Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Former Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Admiral Michael Mullen Honored at 2018 Jefferson-Lincoln Awards Gala

The Panetta Institute honored two governors and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  at the nineteenth annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards: An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service dinner and gala, at the beautiful Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, on Saturday, November 10.

From left: Secretary Panetta, Christine Todd Whitman, John Hickenlooper, Sylvia Panetta and Mike Mullen.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D), former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) and Admiral Michael Mullen, USN, were the latest in a series of national figures who have been honored not only for their years of public service, and for their spirit of bipartisanship in representing the American people as well as their own constituents.

Commenting on the honorees, Institute Chairman and Co-Founder Leon E. Panetta said, “Our forefathers believed that strong leadership was critical to the survival of our new democracy–leadership based on common values, mutual respect, and a dedication to working together for the good of the nation.  The Panetta Institute is proud to honor three distinguished leaders who reflect those qualities.  At a time of concern about the future of our country, they give us hope that there are those committed to a good and better America.”

More than fifty individuals have been recognized since the first program in 2000. Honored individuals have included leaders in public service, the military and the media. Many of them have continued to serve our democracy with honor and a commitment to principle.

Governor John Hickenlooper was inaugurated Governor of Colorado in 2011, having run on his history of collaboration with members of both parties. The first Denver mayor to be elected governor in 150 years, he was also the first geologist to become a governor in the history of the nation, and the first brewer since Sam Adams in 1792. Governor Hickenlooper is a champion of innovation, collaboration and efficiency. While in the Governor’s mansion he has recruited talent from all quarters, and is redefining the relationship between a state government and its business and civic communities. Since taking office, Governor Hickenlooper and his team have endeavored to make Colorado the most pro-business state, with the highest environmental and ethical standards. He is a great believer that governors, far more than Congress, can revive American democracy. Governor Hickenlooper writes about his experiences in politics, science and business in his recently published memoir entitled The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics.

Governor Christine Todd Whitman served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from January of 2001 until June of 2003. She was the 50th Governor of the State of New Jersey, serving as its first woman governor from 1994 until 2001. In that office, Governor Whitman earned praise from both Republicans and Democrats for her commitment to preserve a record amount of New Jersey land as permanent green space. As EPA Administrator, she promoted common-sense environmental improvements such as watershed-based water protection policies. Governor Whitman is the author of a New York Times best seller called It’s My Party Too, which was published in 2005 and argues for the need to find a “productive middle” in politics. In 2017, Governor Whitman was awarded The Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service. She currently serves as President of The Whitman Strategy Group (WSG), a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues

Admiral Michael Mullen is considered one of our nation’s most influential chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He advised both Republican and Democratic administrations, leading the military during a critical period of transition. Admiral Mullen has commanded at every level in the Navy, culminating as chief of naval operations in his service. He served as the seventeenth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was the principal military adviser to President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama as well as to the secretary of defense and the National Security Council. Serving from 2007 to 2011, Admiral Mullen oversaw the end of the combat mission in Iraq and the development of a new military strategy for Afghanistan. He is renowned for his role in dismantling “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowing gay service members to serve openly.

In presenting the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards the Panetta Institute recognizes individuals who have dedicated their careers to the most vital principles of our democracy. In highlighting the commitment and accomplishments of these men and women, the Institute promotes the example of principled public service to those currently in office, as well as to individuals who are considering serving in office and to the electorate itself. It is the hope of the Institute’s board of directors that bringing attention to the best of our democracy can counter the forces of dysfunction and division.

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.

Interns Return from Washington After Eleven-Week Service in Congressional Offices

Participants in the twentieth annual Congressional Internship Program are back in California  after serving for eleven weeks in Congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

Interns worked full-time for eleven weeks in the Democratic and Republican offices of the California congressional delegation. Their daily tasks ranged from speaking with constituents and opening mail to conducting tours of the Capitol and attending hearings.

The Congressional Internship Program class of 2018.

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; Dr. Alice Rivlin, former director, U.S. Office of Management and Budget and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy and co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security; Jimmy Panetta, United States Representative (D), California; Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute; 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 Jeff Denham, United States Representative (R), California.

Interns came from twenty three CSU campuses, as well as Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University. The program got underway in August at the Institute. A variety of nationally known speakers joined Secretary Panetta in meeting with and speaking to the class of 2017 interns during the two-week training program.

Among the speakers addressing students during the training program at the Institute this year in addition to Secretary Panetta were: Dan Balz, best-selling author and reporter for The Washington Post; Carla Marinucci, California Playbook senior writer for Politico Magazine; Thomas Wickham, parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives; William Lowery, United States Representative (R), 41st District, California (1981-1993); and Marty Russo, United States Representative (D), 3rd District, Illinois (1975-1993); Joe Gunter, mayor, City of Salinas; as well as Institute Chairman Secretary Leon E. Panetta. For a complete list of speakers, as well as the roster of 2018 Congressional interns, click here.

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

“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

“These are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia M. Panetta. “The program helps prepare them right now to find ways to contribute to the public good.”

Click here for more information about the Congressional Internship Program.

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 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 Gives Keynote Speech at Event Honoring Schools and Volunteers in Monterey County Reads Program

As the award-winning Monterey County Reads program entered its twenty-second year, the Panetta Institute hosted its annual Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, September 14 to honor the reading volunteers and elementary schools that participated in the Institute’s landmark literacy initiative during the 2017-18 school year. 

Secretary Panetta: “Volunteers are the heart and soul of the program.”

Simón Salinas, Monterey County Supervisor – District 3, served as master of ceremonies, and Secretary Leon E. Panetta gave the keynote address.

The celebration was held at the CSUMB University Center Ballroom. The event was in recognition of 169 Monterey County Reads volunteers for their dedication to helping children achieve grade level literacy skills. These volunteers were honored along with thirty-four elementary schools who welcomed the volunteers into their classrooms and whose teachers and administrators help make the program possible.

The ceremony featured the presentation of a special Golden Threads longevity award to nine volunteers who have participated in the program for five and ten years. Ten-year recipients were Margie Martin, Bonnie Whisler and Bobbie Wright; five-year honors were given to Howard Barnett, Joseph Casey, Peggy Casey, Ruth Rachel, Karen Sonnergren and Brenda Webster.

Five high schools that have cohorts of students serving as Monterey County Reads volunteers also were recognized.

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 rewarded a certificate honoring their important involvement and support.

Providing the keynote address was Secretary Panetta, Chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. Additional speakers were Sylvia M. Panetta, Co-Chair and CEO of the Panetta Institute; Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools; Martha Martinez, Salinas City Elementary School District; Joe Sampson, Principal of Ord Terrace Elementary School in Seaside; Corina Camino, Teacher at Oak Avenue Elementary in Greenfield, and two NJROTC cadet volunteers, Angelica Cornejo from Monterey High School and Brian Sanchez from Soledad High School, who spoke about their experiences working with the literacy initiative.

In thanking the volunteers who had gathered at the event, Secretary Panetta said, “Volunteers are the heart and soul of the program, because you’re the ones who are willing to give your time and go into school, sit down and give time to reading.  And It isn’t about just sitting there and reading. You’ve got to be trained as to what you’re going to encounter and how you can improve it.”

Secretary Panetta also took note of the research and testing procedures that are a key part of the program. “We were able to test (the students) and it proved that it made a difference. All of those things that we’ve done over the years and it’s become kind of a finely tuned machine that is really doing the job.”


“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


Simón Salinas, Master of ceremonies

“Secretary Panetta and I have always believed that the American Dream is to give our children a better life,” said Sylvia 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.”

Now in its twenty-second 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.

Since the program’s inception, more than 3,500 volunteers have read with approximately 18,600 children for nearly 129,000 hours.

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

The following schools participated in  2017-2018: 
Alisal Union School District

John E. Steinbeck Elementary School
Virginia Rocca Barton Elementary School

Volunteer Angelica Cornejo, Monterey NJROTC cadet

Carmel Unified School District

Captain Cooper Elementary School

Greenfield Union School District

Oak Avenue Elementary School

Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

Del Rey Woods Elementary School
Dual Language Academy of the Monterey Peninsula
Foothill Elementary School
George C. Marshall Elementary School
Highland Elementary School
Ione Olson Elementary School
J.C. Crumpton Elementary School
La Mesa Elementary School
Marina Vista Elementary School
Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary: School of the Arts
Monte Vista Elementary School
Ord Terrace Elementary School

North Monterey County Unified School District

Castroville Elementary School
Echo Valley Elementary School
Elkhorn Elementary School
Prunedale Elementary School 

Volunteer Brian Sanchez, Soledad High School

Pacific Grove Unified School District

Robert H. Down Elementary School

Salinas City Elementary School District

Boronda Meadows Elementary School
El Gabilan Elementary School
Henry F. Kammann Elementary School
Lincoln Elementary School
Los Padres Elementary School
Mission Park Elementary School
Monterey Park Elementary School
Sherwood Elementary School

Santa Rita Union School District

La Joya Elementary School
Santa Rita Elementary School

Soledad Unified School District

Frank Ledesma Elementary School
Rose Ferrero Elementary School

Spreckels Union School District

Spreckels Elementary School

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, 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.

Secretary Panetta on ABC Says Summit with North Korea was ‘Doomed to Failure’

Secretary Panetta has characterized President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un last June as “doomed to failure” and suggested “basic diplomatic work” that could yet result in progress.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulis on Sunday, September 2,  Secretary Panetta told guest host Martha Raddatz, “We have a failed summit on our hands right now.”

Here is a link to the interview.

“This was all about show. It was about shaking hands and exchanging words.”

“The problem is that in many ways it was doomed to failure from the beginning because there was never the preparatory work that has to be done prior to a summit meeting,” Secretary Panetta continued. “This was all about show. It was about shaking hands and exchanging words. But the underlying work on process, on looking at nuclear weapon sites, on inspection regimes, or what should be done with sanctions, all of the things that need to be done to produce some kind of peaceful solution were not done.”

Secretary Panetta suggested including South Korea and Japan in future talks. “This is about the hard work of negotiating the solution to the differences between North Korea and the United States and South Korea. There are a lot of issues at stake here, but none of that work has been done. We don’t know where those nuclear sites are. We don’t know where the missile sites are. We don’t know where a lot of their chemical sites are located. We have not developed any kind of inspection regime. All of that needs to be on the table.That’s what needs to be discussed and we have yet to have a serious meeting on those issues. That’s the problem.”

Ms. Raddatz also asked Secretary Panetta about the long-standing war in Afghanistan, where the United States has been involved for seventeen years. Secretary Panetta said, “It’s very important not to allow Afghanistan to collapse and then allow the Taliban to restore their influence.” He called on the administration to establish a strategy to “secure” the country.

“The problem is that the specific strategy for how we are going to deal with Afghanistan was never really laid out by any administration frankly,” he said. “Ultimately what needs to be done if we’re going to have forces there, if we’re going to work with the Afghans is we have got to be able to secure that country and allow it govern itself. That still remains to be done.”

Student Leaders From Across the State Gather at the Panetta Institute for Annual  Leadership Seminar

A celebrated program for student body presidents and other elected student body officers from the California State University system and three private universities has completed its nineteenth annual session at the Panetta Institute, running from June 10 to June 17.

The group of student leaders spent eight days at the Institute during this comprehensive program learning from experts in a variety of fields. Leaders in government, the private sector, and the military shared their experiences and their strategies for success.

Entitled Education for Leadership in Public Service, the program features workshops on ethical compromise, putting leadership theory into practice, insiders’ tips on successful management along with achieving goals, understanding modern media, and tips on policy-making.

While each arena of leadership varies in focus, the students learn overarching lessons applicable to all types of leadership and gain an understanding of the commonalities involved in the various fields of leadership.

“Our recent national poll reveals college students as potentially a major force in American politics – paying attention and waiting to be inspired and activated,” said Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta. “The purpose of this leadership program is to make clear to young leaders that they can make a difference in the future or our nation. We spend eight days showing student leaders diverse aspects of leadership from people who know how to lead.”

Secretary Panetta was among the speakers and discussion leaders at the Leadership Seminar. Other featured presenters included government and business leaders, as well as legal, military, education and grass-roots organization experts.

This special course was developed in 1999 by a blue-ribbon panel of public officials and academic leaders in response to the findings of the Institute’s national survey of college students, which showed alarmingly low levels of student interest in government and public service.

The Leadership Seminar has grown in popularity since its inception, thanks to its focus on practical steps that student leaders can take both in their leadership positions on campus and in their future endeavors in public service. Some campuses have found such value of the program that they send multiple students who are in leadership positions.

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.”

Secretary Panetta Urges Caution in Talks With North Korea

Secretary Panetta appeared on FOX Business network’s Cavuto: Coast to Coast  program on Tuesday, June 12 to urge President Trump to use caution while making concessions with North Korea until leader Kim Jong Un takes steps toward denuclearizing the peninsula.

Secretary Panetta on FOX Business

“It’s important for us to remember that it’s largely words at this point, and that we have to look for actions, particularly from North Korea,” Secretary Panetta said during an interview with host Neil Cavuto. “I was a little concerned that the president would give away our issue with regard to military exercises without getting something in return.”

The two leaders had concluded talks by signing an agreement that acknowledges progress in the relationship. That deal reportedly includes a commitment to a “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula aimed at establishing a “peace regime.”

In response, Secretary Panetta said there are a “huge number of issues” that will actually involve the denuclearization of North Korea, which owns an estimated twenty to sixty nuclear weapons. “I think it’s probably well for everybody to maintain a healthy skepticism until we see those actions taken.”

Secretary Panetta pointed to previous administrations that tried to negotiate with North Korea, but failed to make the deals stick.

“But again, as we learn from the past,” Secretary Panetta said, “North Korea will agree to take these steps, but you can’t trust them ultimately to fulfill what they commit to. I think we just need to continue to be concerned about whether or not North Korea is going to stand by its word.”

To see the video of secretary Panetta’s interview, click here.

Final Event in Leon Panetta Lecture Series Focused on Technology and the American Dream

The fourth and final forum of the twenty-first annual Leon Panetta Lecture Series was held Monday, May 28 at the Monterey Conference Center in downtown Monterey.

Renée James

Keith Alexander

The event continued to focus on the theme  — 2018 – Is the American Dream Alive and Well? The lecture, Technology and the American Dream – Impact of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Cyber, featured Keith Alexander, Commander, United States Cyber Command (2010-2014) and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service (2005-2014); and Renée James, Chairman and CEO of Ampere Computing and President of Intel Corporation (2013-2016). Secretary Leon Panetta was the moderator.

Mr. Alexander acknowledged the challenge to today’s workers, because technology is changing at a faster pace every year. “Information and data is moving faster than in the last 5,000 years combined.”

The same is true for artificial intelligence. Ms. James said that “most people today are using artificial intelligence (on their smart phones) and don’t even know it.”

Both speakers agreed that the rapid change in technology provides a challenge to the nation’s workforce, but new opportunities will result. “New technology will still require people, but with new skills,” said Ms. James.

A retired four-star Army general and the highest-ranked military official of the United States Cyber Command, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Security Service, General Alexander played a pivotal role in securing the nation’s safety at home and abroad for the past decade.

Current chairman and CEO of Ampere Computing and the former president of Intel Corporation, Renée James has broad knowledge of the computing industry that spans hardware, manufacturing, security, software and services.

All four lectures in the series are available for viewing on the Panetta Institute YouTube channel, All past lectures are archived here on the Panetta Institute website.

The dates for this year’s season were as follows:

Monday, February 26 — The Economy and the American Dream – Impact of Debt, Growth, Immigration and Tax Cuts with Kelly Ayotte, United States Senator, New Hampshire (2011-2017) and Chris Dodd, United States Senator, Connecticut (1981-2011)

Monday, March 26 — Global Crisis and the American Dream – America First or America as a World Leader? with Michael McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014); Michèle Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012); and George Will, Political Columnist, Television Commentator and Author

Monday, April 30 — The American Presidency and the American Dream – The Role of Leadership with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward; and Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff (2017)

Monday, May 28 — Technology and the American Dream – Impact of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Cyber with Keith Alexander, Commander, United States Cyber Command (2010-2014) and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service (2005-2014); and Renée James, Chairman and CEO of Ampere Computing and President of Intel Corporation (2013-2016)

“As we enter the second year of this historic administration, there is much that remains unsettled as to what lies ahead,” Secretary Panetta said. “What will be the impact of the second year of the Trump Administration as we head into the mid-term elections in November? In the midst of continuing political gridlock can our democracy function in a manner that protects the spirit of the founders and deals with the problems facing our nation?”

Each year, the Leon Panetta Lecture Series features nationally known speakers who focus on solutions, areas for compromise and ideas to move the country forward. As the Panetta Institute continues to bring national political leaders and policy thinkers to the Monterey Peninsula, these unique forums offer the community a venue for dialogue about issues that concern everyone.

For more information, contact the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

Panetta Institute Survey Finds College Students Financially Stressed, Worried About Their Country and Focused on Mid-Term Elections

A new survey of United States college students conducted for The Panetta Institute for Public Policy has found interest in this year’s mid-term elections running unusually high on campus, as students express record levels of dismay about the direction of the country and anxiety about their personal finances.

Students are nearly twice as likely to be following the mid-term elections “closely” as they were at this time in 2014 – 48 percent now versus 25 percent four years ago – and 61 percent say they’re paying at least some attention, compared to 38 percent last time.

“These levels of interest are more typical of what we see in presidential election years, when voter turnout goes up,” notes Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta. “Clearly recent events have been driving students to pay closer attention to public policy and the actions of political leaders.”

The proportion of students who say the country is “off on the wrong track” stands at 61 percent in this study, the same as in April of last year when the figure hit its highest level in the survey’s 20-year history, while the percentage who worry about having too much student loan debt has also reached a record level – 65 percent.

“These numbers are dramatic evidence of how college costs have been ratcheting up in recent years and pricing many young people out of the market,” says Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. She notes that students’ record level of worry about their indebtedness is up nine percentage points since last year’s survey and 72 percent of students say they worry often about finding a good-paying, quality job upon graduation – another record high.

In addition, students express concern for their physical safety, with gun violence ranking highest among their issue concerns and with 43 percent worrying “a great deal” or “quite a bit” about the possibility of a mass shooting occurring on their campus.

The nationwide poll of students enrolled at four-year colleges and universities was conducted from April 12 to 19, about two months after the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that led to demonstrations across the country in support of stronger gun regulation.

The Panetta Institute commissions the survey in the spring of each year to guide its curriculum and advance its mission of encouraging young people to consider careers in public service and help 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, preferred news sources, level of civic engagement, personal career expectations and a variety of national and international issues.

With two decades of collected data, the Panetta survey has become a valued source of information for scholars and journalists interested in tracking the views of the country’s next generation of voters and decision makers.  For this year’s study, Hart Research conducted online interviews with 801 students at four-year colleges across the country from April 12 to 19.

A more extensive summary of the study’s findings is linked here.

Storybooks Distributed to Students as Monterey County Reads Marks its Twenty-First Year

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

Nearly eight hundred books were distributed again this 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.

Sylvia Panetta Honored by Monterey County Branch of NAACP

Sylvia Panetta was honored with a Silver Lifetime Membership award by the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP at its forty-sixth Annual Freedom Fund Gala on Saturday May 26 at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

“I am honored and grateful,” said Mrs. Panetta regarding the honor. “Tonight’s focus, as it should be, is America’s nettled reckoning with race. For all the progress, ours is still an exasperating culture with too many left out, and the toxic backwardness of bigotry continuing to affect our society and the human species.”

In recognition of Mrs. Panetta’s longtime support of the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP, Edward W. Armstrong, membership chair, said: “Thank you for your continued support and effort in combatting the omnipresent disparities that continue to be most prevalent in American education, jobs, housing, health care and criminal justice systems.”

In closing, Mrs. Panetta noted that the Panetta Institute’s goals are in line with those of the NAACP. “Hence, comes the vital importance of organizations like the Panetta Institute, which provide programs, without cost to its participants, in hopes that we too can be, like the NAACP, a great elevator, a great E Pluribus Unum machine.

Chaos in Washington Has an Impact Everywhere, Secretary Panetta Tells NBC

Secretary Panetta appeared on NBC Nightly News on Wednesday, March 7, in the wake of new questions about chaos in the Donald Trump White House.

A report by White House correspondent Kristen Welker raised the question of turmoil in the Trump administration after the resignation of top economic adviser Gary Cohn. She reported that forty-three percent of President Trump’s top-level positions have already resigned — far more than in any other presidency.

Secretary Panetta, a former White House chief of staff under President Clinton, warned that such tumult has far-reaching impacts. “When there is chaos and disruption in Washington.” he said, “it is ultimately going to affect the way you make your living — wherever you’re living in this country — and that’s what scares the hell out of people.”

Secretary Panetta Receives Elliot L. Richardson Prize for Excellence in Public Service

The National Academy of Public Administration’s Elliot L. Richardson Prize was awarded to Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a ceremony at the Reagan Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, February 14.

The award is named in honor of Mr. Richardson, who served in four Cabinet-level positions in the U.S. government, including as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce. The prize is awarded to individuals possessing the public service virtues of “advancing the public good and long-term dedication to public service…and demonstrated generosity of spirit, thoughtfulness in the pursuit of excellence in government, courage and integrity.”

Secretary Panetta has had a fifty-year career in public service at the highest levels of government as Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, and Congressman.

Secretary Burwell is American University’s 15th president and served as the twenty-second Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Previous recipients include Colin Powell, Alice Rivlin, George Shultz, Sandra O’Connor, James Baker, and Paul Volcker among others.

Secretary Panetta’s Take on President Trump: ‘This is Not Who We Are’

Outraged by President Donald Trump’s “vulgar and disparaging remark about immigrants to our country from poor and impoverished areas of the world,” Secretary Panetta declared “This is not who we are,” in a commentary published January 17 on the CNN Opinion website.

“The remark is unsurprising,” wrote Secretary Panetta, “It came from a president who seeks to close our country off from the rest of the world.”

Secretary Panetta: “Immigrants live the American Dream.”

Secretary Panetta cited President Trump’s various proposals, including travel bans on visitors from some Muslim-majority nations, building harmful walls, deporting thousands of immigrants and even ending protections for hundreds of thousands of law-abiding recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs (DACA).

“It is important that the world knows that, although he may be president, Donald Trump does not speak for the overwhelming majority of Americans. This is not who we are,” wrote Secretary Panetta.

“I am the son of Italian immigrants who came to this country from an impoverished area of Italy. Like millions of other immigrants, they came because they believed they could give their children a better life in this country. That is the American dream. That is who we are.”

Secretary Panetta referred to words on the the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” He cited immigrants who have served honorably in the military. He also pointed out that President Trump is the grandson of immigrants and is married to an immigrant.

“We are a land of immigrants,” Secretary Panetta wrote. “The diversity this confers on America is our strength because immigrants live the American Dream. They and their families are part of our communities, our schools, our businesses, our workforce. We all pledge allegiance to the same flag — to ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ That is who we are.

He concluded by urging Congress to pass the Dream Act in order to protect a path to citizenship for the 800,000 Dreamers currently living in our country — the only home they have ever known. “America must remain the beacon of hope to the world because that is who we are and always will be.”

Here is a link to Secretary Panetta’s commentary.

Protection Against Offshore Drilling Will Require a Bipartisan Effort, Secretary Panetta Writes in The Los Angeles Times

Secretary Panetta has warned in a commentary published in The Los Angeles Times that the federal government is again threatening to open up California’s waters to oil drilling.

“A long-standing moratorium on offshore oil drilling off the California coast is now at risk,” Secretary Panetta warned in a commentary published in the February 8 edition.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed opening up nearly the entire outer continental shelf of the United States for oil and gas exploration, including six of them off California’s coast.

“He had the temerity to suggest that the leases would provide billions of dollars ‘to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,’ ” Secretary Panetta wrote.

The proposal comes many years after California’s elected officials from both parties worked to protect the coast from drilling, Secretary Panetta wrote. “More than thirty-five years ago, I worked with my Republican colleagues in both houses of Congress to impose a moratorium on offshore oil drilling in federal waters along the California coast. We understood that drilling posed too grave a threat to the state’s coastline, one of the nation’s greatest natural and commercial assets.”

Secretary Panetta added that the impact of drilling extends beyond environmental damage. “Opposition to drilling is as much about the economy as it is about the environment: Tourism, fishing and ocean recreation sustain tens of billions of dollars of economic activity and hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state annually. It makes no sense to risk damaging that economic vitality with catastrophic oil spills and pollution, especially with the rise in renewable energy sources. The United States has clean, renewable energy alternatives; there is simply no need for new oil drilling now.

Secretary Panetta called on Republicans as well as Democrats to fight to protect the coast. “It was a bipartisan responsibility in the 1980s, and it remains a bipartisan responsibility today.”

To read the commentary, click here.

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.”

Research Fellows Program Expands Focus on Bipartisan Approaches to Today’s Biggest Issues

The Panetta Institute’s Policy Research Fellows Program, now in its thirteenth year, has expanded the breadth of the program with an ambitious curriculum in which law students from Santa Clara University School of Law focus on researching and proposing real-world, bipartisan solutions to the major issues facing the United States today.

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.”

An expanded faculty facilitates the fellows’ research, and advises the fellows in developing both written and oral presentations. Fellows first research issues such as tax reform, immigration, energy and the environment, climate change, infrastructure and healthcare and develop written and oral reports. This year, fellows will also focus on United States’ relations with North Korea, Afghanistan and Russia.

Each fellow then initially develops policy positions that adhere to standard political framing — both Republican and Democrat. At that point, Institute instructors question and challenge their positions, leading to the next level of their work — developing compromise policy proposals that demonstrate a realistic approach, policies that could be put into practice in the real world. Fellows present their final presentations in both written and oral reports.

“In an increasingly partisan political atmosphere, compromise and cooperation is in short supply,” said Secretary Panetta. “Our fellows program demonstrates that political progress is possible, with hard work, research and a commitment to getting results.”

“My time at the Panetta Institute has been my most rewarding educational experience thus far. I was able to fully immerse myself in my work with the freedom to develop and create without undue restriction. I liked having the chance to present both Democratic and Republican perspectives before narrowing my policy research to a solution.”

— Christina Faliero, Policy Research Fellow, 2017

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law, offering those law students with exemplary academic records and a commitment to the study of public policy to work on-site at the Institute. Since then, seventy law students from Santa Clara and the Monterey College of Law have completed the program.

Two fellows completed their work in May. Participants serve on site at the Panetta Institute, also assisting the Institute with research and analysis on issues relevant to its work and mission.

In addition to Secretary Panetta, lecturers include attorneys, educators and former elected officials. Currently working with the fellows are 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.

“With this cadre of experts, participating students work directly with experienced professionals with legal, historical, educational and political perspectives,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta.

Previous fellows have completed work in a variety of public policy issues, including research into the idea of a national service program.

Fellows also conduct research in support of other Institute programs, including the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards:  An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service and the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.

A Casual Conversation With Secretary Panetta

Secretary Leon E. Panetta sat down with former United States Attorney Preet Bharara in a podcast that was nationally broadcast on September 29, 2017 to discuss subjects that range from being fired by a president to what the United States is like in the era of the Donald Trump presidency.

Mr. Bharara was the United States Attorney for New York until he was fired by President Donald Trump. He now hosts a popular podcast called “Stay Tuned With Preet” on CAFE, a comedy and entertainment podcast site. He began the interview by asking Secretary Panetta about his own firing by President Nixon back in 1970.

For the ensuing conversation, Secretary Panetta reminisces about that and other signposts in his long career. Among the topics:

  • How, at age twenty-seven, he decided to go against President Nixon’s order to back off enforcement of civil rights.
  • What it was like to bring discipline to a chaotic White House under President Clinton.
  • The differences between President Clinton and President Trump.
  • The details and political ramifications of an investigation and arrests of ten Soviet spies who had infiltrated into sensitive positions within the U.S. government.
  • The issues facing the country as the investigation continues into the role that Russia played in the 2016 presidential election.

Secretary Panetta concludes the interview by saying, “This country is stronger than any one president. Our forefathers were very smart in creating a system of checks and balances…. We’ll be able to get through this without undermining the basic institutions of our democracy.

“This country for over 200 years has faced all kinds of crises — recessions, depressions, war, the Civil War and we’ve always risen to the occasion.”

Here is a link to the podcast; the conversation between Secretary Panetta and Mr. Bharara begins at 20:09.

Secretary Panetta Named International Executive of the Year by BYU Marriott School of Business

The Marriott School of Business and Brigham Young University honored former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta with the 2017 International Executive of the Year (IEY) award. Established by BYU Marriott forty years ago, the award commends executives who display remarkable leadership and high moral and ethical standards.

Secretary Panetta: Providing leadership makes democracy better.

BYU Academic Vice President James R. Rasband presented Secretary Panetta with the honor at a banquet on September 15, 2017. The award honors executives in business, government, and nonprofits, and was presented as part of BYU Marriott’s National Advisory Council annual conference in Provo.

In accepting the award, Secretary Panetta said, “Whether you’re in business or whether you’re in public policy, I think the reality is we all need to provide leadership in trying to make our democracy better for our children and for the future. The ability to help provide that leadership and to have that leadership recognized by a distinguished school of business is, for me, a great honor.”

Richard E. Marriott, Host Hotels & Resorts chairman of the board, presented the award, saying, “Leon Panetta is a patriot. He has shown that even in turbulent times, an intelligent leader with good character who works hard can do the impossible.”

Prior to the IEY banquet, Secretary Panetta met with and delivered a lecture to BYU Marriott students, encouraging them to actively fulfill their civic duty as future American leaders. He shared a verse from the Book of Isaiah he had noticed on a plaque in Afghanistan at the site of a suicide bombing, which states: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And then I said, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

Secretary Panetta said, “Send me is the sound of the trumpet that basically calls all of us to duty in this country, that calls all of us to the fight to provide the leadership necessary in order to make sure we have a better life for our children. And in order to make sure we have a government of, by, and for all people.”

Secretary Panetta Honored as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Celebrates Twenty-Five Years

Secretary Panetta was honored by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation at a gala dinner and fundraiser on September 16, 2017 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the creation of the Monterey Bay national Marine sanctuary.

Secretary Panetta was recognized for his role in the creation of the sanctuary. Because his legislation establishing the sanctuary was passed by Congress, it was designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and by President George H.W. Bush.

Speaking before several hundred people at the gala, Secretary Panetta recalled the lengthy negotiations and political strategy that led to the creation of the sanctuary. For many years, Secretary Panetta recalled, he helped lead a bipartisan coalition  — including senators, congressional representatives, state leaders, local mayors, city council members and business people — in opposing plans for offshore oil drilling off the northern and central California coastline.

After years of passing temporary moratoriums against drilling, the coalition finally was successful in the creating of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on September 18, 1992.

“It was a broad community effort that was involved,” Secretary Panetta said. “And look at the result.”

The fundraising gala also featured remarks by Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, and by the two congressmen that followed Secretary Panetta as Monterey Bay Area congressional representatives, Sam Farr, and U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta, Secretary Panetta’s son.

Money raised from the event will be used to establish a Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Fund that will help support programs in the Sanctuary.

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

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy has released a new 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.

Secretary Panetta Tells Yale Student Magazine That Young People Must Get Involved in Public Debate

In an interview with the Yale political magazine Politic, Secretary Panetta issued a call for young people to get involved in the world of public service, saying that the health of the nation’s democracy depends on it.

Secretary Panetta: “I was attracted to public service because I thought it was a higher calling.”

In the magazine’s April 3, 2017 online edition, Politic writer Sarah Strober asked for any advice Secretary Panetta had for college students. He responded: “We have an institute for public policy, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, and our mission is to try to inspire young people to get involved in lives of public service. The reason for that is, I think, the health of our democracy depends on those that do get involved, who are concerned about the direction of our country, who are concerned about important issues affecting our future and are willing to engage in the political process to try to influence the direction of our country.”

Recalling his own days as a law student, Secretary Panetta said, “I was attracted to public service because I thought it was a higher calling. I thought it was important for people to do that. There was a young president who said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ I think it’s important for young people to understand that if they do get involved, if they do participate in our democracy, they can make a difference.”

Ms. Strober also asked Secretary Panetta about his most difficult day on the job, to which he recalled the memorable day of his role as CIA director during the capture of Osama bin Laden.

Secretary Panetta recalled sitting in a conference room on the seventh floor of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, with representatives from Special Forces following along with the progress of the operation. He recounted how two helicopters with SEALs on board went about 150 miles into Pakistan from the base in Afghanistan and avoided detection by Pakistanis. Once helicopters arrived at the compound, Secretary Panetta said, “They were to deploy the members of the SEAL team down through ropes to go into the compound. Unfortunately, one of the helicopters stalled because of the heat that had taken place that day. Fortunately, it was a great warrant officer who was the pilot. He was able to set that helicopter down and to the credit of the Special Forces, they continued the mission. They called in a backup helicopter, breached the walls, went in, we did the mission and were able to get out of there. It was obviously a nerve-wracking operation but at the end of the day, it was successful and I think it was probably my proudest moment as CIA director.”

Secretary Panetta also expressed his views on current events, including:

  • His concern about Russia interfering in the United States election and the Trump administration’s apparent close ties to Russian leadership;
  • His opinion that the United States could have been tougher on both Russia and Syria;
  • That the “battlefield of the future” will be cyber attacks.

As a favor to “news-savvy” students, Ms. Strober asked Secretary Panetta about his favored news outlets. He replied: “I read a variety of news channels. I get The New York Times at home, I usually go online to read the Washington Post, and I read The Wall Street Journal. I usually try to pick up on CNN and listen to the evening news hours and their summary of the news. I also have contacts in Washington and, depending on the issue, I call them and get their sense of what’s taking place on issues — just to get somebody that is close to Washington — to get their viewpoint. So, I try to get a various set of news reports just because I have always felt, throughout my political career, that by reading a combination of credible journals, it’s likely to give you a better sense of where the truth is.”

Here is a link to the entire interview.

Sylvia Panetta Speaks in Honor of Local Civil Rights Leader Helen Rucker

On Saturday, April 1, 2017, Sylvia M. Panetta spoke at the NAACP of Monterey County’s 45th annual Freedom Fund Life Membership Banquet where Helen Rucker was recognized with the Medgar Evers Freedom Legacy Award for her work on behalf of civil rights and civic engagement.

Held in Monterey, the event raised funds for the prestigious organization that has been working in the Central Coast community for more eighty-five years. Mrs. Panetta provided introductory remarks for Ms. Rucker, a local civil rights champion and former elected official who is a longtime friend and colleague of both Secretary and Mrs. Panetta.

Ms. Rucker is a regular participant in many of the Panetta Institute’s programs including the Leadership Seminar, and the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.

Click here for a full text of Mrs. Panetta’s remarks from the event.

Secretary Panetta and Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair Co-Chair Commission on Violent Extremism

Unknown-2Unknown-1Secretary Leon E. Panetta has joined with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as co-chairs of a commission begun in 2016 on violent extremism that aims to help the United States presidential administration develop a comprehensive strategy to confront this threat to national security.

The group is being sponsored by The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Countering Violent Extremism. The new commission also hopes to guide European leaders. It will unite experts to study extremist groups like the Islamic State and recommend ways to both defeat them and to curb their appeal among disaffected youth.

Commission organizers said they plan to produce a report to help the president confront this threat to our national security. “

Secretary Panetta noted, “Since 9/11, we have fought violent extremism on a crisis by crisis basis. What we need is a comprehensive strategy to deal with the different dimensions of this issue.”

Reflecting on his work as director of the CIA and later as Secretary of Defense, he noted that an issue this complex can be very difficult for government leaders to understand. “The threat of extremism is too great and too immediate for our next commander-in-chief to face a steep learning curve when he or she enters office. Our goal with this commission is to create a comprehensive report on this vital issue so that global leaders can provide the best possible strategy to protect their countries.”

The commission will also address the trend of successful recruitment of young people by extremist groups. “The problem of competing for the hearts and minds of Muslim youth has challenged experts for years. However, the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have forced an immediate response to the security threat by world leaders. We have to develop an effective strategy to protect our people and reduce the allure of extreme ideologies both at home and abroad, to understand what we can do to undermine this narrative that attracts so many recruits to violence,” Secretary Panetta said.

During the coming months, the Commission will study new and innovative ideas for undercutting extremists’ radicalization and recruitment efforts and prepare a comprehensive strategy that marshals all elements of national and international power including the military, law enforcement and the intelligence community. In addition, it will study and provide recommendations for mobilizing communities to speak out and take action against the ideology and atrocities committed by violent extremists.

For more information on the commission, visit

Sylvia M. Panetta Formally Commissions Newly Designed Navy Ship USS Milwaukee 

Sylvia M. Panetta

Sylvia M. Panetta

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta formally commissioned the USS Milwaukee into service for the United States Navy at a special ceremony at Milwaukee’s Veterans Park on Saturday, November 21, 2015.

Mrs. Panetta serves as ship sponsor for the USS Milwaukee, the Navy’s latest littoral combat ship. Littoral combat ships, designed for versatility and speed, are a relatively new addition to the U.S. Navy. They are built to operate close to shore and to quickly switch from one combat mode to another by swapping out different equipment such as anti-mine or anti-submarine gear. Unlike older Navy ships, littoral combat ships operate with much smaller crews. A crew of fifty-four operates the USS Milwaukee, though it will carry around 100 when sailors tied to the helicopter aviation unit are on board.

This ship is considered an important addition to the U.S. military’s transition from warfare that saw navies fighting against one another toward the current military effort to combat terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

A large crowd attended the commissioning ceremony. Nearly 19,000 tickets were distributed for the day’s events, which featured speeches, patriotic music and Wisconsin-made beer and bratwurst. After Mrs. Panetta formally commissioned the ship with the words “Man your ship and bring it to life,” the crew ran from the shore onto the USS Milwaukee, started its engines, engaged its radar and other operations and sounded a long whistle blast.

Activities also included a reunion for members of the last USS Milwaukee, an oiler that earned a campaign star during the Vietnam War and, before it was decommissioned in 1994, helped transport the King Tutankhamen exhibition to America in 1976.

Mrs. Panetta christened the ship in December 2013 in Marinette, Wisconsin with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne over the vessel’s hull. In her role as sponsor, Mrs. Panetta has visited with the ship’s crew several times over the past two years. Further, officers from the ship have participated in programs at The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, speaking with young leaders about leadership in the military and touching on the themes of character, team building and sacrifice.

Mrs. Panetta said, “It is a true honor to be asked to serve as a sponsor of this extraordinary ship and to get to know the remarkable young men and women who will serve as her crew. Secretary Panetta has spent his life working on behalf of this great nation and the principles of our democracy. At the Panetta Institute, we work every day hoping to inspire students to lead lives of public service and participate in the system of government for which so many have sacrificed so much. Our democracy depends, and indeed thrives, on those who give of themselves for the benefit of their fellow human beings”

The USS Milwaukee is the third Freedom-class littoral combat ship built in Marinette, Wisconsin. The USS Milwaukee will now travel through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the East Coast, then south to the Panama Canal to its home port of San Diego for patrols in Asia.

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California State University, Monterey Bay
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