featuring former elected officials from both political parties. There were also special sessions on conflict resolution and consensus building.

Among the program’s nearly two dozen presentations, events and exercises were discussions led by Institute Chairman and former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta. Secretary Panetta spoke to the students on putting leadership theories into practice, and what he considers the top ten qualities of leadership. He also heard from the students on their leadership objectives.  The Institute also included a seminar on cyber security, which focused on steps young leaders can take to protect themselves and others against cyber crime.

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said, “Speakers in the program offer inspiration as well as practical steps that the students can take now and in the future to make a difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of others.”

“In our recent national poll,” explained Secretary Panetta, “we found that students are deeply dissatisfied with the quality of the country’s political leadership.  The purpose of the Leadership Seminar is to inspire students to transform that negative opinion into an interest in bringing positive change to our democracy through active participation and leadership. We want to ensure that these students become involved in the political process at every level and we want to foster a generation committed to lifelong participation in public service.”

Results of 2019 Youth Civic Engagement Survey Find College Students Deeply Worried About the Country’s Direction Despite Positive Views of the Economy

In its latest nationwide survey of college students, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy has found a striking contrast between students’ generally positive impression of the United States economy and their very negative view of the country’s direction overall.

By the widest margin since the survey began asking the question in 2004, students describe the country as being “off on the wrong track” (64 percent) instead of moving in “the right direction” (36 percent), even though a record 59 percent of them rate the state of the economy as excellent or good and 71 percent express confidence that they’ll be able to find an acceptable job upon graduation.

“Clearly, when students think about the condition of the country, they’re looking beyond just national prosperity and their own economic prospects,” notes Institute chairman and former United States Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “Their concerns go deeper, to the health of our democracy and the quality of our leaders.”

Indeed, the wide-ranging survey shows that student satisfaction with “the quality of the country’s political leadership” has dropped from 48 percent in the spring of 2016 to 34 percent today, and a majority of students (56 percent) see the high-performing economy as operating unfairly.

Also, when asked about the country’s future, only 31 percent of students describe themselves as “more confident and secure,” with 69 percent saying they’re “more uncertain and concerned” – the most pessimistic view recorded by the survey in more than two decades.

The Panetta Institute commissions this poll in the spring of each year to help guide its curriculum and advance its mission, which is to encourage young people to consider careers in public service and prepare them for the challenges they’ll face as future leaders. Conducted by Hart Research Associates, the study explores student attitudes and opinions on many topics, including social trends, level of political involvement, personal career expectations and a variety of national and international issues.

One of the more remarkable trends over the survey’s history has been the rise in student concern about climate change. When presented with a list of ten major issues facing the country, college students now pick “addressing climate change” as their number one priority.

“Here again we get an indication why students express such dismay with the direction of the country,” says Secretary Panetta. “With the lack of a national strategy to address climate change, students are worried about the consequences to them and the world they will inherit.”

Click here for a more complete review of the findings.

Monterey County Reads Analysis Suggests Positive Effect

A statistical analysis of the Panetta Institute’s longest running program, Monterey County Reads, appears to demonstrate a positive effect on students’ post-test scores.

Assessment data for the 2017-2018 school year was analyzed by experts at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, who reported the improvement, while also acknowledging that additional impacts, such as regular course work, influence from parents and even educational television, also can drive test score data.

“On the whole,” the report concludes, “the positive statistical difference in pre- and post-test scores demonstrates that the Monterey County Reads program is a benefit to the students.”

Monterey County Reads is offered to public elementary school students enrolled in first through third grade throughout Monterey County. This program especially addresses the needs of the lower socio-economic level of the county’s population by enlisting community volunteers come into the school to read one-to-one with the students.

During the twenty-two year history of Monterey County Reads, the Panetta Institute has analyzed data measuring children’s progress in reading. The Institute works to assure high quality program outcomes by conducting orientations at the beginning of the year with school site teams at each participating school, and performing pre- and post -assessments for every participating student.

Monterey County Reads is just one leg of a strategy to help the students who need assistance the most,” said Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “The commitment of teachers, other school officials and especially parents are part of the overall picture to addressing the very real need for literacy.”

“This report appears to indicate that Monterey County Reads is helping,” Mrs. Panetta added. “But it also demonstrates that schools, parents and the community all play a role.”

Global ‘Flashpoints’ Call Out for Better Leadership Here at Home, Secretary Panetta Says

A number of potentially dangerous flashpoints threaten the security of the United States and the world, said Secretary Leon E. Panetta at a wide-ranging talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C, on April 25. Secretary Panetta appeared at the event with John J. Hamre, CSIS president and CEO and by Alice Hunt Friend, CSIS senior fellow.

Secretary Panetta and CSIS Fellow Alice Hunt Friend.

“My fear is we’re not paying enough attention to the potential of any one of these flashpoints turning into a major confrontation,” Secretary Panetta said. “I’ve commented that it reminded me a lot of that period before World War I, and there were some of the same factors: territorial disputes; alliances that were not working as well as they should; terrorism; and, frankly, failed statesmanship, failed leadership in dealing with that, and thinking that somehow none of those flashpoints would suddenly turn into World War I.”

Secretary Panetta pointed to a number of areas of concern — and especially his worry that the political leadership of the United States is not meeting the challenges that the country faces.

Among the flashpoints:

  • Terrorism: “We just saw what happened in Sri Lanka. ISIS remains a real threat, along with al-Qaida, along with Boko Haram, along with al-Shabaab. These are real threats to our – to our security.”
  • Failed states in the Middle East: “We’ve seen what happened in Syria. We’ve seen what happened with Libya, with Yemen. These become the breeding grounds for terrorism in the future as well, and instability in the Middle East.”
  • Rogue nations: “North Korea and Iran represent threats to stability.”
  • Russia: “We have a much more aggressive Russia with Putin, seeking not only control of the Crimea, impacting on the Ukraine, deploying forces to Syria, and conducting probably one of the most bold and sweeping cyberattacks on our own election process in this country.”
  • China: “China is asserting its militarization of the South China Sea, developing its capabilities, and frankly, filling a lot of the vacuums that the United States has made through its whole Belt and Road Initiative.”
  • Cyber: “Cyber is the battlefield of the future and has the potential to literally destroy our country. You don’t have to use an F-35. You don’t have to send aB-2 bomber. You don’t have to put boots on the ground. You can simply sit at a computer and deploy a sophisticated virus that could literally paralyze our computer systems, our electric grid, our financial systems, our government systems, our banking systems – anything that runs by a computer.”

Making the situation worse, Secretary Panetta said, is a United States leadership that seems to be shrinking in its role as a world leader. Part of the diminishment is by design, he said, but a large part is due to questionable management and the lack of permanent leadership for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“It’s very difficult to have civilian leadership at the Pentagon be on an acting basis, to have an acting secretary. Not only there, but at DHS and elsewhere. When you have an acting leader as opposed to having a full-fledged secretary of defense, make no mistake about it, it impacts on the morale of the institution and of the troops, because there’s a sense that an acting secretary is only temporary and not confirmed by the Senate.”

Secretary Panetta expressed concern about both the president and the political leaders in Congress. “I’m concerned about the president and some of the things he does that politicize the military – talking about his military, urging troops to lobby the Congress, using the military – deploying the military to border areas as part of a political statement,” he said.

As for members of Congress, he said, “I’m not so sure that today they think governing is good politics. They think stopping the other side is good politics. I’ve never seen Washington as partisan as it is today.”

Secretary Panetta: “Leadership is critical”

Secretary Panetta ended his talk by discussing the role of leadership, a founding principle in his creation of The Panetta Institute For Public Policy.

“Leadership is critical to everything we’ve talked about. I tell the students at the Panetta Institute that we govern either by leadership or crisis. If leadership is there and willing to take the risk associated with leadership, then we can avoid crisis. But if leadership is not there, we will inevitably govern by crisis, and my biggest concern today is we are, largely, a country that is governing by crisis and that undermines trust in our very institutions and in our very democracy.”

Secretary Panetta also touched on other subjects in his wide-ranging talk:

  • National Service: “All young people ought to give two years of their life to some kind of national service to this country. I don’t care whether it’s education, or conservation, or health care, or education – whatever it is, the military – give two years of your life back to this country. Serve this country. And then, you know, we can provide a GI bill with benefits, rather than trying to figure out how we forgive student loans or, you know, give free education. You know, if these people serve, we ought to be willing to provide GI benefits to allow them to get a good education. That’s the way to do it. It’s in return for service to the country.”
  • Building Global Alliances: “There’s no question that we are a strong nation. But to then take that strength and be able to convert it into the opportunity to provide necessary leadership so you can build those alliances based on the same values – I mean, what makes us strong as a country are our values, who we are. That’s critical. We need to build alliances. We need to, obviously, strengthen NATO. We need to build an alliance with the ASEAN countries in Asia. We need to build alliances in Latin and Central America. We need to build alliances with our moderate Arab friends in the Middle East and Israel. I mean, the ability to create those alliances is not easy. It requires U.S. leadership. And who provides that U.S. leadership in helping to build those alliances? The State Department, our diplomats, along with our military commanders, working together. That is what can provide for the security of the United States in the future. And if we undercut one of those capabilities, if we weaken it, then we are weakening our ability to provide that necessary leadership.”
  • Transparency in Government: “I think it’s important obviously to make clear to the public what we are doing. Look, obviously there are classified areas that you’re not going to share. But at the same time, I think the public is entitled to know what is taking place. It’s the men and women in uniform that you are putting on the line, who are putting their lives on the line. I think the American people need to understand the sacrifices that are being made and the decisions that are being made that impact on our national security. And to somehow to try to avoid being transparent with the American people I think undermines support for the very department and for the very missions that the department has to implement. So I am a believer in transparency. I’m a believer that, you know, we deal – you deal with the press, because it’s the press that then presents that information to the American people.”

Research Fellows Complete Their Research into Bipartisan Approaches to Today’s Biggest Issues

Six law-school students from the Santa Clara University Law School have completed their studies into several key public-policy issues facing the nation today, from immigration and abortion rights to cyber-security and housing.

Fellows studied at the Panetta Institute for an entire semester, researching and presenting realistic in-depth approaches to policy that address the concerns of competing interests. By the conclusion of the semester, each student presented a proposal that demonstrated the use of analytic tools as well as the knowledge of how policies move from the theoretical to actual implementation.

Fellows from Santa Clara University Law School gathered for an orientation luncheon with Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Institute professors and visitors from Santa Clara University .

The semester began on January 11 at the Panetta Institute with an orientation luncheon attended by the new fellows, Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Institute professors and representatives of Santa Clara University.

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law.  Since then, eighty-seven law students have completed the program. The course of study was formulated by Secretary Leon Panetta and focuses on how public policy issues can be addressed by parties of competing interests and ultimately develop into consensus solutions acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans.

“Essentially, we are teaching the fellows the art of governing,” says Secretary Panetta. “They do research on both the Republican and the Democratic positions on major national issues and then develop a consensus on what compromise would look like.”

Each of the six fellows did their in-depth research on the following topics:

  • Elaine Chou — CYBER-SECURITY/Regulation of social media.
  • Joseph Eisenberg — FOREIGN POLICY/Withdrawal from Syria, Involvement versus Isolationism
  • Sharon Morales — IMMIGRATION REFORM/Enforcement, Legalization, Employer Regulations, Worker Rights
  • Maritza Ponce — SOCIAL POLICY/Legalization or Limitation of Abortion Rights, Regulation of Abortion and Political Realities of the Issue.
  • Jared Renteria — HOUSING/Establishing Affordable Housing and Addressing Homelessness — the role of government and the private sector.
  • Erica Skeels — DISABILITY POLICY/ Enforcement Challenges of the Americans With Disability Act, Benefits, Reasonable Accommodations and Enforcement.

Throughout the academic semester, fellows explored the diverse political, social, and economic contexts within which public policy is developed. Fellows examined the history, foundations, and theories of public policy and gain real-world insight into the field. They examined demographic data, budget concerns and current social trends and themes to understand, analyze, and address the current policy issues that face the nation.

They were guided by Secretary Panetta and Institute professors Sonia Banks, an attorney and educator who leads the program; Fred Keeley, former California State Assemblyman; Bill Daniels, attorney and lecturer; and Richard Kezirian, an Institute professor.

“The Fellows Program focuses on research that would lead to policy solutions addressing this country’s very real problems. Panetta Institute Fellows examine not just the easy policy answers, but instead at what compromise between divided factions actually would look like,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “Participating students work directly with experienced professionals with legal, historical, educational and political perspectives.”

Panetta Institute Interns Recount the Many Lessons Learned While Working in Washington

Two participants in the 2018 class of the Panetta Institute’s Congressional Internship Program have shared their stories about what it’s like to be part of the celebrated program by telling news outlets of their experience.

Tyler Burch, a student from California State University at San Marcos, told the Escondido Grapevine about his firsthand experience of working in a Congressional office. “I don’t think people who don’t work directly with government have an understanding of how much they do,” Mr. Burch said in the February 1 edition of the Grapevine.

“I feel like when I talk to people, they expect that Congress members have staffs that are so big. But they don’t realize your congressional staff in a D.C. office is eight people – and they do everything that has to do with the Congress member’s legislative agenda.”

Another intern, Tori Hust of CSU Fullerton, told the Orange County Register in its February 6 edition how as an intern to then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D) San Francisco, she stood among the protesters during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings and with the thousands of people lined up waiting to pay their final respects to the late Sen. John McCain.

Intern Tori Hust with Secretary and Mrs. Panetta

“There was never a slow day in that office,” said Ms. Hust, who  was in the nation’s capital from August 18 to November 3. She told the Register that she  worked with senior advisers on health care and the budget and sat in on two “kitchen cabinet” meetings, a rarity for interns.

“For me, it was really interesting to see firsthand some of the biggest issues Congress is facing,” Ms. Hust, a third-year student with a major in political science a minor in public policy.

Mr. Burch also reported that the internship gave him the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the his office. His first duties were providing tours to visiting constituents, reported the Grapevine. But it wasn’t long before his responsibilities expanded.

“Once they get to trust you a little bit more, then they do things like send you to congressional hearings,” he said. “You take notes and write up memos to the rest of the office or whoever is interested in that legislative area.

“It involved a lot of writing. I appreciated that because it gives you a lot of experience with legislation that you don’t get otherwise. …It was really nice because I started dealing with the legislative side, which is really what I wanted to learn.”

Both Ms. Hust and Mr. Burch praised the program for its emphasis on non-partisanship.

“That is something the Panetta Institute really focuses on — nonpartisan policies and really working across the aisle, Ms. Hurst said. “(Secretary Panetta) is a person who could work across the aisle to get things done.”

Tyler Burch in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Burch, who worked in the office of Congressman Alan Lowenthal, (D) Long Beach, said he was comfortable working with either party. His interest in environmental policy as it pertains to economics led to his placement in the office of Lowenthal, who is on multiple environmental committees.

Mr. Burch said he is considering working in a political office for a year after graduating and eventually applying to law school. Ms. Hust said she plans to apply to universities where she can go to law school and get a master’s degree in public policy. She has an interest in election law and transparency.

Summing up his experience, Mr. Burch recalled, “It was incredible We stayed a 10-minute walk from the Capitol building. Every morning, myself and whoever in the cohort had to go in earlier than the other interns – not all offices start at the same time – we would wake up at seven a.m. and walk from where we were staying to the Capitol. It was really cool.”

Secretary Panetta Receives Prestigious Honor from West Point Association of Graduates

Secretary Panetta reviews the West Point’s Corps of Cadets as 2018 Thayer Award recipient.                                                                                                                         Photos by Allyse Pulliam, Courtesy of the Middletown Times Herald-Record

Secretary Panetta received the 2018 Sylvanus Thayer Award on October 4, 2018 from the West Point Association of Graduates — the group’s top award for a United States citizen other than a West Point graduate.

West Point Association of Graduates Board Chairman Lt. Gen. Joseph E. DeFrancisco, (USA, Ret.) Class of 1965, said, “Having Secretary Panetta forever associated with West Point through the Thayer Award speaks directly to its purpose of recognizing a citizen of the United States, other than a West Point graduate, whose outstanding character, accomplishments, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives. His life of service to our nation truly exemplifies the West Point values of ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’”

Secretary Panetta, in his acceptance speech at West Point, said he accepted it not for himself but “on behalf of the winner of the award sixteen years ago.” In 2002, the award was presented not to an individual but to the American Soldier at large.

Secretary Panetta told a gathering of West Point graduates, “Every time I signed a deployment order, I said a silent Hail Mary that they would all return.”

The Thayer Award is named for Col. Sylvanus Thayer, the fifth superintendent of West Point. Thayer is known as the Father of the Military Academy because he established many practices and traditions that continue to this day. The award is presented each year to an American citizen whose life of service to the nation embodies the West Point motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Secretary Panetta meets with West Point’s Brigade Staff.                         Photo by Allyse Pullium, Times Herald-Record

Lt. Gen. DeFrancisco added: “The West Point Association of Graduates is honored to present the Thayer Award to Secretary Panetta. His distinguished public service career has spanned five decades, starting in 1964 as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, to time as a Congressman, to leading several national agencies and serving in high-ranking positions for two U.S. Presidents, through today as Chairman of an institute devoted to attracting men and women to lives of public service.

Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, West Point’s superintendent, said Secretary Panetta’s career was clearly undertaken in response to President John F. Kennedy’s call in his 1961 inaugural address to “ask what you can do for your country.”

“Thank you for your example of being a leader of character,” Lt. Gen. Williams said.

Secretary Panetta told the cadets they are becoming leaders at an especially dangerous time in the world, and mentioned terrorism, a new chapter in the Cold War with Russia, increased tensions with China and cyber attacks. “If the United States fails to provide leadership in a troubled world, no one else will,” he said.

Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute to John McCain as an ‘American Patriot’

Secretary Panetta attended the funeral service in Washington and paid tribute to the life and service of Senator John McCain in an article for Fortune magazine’ on August 29, 2018, calling him “one of the great American patriots of our time.”

“His life was the very definition of patriotism,” wrote Secretary Panetta, “bravery in battle, devotion to country, faith in the values of our democracy, and the courage to fight and keep fighting for a better America.”

The relationship between the two goes back to 1982, when then-Congressman McCain joined Secretary Panetta in the House of Representatives.

“John was never the easiest person to get along with but then again, no patriot is. Their first concern is not whether they are loved, but whether our country is loved.”
                                            — Secretary Panetta

Secretary Panetta soon figured out that the new congressman was out of the ordinary. “Even after over five years as a POW in Vietnam, he still had the midshipman’s ‘raise hell’ attitude that earned him so many demerits at the Naval Academy. He picked fights with his colleagues almost coming to blows on the floor of the House. He challenged his leadership leading the charge to reverse the Catastrophic Health Care Bill supported by President Reagan. Whatever the cause, he was both maverick and fighter.”

There was more to him than that. “There was a genuine humanity and good humor. He spent hours visiting with former Congressman Mo Udall, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. There were moments on the House floor after an emotional debate when there were tears in his eyes. But it was that mix of emotion, boldness and caring that served him well in Congress and got him elected to the Senate.”

Secretary Panetta also saw McCain’s rise to leadership. “I personally witnessed his influence in the world – defending America when necessary, but always standing by his view that America must lead. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he supported a strong defense and led the passage of some of the most important reforms in seven decades at the Department of Defense. He was tough, fair and totally devoted to a bipartisan approach to national defense.”

Secretary Panetta worked closely with Senator McCain on matters of intelligence. “As Director of the CIA, I personally briefed him on our most sensitive operations and always, after a number of intense questions, he gave his support. He believed that intelligence was critical to our national defense.”

As for a commitment to bipartisanship, Secretary Panetta recalled, “In the last few years, we both commiserated over the partisanship that was slowly eroding the ability of Congress to get anything done. He spoke of the importance of governing when The Panetta Institute for Public Policy honored both he and Senator Russell Feingold for their bipartisan work on election financing reforms.”

(Senators McCain and Feingold were honored in 2002 at the Panetta Institute’s Jefferson-Lincoln Awards: An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service gala.)

“He hated political gridlock. In many ways, I believe his now famous thumbs down on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was his way of saying he believed loyalty to country was more important than loyalty to party.”

Secretary Panetta concluded: “I last saw John in Washington when he was in a wheelchair. We met in the Capitol to discuss our mutual concerns about North Korea. He still had that sparkle in his eye that made clear he had not lost his will to fight to the end. John was never the easiest person to get along with but then again, no patriot is. Their first concern is not whether they are loved, but whether our country is loved. Because of his devotion to the nation, he is, and always will be, an American patriot.”

Storybooks Distributed to Students as Monterey County Reads Marks Another Year

Storybooks are prepared for distribution by the Panetta Institute’s Geana Ruiz and Tyler Crocker.

Nearly eight hundred books were distributed again last year to children participating in the twenty-first year of the Monterey County Reads, the Panetta Institute’s award-winning program that includes thousands of volunteers committed to fighting illiteracy in Monterey County.

As the school year came to an end, the storybooks were distributed in recognition of students’ efforts in reading improvement. Monterey County Reads serves ten school districts throughout Monterey County.

“It was so nice to see the students’ progress and pride in their improved skills.”

–Martha Delaney, Volunteer,
Fremont Elementary School,

The cumulative numbers of storybooks distributed in Monterey County Reads‘ twenty-one year history demonstrates the breadth of this program. In that time, nearly 18,000 books have been distributed to the children participating in the program.

This program specifically addresses the needs of the lower socio-economic level of Monterey County’s population with a focus on Spanish-speaking and other ethnic minorities.

The Institute has continued to broaden its focus on community volunteers; for the 2017-18 school year, 169 volunteers participated. Reaching out to more community organizations has had a positive ripple effect. Community members typically belong to more than one organization, and when Panetta Institute staff recruits from one group, interested members often spread the word to other organizations. The Panetta Institute has also extended its reach in the Salinas area of Monterey County where there is a great literacy need.

Panetta Institute Continues Tradition of Honoring Public Servants Who Fight to Protect our Democracy

Secretary Panetta: “We are very proud of the strong legacy of the Jefferson-Lincoln alumni. Their work on behalf of our democracy is the truest representation of love of country.”

In awarding its Jefferson-Lincoln Awards each year, the Panetta Institute continues a tradition of honoring public officials and dedicated journalists who continue to fight for the most important tenets of American democracy, standing up for compromise, principled leadership and transparency in governing.

More than fifty individuals have been recognized since the first program in 2000. Many of them have continued to serve our democracy with honor and a commitment to principle.

Speaking at the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards dinner, Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said, “Tonight’s honorees join an impressive list of other recipients who continue to do the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards proud in their work on behalf of our democracy. We continue to be proud of their leadership.”

One of the Institute’s earliest honorees was the late John McCain, United States Senator (R), Arizona. A 2002 recipient, Senator McCain was recognized alongside United State Senator Russell Feingold (D), Wisconsin for their landmark bipartisan campaign finance legislation. Senator McCain had spoken out about the need for healthcare reform to be a bipartisan process. Together with 2005 Jefferson-Lincoln Award winner Senator Susan Collins (R), Maine and 2016 recipient Senator Lisa Murkowski (R), Alaska, the three legislators were the only Republican votes against the Graham-Cassidy Bill which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act.

Senators Collins and Murkowski were equally passionate about the need to vote on principle rather than party loyalty. Reflecting on the historic vote, Senator Collins commented, “We must work together across party lines to develop healthcare reform and we must stop allowing partisanship to be a preexisting condition that prevents meaningful health reform.” Senator Murkowski withstood aggressive persuasion from the Trump administration and the president himself regarding her vote on the legislation, before eventually voting against the bill. Most recently, she led a bipartisan coalition in a visit to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands to assess recovery from extreme hurricane damage.

John McCain

Dianne Feinstein

Lisa Murkowski

Susan Collins

Robert Mueller







Another 2005 Jefferson-Lincoln Award winner, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has resisted pressure from the more extreme factions of her party in refusing to back the impeachment of President Trump. She instead called for “patience” over his presidency and has worked to take a measured and serious approach to her work on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

In this effort, she is joined by Robert Mueller, a 2016 Jefferson-Lincoln honoree whose selection as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation was praised by members of both parties. For himself, Mr. Mueller has assumed his work with the seriousness it merits saying simply, “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”

Wolf Blitzer

David Brooks

Judy Woodruff

Mrs. Panetta also paid tribute to past journalism honorees like David Brooks, Judy Woodruff, Wolf Blitzer and others who continue to inform the public and set the examples of the importance of a free press.

Reflecting on the legacy of the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards and their import Panetta Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta remarked, “We have always seen the purpose of the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards as two-fold. First, we want to recognize and celebrate those public servants who put a commitment to good governing above loyalty to party. Second, we want to illuminate their achievements so that their work can serve as an inspiration to others. We are very proud of the strong legacy our Jefferson-Lincoln alumni are creating. Their work on behalf of our democracy is the truest representation of love of country.”

Panetta Institute Research Report Makes a Case for an Enhanced National Service Program

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy has released a study of national service programs, citing their extensive benefits to the country and urging expansion of service opportunities to all Americans.

In the report’s introduction, former defense secretary Leon E. Panetta, who chairs the Institute, states: “It is important that we restore a sense of duty to the nation in all of our people. Like our nation’s founders, we believe that voluntary service to country is essential to a successful democracy. National service can strengthen our citizens’ love of country and instill in our youth a needed sense of purpose.”

The study examines a wide range of national service programs such as AmeriCorps, VISTA, the Peace Corps, Job Corps and City Year, calling them highly cost-effective in providing needed services while giving participants a work experience that can benefit them for the rest of their lives.

The study was conducted by the Institute’s Research Fellows – upper-level students from the University of Santa Clara School of Law. They looked at the history of military and non-military service in the United States and abroad and at efforts to promote a service ethic.

As summarized in the report, some of the benefits of a broad-based national service system include:

  • instilling in participants a sense of duty, purpose and engagement to the nation;
  • helping students earn the money to assist with their education;
  • giving young people useful skills that can lead to better jobs in the future;
  • providing cost-effective voluntary assistance in disaster response, conservation, education, health care, help for the elderly and other service efforts; and
  • building leadership abilities and a sense of shared citizenship by bringing people of different backgrounds together in support of an important goal.

Secretary Panetta: “National service can strengthen our citizens’ love of country and instill in our youth a needed sense of purpose.”

The report points out that nearly three thousand bipartisan mayors and county leaders across the country are on record in support of national service and its positive impact in their communities. The idea historically has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress and the White House. Each of our last four presidents – two Republicans and two Democrats – called for an expansion of opportunities to serve.

And yet, the study notes, America’s national service programs are chronically under-funded, with the great majority of qualified applicants being denied the opportunity to serve.

In its recommendations, the report stresses the role of the private sector in helping to fund national service programs at the community level. It urges significant efforts to mobilize further financial support and highlights the benefits of national service initiatives.

“We are deeply grateful to the men and women that serve our nation in uniform,” said Secretary Panetta. “But it is important that all young people are given the opportunity to serve in some capacity. That fact is that the national service structure is basically already in place, but for each position filled, a dozen individuals are turned away because of inadequate funding and support. We as citizens and policymakers have a responsibility to provide those opportunities and reestablish service as a way of life in this country.”

The full report is available here.

Congressional Intern Says Program ‘Changed Me as a Citizen’

California State University, Channel Islands student Jenna Kushigemachi describes her experience in the 2016 Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program and states that it “changed me as a citizen” after spending eleven weeks on Capitol Hill.

CSUCI student Jenna Kushigemachi with Secretary Leon Panetta and Sylvia Panetta.

“It was really spectacular — I got to work on actual policy,” Ms. Kushigemachi told the college’s Channel Magazine in its Spring, 2017 edition. “I drafted and went to congressional briefings. I got up every day and worked in the Capitol Building.”

“We got to learn from the experts,” she said. “I came back with much more knowledge than most people have. You don’t get that experience anywhere else.”

Ms. Kushigemachi, a graduating art and digital media student, said her experience in the Congressional Internship Program expanded her horizons. “I really wanted to show that art is what I study in school, but not all that I can do,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and if you have the opportunity you can’t miss it.”

In addition to the lectures and presentations that are part of the program, Ms. Kushigemachi said, working as an intern in the office of Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California) presented her with the opportunity of learning how business is done in Washington. “I’ve walked through where they do interviews,” she said. “I sat in those offices every day for three months. I’ve passed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in the hallway.”

“It changed me as a citizen and I understand the impact of participating” she said. “It really increases your level of patriotism, passing your country’s leaders in the hallway on the Hill.”

Here is a link to the Channel Magazine article.

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