Panetta Institute Honors Recipients of 2016 Jefferson-Lincoln Awards at Gala Event

The Panetta Institute honored five national leaders at its seventeenth annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards dinner and gala, held November 12 at the beautiful Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach.

Congressman Sam Farr is honored by Secretary and Mrs. Panetta.

Congressman Sam Farr is honored by Secretary and Mrs. Panetta.

Honorees were Tom Carper, United States Senator (D), Delaware; Lisa Murkowski, United States Senator (R), Alaska; Sam Farr, United States Representative (D), 20th District, California; Fran Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (2004-2008); and Robert Mueller, Director,  Federal Bureau of Investigation (2001-2013).

In presenting the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards the Panetta Institute recognized 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 are presented each year to individuals whose professional achievements represent exceptional commitment to the principles of our democracy and a dedication to encouraging the healthy function of the United States system of government through an informed electorate.

The event serves as the Panetta Institute’s major yearly fundraiser.

Institute Fellows Program Expands With Additional Instructors From Diverse Fields

The Panetta Institute’s Policy Research Fellows Program has embarked on its eleventh year by expanding the breadth of the program with the addition of  instructors that bring expertise from a wide variety of hands-on experience to share with law-school students whose research focus on not only the law, but also policy, education, history and economics.

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law. Since then, sixty-six second- and third-year law students from Santa Clara and the Monterey College of Law have completed the program.

The newest contingent of fellows will start their work in January. Participants serve on site at the Panetta Institute, gaining first-hand experience and instruction in policy research and assisting the Institute with research and analysis on issues relevant to its work and mission.

Each spring and fall semesters, between two and  four fellows work under the direction of Panetta Institute staff. These instructors include attorneys, educators and former public officials. Currently working with the program are Fred Keeley, former state Assemblyman; Bill Daniels, a local attorney; Sonia Banks, an educator and attorney; Richard Kezirian, the Institute’s professor emeritus; and Ellen Wilson, senior program coordinator. Following completion of the program, law-school students receive academic credit for their work.

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

Many of the past fellows have gone on to successful law careers, both regionally and nationally. Among them:

  • John Stegman, a fellow during the fall of 2014, is now a member of the R.S.C. Law Group of Monterey, after serving as a board-certified intern for the San Jose City Attorney Office.
  • Jeffery Lind, a fellow in the spring of 2014, is an associate attorney at L+G, LLP Attorneys at Law in Salinas.
  • Roujin Mozaffarimehr, a fellow in the spring of 2013, is an associate attorney at Mathews & Peddibhotla Law Group in Newark.
  • Tori Anthony, a fellow in the spring of 2015, is an associate at Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai law firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Beginning in 2015 and continuing in 2017, fellows intensified their research into the idea of a national service program as a result of a study commissioned by the Panetta Institute revealing that sixty-three percent of college students said they would support a system that would provide grants or financial assistance to help pay for college in exchange for two years of national service.

Secretary Leon Panetta has long supported the idea of such a national service program, and has encouraged Institute fellows to focus research on the idea as part of their fellowship at the Institute.

In addition to researching historical precedents of national service, including the history of the military draft as well as New Deal programs established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the 1930s, fellows have met with visiting public officials, in addition to the Panetta Institute staff, to discuss the viability of public-service programs.

One student cited the opportunity to meet with visiting lecturers as a strength of the program. “When I was younger I wanted to work for the government but then felt disenchanted growing up,” she said. “But my experience here has reignited my interest in public policy and government work.”

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Secretary Panetta discuss the formation of a national service program at the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Secretary Panetta discuss the formation of a national service program at the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.

The idea of a national service program also arose during the 2015 Leon Panetta Lecture Series. One of the forum speakers, Ben Jealous, a former president and CEO of the national NAACP, brought up the idea of compulsory national service as a way to promote a ”feeling of being more connected … feeling more American.”

The subject of national service also is addressed at two other Panetta Institute programs: the Student Leadership Program in June and the Congressional Internship Program, which begins every August. All three of these Institute programs feature visiting speakers from the field of public service.

While in Congress, Secretary Panetta introduced legislation calling for compulsory national service. In a letter to The New York Times in 1987, Secretary Panetta wrote: “While national service is no panacea for our country’s problems, it will help provide American youth with a sense of purpose. Young men and women will feel pride in their work, pride in their country — and, above all — pride in themselves. The time has come to give these programs the nationwide scope that they deserve.”

In addition to policies surrounding a national service program, fellows have also conducted 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.

Secretary Panetta Says It’s Time for a World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The time has come for the United States to honor American veterans from World War I, Secretary Leon E. Panetta has argued in an opinion column published November 15 in the Military Times.

“World War I is the only great war of the 20th century that doesn’t have a national memorial in the nation’s capital,” wrote Secretary Panetta. “That, in itself, makes it important enough for us to do everything possible to make this a reality.

“But this memorial is important for a number of other reasons,” he continued.

Secretary Panetta cited the need to honor the memories of the five million men and women who served in uniform, including two million who went overseas and 116,516 who died. “We need to take the time to remember their brave sacrifices.”

Secretary Panetta urged the need for the public to remember that it was World War I that brought America to the role of world leadership. “World War I was the first time the U.S. engaged with the rest of the world and provided the leadership necessary for the rest of the world to unify to confront a common enemy. We continue to bear the responsibility of world leadership today.

“The reality is that if the U.S. doesn’t provide leadership in a very troubled world, no one else will,” he continued. ” And so, it was World War I that brought America onto the world stage, creating a role we continue to play.”

Secretary Panetta cited the Panetta Institute’s annual Lecture Series, and in particular the theme of the program in 2014,  100 Years From the Beginning of World War I — 1914-2014.

“Many of the world’s flashpoints in 1914 are similar to the flashpoints we confront today,” he wrote. “Terrorism, nationalism, territorial disputes, fragile alliances. World leadership that wasn’t quite able to see what those threats were really about, or how to deal with them in a way that would prevent a world war from happening.”

Secretary Panetta concluded: “We need to have people in this country understand what war is all about. We forget too quickly. There are people who don’t even remember 9/11, much less World War I. We can’t afford to forget those conflicts. We can’t forget the people who fought them. We can’t afford to forget their lessons. If we are to make the right decisions in the future, we better damn well understand the past.”

To read Secretary Panetta’s commentary, click here.

In Memoriam: Anna Panetta, Key Supporter of Monterey County Reads, Passes Away

Anna Panetta

Anna Panetta

Anna Chiantelli Panetta, a leading Monterey County educator and the sister-in-law of Panetta Institute founders Leon and Sylvia Panetta, passed away on October 7, 2016.

A site coordinator at two Monterey elementary schools, Mrs. Panetta played an important role in the success of Monterey County Reads, a Panetta Institute program dedicated to helping first- through third-graders develop crucial reading skills. She helped develop programs at Colton and Monte Vista elementary schools.

“Anna’s role in Monterey County Reads could not have been more crucial. As a longtime teacher and educator, she was successful in helping the entire program grow into the  success that it has become today,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta.

After retiring from full-time teaching, Mrs. Panetta continued to volunteer in her daughter’s classroom and also served as Monterey County Reads site coordinator, serving as a liaison between teachers and volunteers. “To the very end, she made a difference in countless lives with the love and passion she had for reaching her students,”  said Mrs. Panetta.

Anna Panetta was born on February 16, 1934 in Monterey, California to Joseph and Valentina Chiantelli. She is survived by her husband, Joseph R. Panetta, Secretary Panetta’s brother, whom she married in 1955. She is also survived by three children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Panetta had a teaching career that lasted for over thirty-five years. In addition to her  career in teaching and her work with Monterey County Reads, she devoted time to many different organizations, including the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula Auxiliary, the Civic Club of Monterey, Quota Club International, the Italian Catholic Federation, Italian Catholic Heritage Foundation, Delta Kappa Gamma, CASA, helping to open My Museum, and the California Retired Teachers Association.

Secretary Panetta Tells Students at Buena Vista University That U.S. Needs A United Front to Defeat Terrorism

The United States needs to “roll up its sleeves and go to work” to achieve the united front necessary to stem terrorism, Secretary Leon E. Panetta told students at Buena Vista University in Iowa.


Secretary Panetta discusses policy with a member of a student panel.

Secretary Panetta spoke to students and guests on October 7 as a part of the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series, which invites prominent leaders to discuss their experiences and beliefs on freedom in America.

Secretary Panetta held two separate lectures while on campus. He first spoke to students and faculty, with a group of student panelists, addressing questions ranging from diversity challenges, extremist threats, reconciling his faith with his duty to carry out missions that cost lives, and his views on why fear is playing such a large role in politics.

Secretary Panetta repeatedly observed that there were only two ways to govern the country, through leadership or through crisis. Through leadership he suggests that the country could come together again, however, in order to do so, America needs leaders who are willing to take risks.

Leading through crisis, he said, is what has gotten this country into a state of not addressing issues but instead “kicking the can down the road” for someone else to deal with. An example, he said, is the Zika health issue. He said the parties’ inability to come to the table and negotiate for a consensus was doing a disservice to the American public.

As for national security, Secretary Panetta cited Isis, Boko Haram, and Southeast Asia as just a few of the many terrorist hotbeds that are proving to be global threats. “The reality is we are not going to be able to kill our way out of terrorism. We have to look at the root causes and develop a counter narrative.”

Citing the appeal for youth to join such terrorist groups, Secretary Panetta called for a coalition of countries willing to work toward providing opportunities to youth in places such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen. “We have to work with Muslim nations to prove that there is hope and opportunities in their regions,” he said.

The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune newspaper reported that Secretary Panetta received a standing ovation after his second speech of the night. “His much referenced, humble beginnings as the son of an Italian immigrant and his belief that a better life for your children is the American Dream; combined with his impassioned belief that America could be on the verge of a wonderful renaissance if it can manage a united front, clearly resonated with the local gathering,” the newspaper said.

Participating Volunteers and Schools Honored as Monterey County Reads Enters its Twentieth Year

As the award-winning Monterey County Reads program enters its twentieth year, the Panetta Institute hosted its annual Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, September 16 as a way to honor the reading volunteers and elementary schools that have participated in the Institute’s landmark literacy initiative during the 2015-16 school year.

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Keynote speaker Simón Salinas

The event featured opening remarks by Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta, and keynote speaker Simón Salinas, Monterey County Supervisor, District 3. Supervisor Salinas spoke on the importance of reading and literacy for young people. More than 200 people were in attendance. Commander Paul Tanks, head of the NJROTC program at Monterey High School, served as master of ceremonies.

The Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony is held at the beginning of the school year as a way to honor all the participants as they are gearing up for the twentieth year of the program. “Twenty years ago, I posed a question to the community and asked: ‘What are our children going to do if they can’t read?'” recalled Mrs. Panetta. “The Central Coast responded to this call to action and for two decades volunteers from all walks of life have joined us in the vital effort to have children in Monterey

County reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Our work involves schools, administrators, teachers and volunteers. It brings together the community and the classroom for the good of our youth. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish together and the good work we continue to do.”

This special celebration was in recognition of the 183 Monterey County Reads volunteers for their dedication in helping children achieve grade level literacy skills. These volunteers were honored alongside the thirty four schools that welcomed them into their classrooms and whose teachers and administrators help make the program possible. In honor of their dedication and outstanding work in helping local elementary school children improve their reading skills, volunteers received certificates of recognition along with special pins. Participating schools, including four high schools which provide volunteers, also received certificates honoring their support.

Also speaking was Kathy Moon, volunteer from Madonna del Sasso Pro Cathedral at Boronda Meadows Elementary School in Salinas, Hecate Rosewood, principal of Highland Elementary School, Seaside, Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County superintendent of schools and Eduardo Ochoa, president of California State University, Monterey Bay.

Eight volunteers received the program’s Golden Threads award in recognition of five years of service toward this vital effort. Never before have that many five-year awards been presented.

In its nineteen-year history, more than 3,200 Monterey County Reads volunteers have read nearly 124,000 hours one-to-one with approximately 16,000 children in Monterey County elementary schools.

Commander Paul Tanks served as master of ceremonies.

Commander Paul Tanks served as master of ceremonies.

“We celebrate all the volunteers, teachers and schools by recognizing them for their past work as well as their future commitment,” stated Mrs. Panetta.

“The work of volunteers is at the core of the program,” Chris Haubert, the Institute’s chief of staff and programs, said. “Our data show that we are having a positive impact on the children who need help. By donating just a little time each week, a volunteer can have the satisfaction of making an immediate and meaningful difference in a child’s life.”

The Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony is sponsored by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy. For more about the program, see this article in the Monterey Herald.

Click here to learn more about this program and how you can help, or call the Institute at 831-582-4200.

Congressional Interns Return Home After Serving in Washington at Prestigious Panetta Internship Program

Panetta Institute 2016 Congressional interns join Secretary Panetta on the Capitol steps.

Panetta Institute 2016 Congressional interns join Secretary Panetta on the Capitol steps.

Participants in the eighteenth annual Congressional Internship Program have completed their service in Congressional offices after two weeks of intensive training at the Panetta Institute in August, followed by eleven weeks in Washington, D.C.

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

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 from the federal budget to healthcare and from immigration to foreign policy.

“We are proud that our program has the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation,” says Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

To earn that reputation, the Institute prepares interns from twenty three CSU campuses, as well as Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University, by conducting extensive educational programs at the Institute, and then following up with unique seminars in Washington that supplement their on-the-job internships.

The program got underway in August at the Institute. A variety of nationally known speakers  joined Secretary Leon E. Panetta in meeting with and speaking to the class of 2016 interns during the two-week orientation.

In total, thirty-seven political and government leaders shared their knowledge and experience as part of the extensive educational programs coordinated by the Panetta Institute staff. The preparatory classes at the Institute began with Secretary Panetta discussing the founding and creation of the American republic followed by sessions dedicated to Congress, the Supreme Court, the U.S. Presidency, the economy and budget policymaking, cybersecurity and national defense, as well as media and campaign financing. The course work also included programs focusing on policy issues as well as how congressional office-holders coordinate their work with state and local governments and constituents.

Congressional interns pose after a session with Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director, Migration Policy Institute

Congressional interns pose after a session with Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director, Migration Policy Institute.

The Congressional Internship Program is also unique because the Panetta Institute covers the cost of the program including transportation and housing. This financial support ensures that the opportunity to participate is available to students of all economic backgrounds. All costs for this academic course, including expense reimbursement, are provided with support from the Board of Directors of the Panetta Institute, the chancellor of the CSU system, as well as many other donors.

“These students represent the future of our democracy,” said Secretary Panetta. “If our nation is to move past partisan divisiveness and negative rhetoric, we need to create a new generation of leaders and public servants who are committed to consensus, compromise and good governance. These interns have the potential to become those kinds of public servants.”

Changing Society, Technology and Media Examined at Final Event in Leon Panetta 2016 Lecture Series

The final event in the 2016 season of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series was held June 27, with an examination by three noted media experts of the changing media landscape and its impact on society.

The lecture closed out the nineteenth season of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series. Each year, the 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.

Media critic Howard Kurtz weighs in on influence of social media at the final forum in the 2026 Lecture Series.

Media critic Howard Kurtz weighs in on influence of social media at the final forum in the 2026 Lecture Series.

The fourth and final lecture in the 2016 series examined Changing Society, Technology and Media and featured Ted Koppel, former anchor of ABC News’ Nightline; Howard Kurtz, host of FOX News’ Media Buzz and author; and Judy Woodruff, co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour.

The three speakers each had differing reactions to the quickly changing media landscape. Mr. Koppel acknowledged that he doesn’t use social media, and recalled, “There was a time thirty or forty years ago in this country when because there were so few (electronic) media outlets … the media actually served to unite the country.”

Mr. Kurtz contrasted that view, saying that part of his job is promoting his work on Facebook and Twitter. He acknowledged that social media elicits negative comments, but said he believes it also creates a dialogue for legitimate points. “That’s not something you could do a decade ago and I think that’s a healthy thing,” he said.

Ms. Woodruff said social media “has made our jobs more complicated.” Journalists are expected to be active on social media, she said,  in addition to producing stories that are accurate, balanced and well-researched.

“This is the way it’s going to be so we have to get used to it,” she added.

The 2016 Leon Panetta Lecture Series  focused on the theme, An America in Renaissance or Decline? The Challenges Facing a New President and was held at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel. Lectures were on March 14, April 18, May 9 and June 27. Lectures also included War, Terrorism and Other Global Threats; Jobs, Debt and Taxes; and Gridlock, Partisanship and Executive Action. For a complete listing of dates and speakers, click here.

The live, ticketed evening lectures  are also televised throughout California, with rebroadcasts of each discussion available on YouTube and on the Panetta Institute website.

For information on season tickets for the 2017 season, call the Institute at 831-582-4200.

Students Leaders From Across the State Complete Leadership Seminar

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Secretary Leon Panetta and Sylvia Panetta pose with the 2016 participants in the 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 began its seventeenth annual session at the Panetta Institute on June 12.

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

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

“In our recent national poll, 73% of students felt they would have a more difficult time achieving the American Dream than their parents,” explained 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 spent eight days showing student leaders diverse aspects of leadership from people who know how to lead. We need to pass their lessons on to the next generation of stewards of our democracy.”

Secretary Panetta was among the speakers and discussion leaders at the Leadership Seminar. Other speakers included government and business leaders, as well as legal, military and education experts. Two former NFL stars, Super Bowl winner Chris Dalman and Ron Johnson, spoke on the importance of teamwork in leadership.

Consensus Building #3

Former Assemblyman Fred Keeley helps guide Leadership students through a consensus-building exercise.

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.

“Many of our past students tell us that this seminar was their inspiration to seek out future positions of leadership in their careers and in their communities,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “The lessons shared by our many speakers give our students practical steps they can take now and in the future to make a difference in our country.”

Panetta Institute Survey Finds College Students Pessimistic About the Country’s Future and Their Ability to Achieve the American Dream

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 3.49.01 PMIn its latest nationwide survey of college students, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy has found a significant decline in optimism on campus about the direction of the country, with 55 percent of students now saying America is on the wrong track, as opposed to 43 percent who felt that way a year ago, and with 73 percent saying it will be harder for people of their generation to achieve the American dream than it was for their parents’ generation.

“Young Americans are now reflecting the concern of their families about the future of the economy,” observed Institute chairman Leon E. Panetta.

The Panetta Institute, which commissions its annual survey in part to guide its curriculum, encourages young people to consider careers in public service and helps prepare them for the challenges they will face as future leaders. The study has been conducted by Hart Research Associates since 2001 and explores students’ attitudes and opinions on a wide range of topics, including social trends, political preferences, personal career expectations and a variety of national and international issues.

For this year’s Panetta survey, Hart Research conducted online interviews with 801 students at four-year colleges across the country from April 22 to 28. A more extensive summary of the study’s findings is linked here.

Secretary Panetta Challenges Cal Poly Students to Engage in Public Service

Secretary Leon E. Panetta gave two commencement addresses at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday, June 11, calling on graduates to do their part to help the United States fulfill its potential in the years to come.

“I believe we are at a turning point in this year of 2016,” Panetta told the graduates. “I think America can take one of two paths into the future.”

live stream_1Secretary Panetta spoke at two ceremonies, one at 9 a.m. and another at 4 p.m., in front of more than 2,725 students.

Citing a recent Panetta Institute poll of college students that showed 73 percent of young people predicting that they’ll have a tougher time achieving the American dream than their parents did, Secretary Panetta said today’s graduates have many legitimate concerns — including the state of the economy, political dysfunction and the “bizarre and crazy” politics taking place.

He urged students to detach from smartphones and social media and relate to others on a face-to-face basis. He also called upon young people to serve the country in some capacity, and said her supported such a program that would help students pay for college.

“All of you have to be willing to assume your responsibilities as citizens,” Secretary Panetta said. “To fight to make the American dream real, for yourselves and for your children.”

Sylvia Panetta Honored at CSUMB Commencement Ceremony

Sylvia Panetta and CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa

Sylvia Panetta and CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta received an honorary degree May 21 at the twentieth annual commencement ceremony at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Mrs. Panetta was honored for her role in the formation of the campus after the shuttering of the Fort Ord Army base in 1994.

“We wanted to turn swords into plowshares,” Mrs. Panetta said. “The creation of this university is the result of that dream,” she added. “Now it is your dream. This university is not only responsible for your education but for inspiring hope throughout the entire tri-county area.”

Mrs. Panetta urged the 1,500 graduates to commit to a life of public service, a mission that is at the heart of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. More than 11,000 friends and family of graduates were in attendance.

Assessment of Monterey County Reads Suggests Significant Improvement in Student Performance; Record Number of Books Distributed

This year, 951 students received a favorite book of their very own, a record number in Monterey County Reads‘ nineteen-year history. The distribution of books at year-end is a highlight of the program for students and volunteers alike; they are presented to the children courtesy of the Panetta Institute and its many contributors.

Assessment data for the 2014-2015 school year points to a statistically significant improvement in student performance that is due at least in part to the Monterey County Reads volunteer effort.

“I have been astonished with the results of my students’ advancement.”

–Monterey County Reads volunteer,  from Marina Vista Elementary School 

Students enrolled in Monterey County Reads demonstrate increased fluency, far above the national average for students in schools that don’t offer an interventional program like Monterey County Reads. In 2014, percentage gains in fluency for 100 randomly sampled students were 131 percent for grade one; 87 percent for grade two; and for eighty students in grade three, 51 percent.

Panetta Institute literary specialists assessed students before and after they work with volunteers, and then compare their performance. The resulting data is analyzed by a researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School and regularly shows significant improvement in the students’ test scores.

To underscore that success, volunteers in the award-winning program say they witness students’ progress with each passing week. Feedback from volunteers is a crucial segment of Monterey County Reads, right along with the involvement of teachers, administrators and parents.

“Of all my volunteer work, participating in Monterey County Reads has been the most gratifying, especially as I see the children’s reading skills and confidence grow,” said Diana Jimenez, League of United Latin American Citizens president.

ricky cabrera“The data demonstrates to us that Monterey County Reads is part of the answer when it comes to the all-important matter of children learning to read,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “The role of parents and teachers can’t be underestimated when we examine the assessment data, yet we are happy to report that our program is part of what is a welcome trend of improvements in literacy.”

Meanwhile, the Panetta Institute is reaching out to the business community as well as community groups for help in continuing the momentum that has built up in the program. Volunteers are being sought now in preparation for the 2016-17 school year.

“By committing to just one or two hours a week, volunteers can achieve life-changing benefits for children – the same people that will be serving their communities in just a very few years,” said Mrs. Panetta.

“The business community has become an enthusiastic partner in our efforts,” added Mrs. Panetta. “They understand that by offering assistance at this early stage of a child’s development they’re helping a child develop strong roots in their community. Our goal at the Institute is to prepare young people for public service, and by helping children at this basic level, the community is helping to provide the building blocks for the next generation of leaders.”

Many volunteers return year-after-year, taking note of the differences they’re making in young people’s lives. Monterey County Reads continues to serve more schools every year. Many of those schools say they need more volunteers to accommodate the needs of the children who need help the most.

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Volunteer Kathy Moon with students from teacher Ruby Soto’s class at Boronda Meadows Elementary School in Salinas.

Volunteers reflect the diverse makeup of the whole of Monterey County, giving of their time and making a commitment across the breadth of the county, from Moss Landing in the north, down to the Monterey Peninsula, east to Salinas and reaching down to Soledad and Greenfield to the south.

“Our volunteers, similar to the students they’re helping, come from every walk of life,” said Mrs. Panetta. “What they have in common is a shared belief that being able to read — or to enjoy reading — is a foundation upon which successful lives are built.”

Volunteer Laura Ferree put it this way: “There is nothing more rewarding than to experience their reading progress alongside their development and confidence.”

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 new commission on violent extremism that will aim to help the next 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 next president confront this threat to our national security. “Whoever is the next president is going to have to deal with this,” said Prime Minister Blair in an interview in Washington last week.

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 develop 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

Secretary Panetta Named to Advisory Committee for Proposed Eisenhower Memorial

Secretary Leon E. Panetta is one of sixteen prominent American leaders to be added to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s Advisory Committee, the organization supporting the funding and construction of a National Eisenhower Memorial to be built in Washington, D.C.

Artist's conception of proposed Eisenhower Memorial

Artist’s conception of proposed Eisenhower Memorial

Secretary Panetta and the other new appointees — former United States Vice Presidents Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Dan Quayle and Walter Mondale, along with former United States Senator Joe Lieberman and three other former Secretaries of Defense, Chuck Hagel, Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates — join with honorary presidential advisors Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, as well as a number of former cabinet members, Congressional leaders and other distinguished citizens.

Advisory Committee appointments were announced February 9, 2016, by United States Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and former United States Senator Bob Dole, finance chairman of the Campaign for the Eisenhower Memorial.

Also named to the Advisory Committee were Judge William Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA; Vernon E. Jordan Jr., senior managing director of Lazard Freres and Co., LLC, and past president of the National Urban League; Frederick W. Smith, founder, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx; T. Boone Pickens, businessman, philanthropist and energy advocate; Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr and Company, Inc.; Frederic V. Malek, founder and chairman, Thayer Lodging Group; and Norman Lear, screenwriter and producer, and a World War II veteran who served under General Eisenhower in the European theater of operations.

In announcing the additions to the Advisory Committee, Senator Roberts commented: “In the past year a strong consensus has been built by an astonishing number of prominent Americans who have joined forces and created a movement to support and build the National Eisenhower Memorial. Our advisory committee now has over eighty members and comprises a ‘Who’s Who’ of American leadership.”

As planned, the Eisenhower Memorial is to be located next to the National Mall near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Cal Poly Magazine Touts Panetta Institute’s Congressional Internship Program

CP_magazine_cover1Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has long participated in Panetta Institute programs, and a recent issue of the college’s magazine takes an in-depth look at the Institute’s Congressional Internship Program, describing it as a rare opportunity for students selected for the program.

The article quotes former intern Anna Consani, who now works in the nation’s capital at a non-profit that supports female tech entrepreneurs: “Tons of students go to Washington in the fall for internships, but the Panetta Institute is very particular about their interns — they want them to be both humble and especially well-educated.”

The article explains how the program begins with a two-week orientation at the Institute. Ms. Consani describes the orientation classes this way: “It’s like a boot camp to prepare us for Washington.”

Following the orientation comes the actual thirteen-week internship, and another former intern, Colin Rizzo, cited the significant contribution he was able to make while interning for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I did a lot of press work. I coordinated press conferences and magazine articles, wrote press advisories, even wrote some speeches,” he said.  Mr. Rizzo went on to work for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, and now helps develop renewable energy policy as an attorney and analyst for the California Public Utilities Commission.

Cal Poly’s most recent intern, Courtney Jacobson, a fourth-year student who returned to Cal Poly from her fall internship in Washington, said: “Being there and seeing all the work that goes into governance makes me feel more responsibility as a citizen to be engaged, and to influence others to do the same. Rather than complaining about Congress, we should understand that it’s a reflection of our country.”

Larry Peña, the articles author, concludes, “Interns in the program couldn’t ask for better mentors than Leon and Sylvia Panetta, who boast a lifetime of intimate experience in federal government.”

Institute Co-Chair and CEO Mrs. Panetta adds, “Secretary Panetta and I have always felt that public service is the essence of a democracy. We want our students to become more engaged, more interested in policy and politics, to become more involved in their communities.”

To see the article in the Winter 2016 issue of Cal Poly Magazine, click here. Accompanying the article is a short video:


Secretary and Mrs. Panetta’s Faithful Companion Bravo Passes Away

Bravo DoDSecretary Leon E. Panetta’s beloved golden retriever Bravo has passed away, and Secretary and Mrs. Sylvia Panetta released the following statement on December 11:

“It is with great sadness that we share that our beloved golden retriever and fourth son Bravo passed away last night.

“Bravo was a constant and steadfast companion. He was Leon’s devoted and trustworthy partner, joining him in travels across the nation and he guarded Sylvia and the Institute when Leon was away.

“In his life, Bravo spent time at the CIA, the Pentagon, the Panetta Institute and, of course, at our home in Carmel Valley. He provided solace to Leon during his time as CIA Director and as Secretary of Defense. Leon has frequently said that Bravo helped him keep his humanity when 130214-D-NI589-831dealing with the struggles of leadership and a nation at war.

“To all who met him, Bravo was a source of joy. He taught us so much about faithfulness, dedication and loyalty. We will greatly miss his noble soul and his dignified friendship, but we are so grateful for the many years and journeys we were able to share with him.

“It has been said that dogs come in to our lives to show us how to love, if this is true than there was no better teacher than Bravo Edward Panetta.”

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.

Former Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer Joins Institute to Head Development of New Panetta Institute Center

Fred Meurer

Fred Meurer

Former Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer has joined the Panetta Institute to direct an initiative to create a new center for the Institute. Mr. Meurer will also guide the development program to help fund its construction.

The center is planned to be built on the campus of California State University, Monterey Bay.

In announcing the appointment, Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta said, “Fred Meurer was part of the initial concept development and fund raising effort that created California State University, Monterey Bay after the closure of Fort Ord. I believe that Fred can help Sylvia and me take the Institute to an expanded role in public service and policy development for the community and the nation.”

Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta noted that she and Secretary Panetta recruited Mr. Meurer to join the Institute because of a long-standing working relationship.  “We have a very high level of trust and confidence in Fred’s technical, organizational and leadership abilities,” said Mrs. Panetta.  “In addition to the technical skills Fred possesses, he has been a guest instructor/presenter for classes at the Institute in strategic planning, leadership, municipal finance and public administration. His passion for public service, coupled with his curriculum and teaching experience, will be very helpful in developing a new center to respond to the future requirements of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy.”

Mr. Meurer recently retired from the City of Monterey after nearly twenty-eight years of service as the city’s public works director and city manager. While with the city, he was intimately involved with the planning and fund raising for the Monterey Sports Center and a later expansion of the Sports Center. He also managed the planning and execution of the construction of Window on the Bay Park, the Cannery Row garage, the recreation trail and a number of other projects in the city.

Prior to going to work for the City of Monterey, Mr. Meurer was the public works and housing director at Fort Ord.  During his time at Fort Ord, he was responsible for the planning, construction and operations of all of the facilities at Fort Ord, the Presidio of Monterey and Fort Hunter Liggett.

“I am very excited to be returning to my roots at Fort Ord,” he said, “and to have the opportunity to be part of the Panetta Institute, working with Leon and Sylvia Panetta who understand leadership and share an exciting vision for the future.”

Mr. Meurer graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1966. He graduated from Stanford University with masters degrees in construction management and in water resource planning in 1971.

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The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
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