Panetta Institute Survey Finds College Students Deeply Dissatisfied with Political Leaders, Yet More Politically Attentive

In its latest nationwide survey of college students, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy has found a dramatic decline in satisfaction on campus with America’s political leaders, and yet a significant increase in students’ belief that political decisions are relevant to their lives.

Satisfaction with “the quality of the country’s political leadership” has plummeted from 48 percent in the Institute’s survey in April of last year to 29 percent today, while the perceived relevance of politics to students has risen from 59 percent to 69 percent.

President Donald Trump receives a job approval rating of only 28 percent among college students, compared to 75 percent for Barack Obama at this point in his presidency. And yet, by nearly two to one (44 percent to 23 percent), students say Trump’s election has made them more rather than less interested in being involved in politics.

“There’s something going on here that both major parties would be wise to follow up on,” says Institute chairman Leon E. Panetta. Based on the survey’s findings, the former U.S. secretary of defense sees college students as “potentially a major force in American politics – paying attention and waiting to be inspired and activated.”

Today’s college students take the most pessimistic view of the direction of the country in the Panetta survey’s seventeen-year history. Three out of five students (61 percent) say the country is “off on the wrong track” – an increase from 55 percent in 2016.

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 802 students at four-year colleges across the country from April 27 to May 2. A more extensive summary of the study’s findings is linked here.

Tickets Available for Leon Panetta Lecture Series Event May 29 Focusing on Our Democracy

Bill Kristol

Donna Brazile

David Gergen

Tickets are available for the third forum of the twentieth annual Leon Panetta 2017 Lecture Series. The May 29 event will focus on Our Democracy — Parties, Politics and Governing and will feature Donna Brazile, interim chair of the Democratic National Committee (2016-2017) and a CNN and ABC contributor; David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN and a former presidential advisor; and Bill Kristol, founder and editor-at-large for The Weekly Standard and a political analyst for ABC News.

The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel. It will be the third of four lectures in this year’s series, with the theme of The Trump Presidency and the Future of America.

“In today’s world there are any number of crisis points,” said Secretary Leon E. Panetta who will moderate the lecture. “In an atmosphere of hyper-partisanship, it’s important for Americans to be presented with the facts, not with political spin. I’ll be asking the speakers how the political parties and the media can most effectively address the needs and concerns of our citizens.”

Ms. Brazile has worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 to 2000. She is the former vice chair for civic engagement and voter participation at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She assumed the role of interim chair of the DNC in 2016.

A trusted advisor to four presidents and to both political parties, Mr. Gergen offers bipartisan analysis of the key political issues of the day. He has been a regular commentator on public affairs for more than thirty years. Twice a member of election coverage teams that won Peabody awards has contributed to two Emmy award-winning political analysis teams.

A political analyst for ABC News and editor of the influential Washington-based political magazine The Weekly Standard, Mr. Kristol is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading political analysts and one of the most influential conservatives in Washington.

Reserved seat tickets sell for $90 per person. Standby tickets are available for $45. All tickets are pre-sold prior to the events and can be purchased by calling the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

Viewers throughout Central and Northern California can watch a live TV broadcast on Comcast Cable and Comcast Hometown Network. The lectures are available for viewing on the Panetta Institute YouTube channel, aired live on public radio stations and are viewable via live web streaming.

Season Tickets Available for Twentieth Anniversary of the Leon Panetta 2017 Lecture Series, ‘The Trump Presidency and the Future of America,’ Featuring Bobby Jindal, Chris Jennings, Carly Fiorina, Robert Reich, Donna Brazile, David Gergen, Bill Kristol, Condoleezza Rice and Ash Carter

Secretary Panetta: “What will our role be on the global stage?”

The twentieth anniversary of the Leon Panetta 2017 Lecture Series examines The Trump Presidency and the Future of America with Secretary Panetta hosting nationally known political and policy experts at four separate events at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel.

Subscriptions are available for the milestone twentieth anniversary lecture series for $360 for one or $720 for two. Events are March 6, April 3, May 29 and June 5.

The four forums are focused on The Affordable Care Act — Repeal, Replace or Gridlock? (March 6); The Economy — Trade, Jobs, Taxes and Immigration (April 3); Our Democracy — Parties, Politics and Governing (May 29); and The World — Terrorism, Russia, China, Populism and Cyber (June 5).

Speakers include former governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal; former deputy assistant to the president for health policy Chris Jennings; former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina; former labor secretary Robert Reich; interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and contributor for CNN and ABC Donna Brazile; CNN senior political analyst and political advisor David Gergen; Weekly Standard founder and editor-at-large Bill Kristol; former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former secretary of defense Ash Carter.

For a complete schedule and speaker biographies, click here.

“As we enter the first year of this historic administration there is much that is unknown about what lies ahead,” reflected Secretary Panetta. “Can we find a way to repeal or reform healthcare coverage in a manner that improves patient care for all Americans? What will be the impact of new trade and immigration policies on our economy, employment and foreign relations? 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? Finally, how will an ‘America First” policy impact on our role in the world and our historic alliances? I’ll pose these questions to a distinguished group of leaders and policy experts.”

Each year, the Leon Panetta Lecture Series features nationally known speakers who focus on solutions and 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.

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 lectures, call the Institute at 831-582-4200.

Storybooks Distributed to Students as Monterey County Reads Marks its Twentieth Year

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

Nearly 1,000 books are being distributed to children participating in the twentieth year of the Monterey County Reads, the Panetta Institute’s award-winning program that has enlisted the countywide support of thousands of volunteers committed to fighting illiteracy in Monterey County.

As the school year winds down, the storybooks are distributed in recognition of students’ efforts in reading improvement. Monterey County Reads serves ten school districts throughout Monterey County.

“For some children, these books will become part of a new library that can literally change their lives,” said Chris Haubert, Panetta Institute chief of staff and programs. “Statistics show that literacy can be the biggest single factor in helping to lead a child to success in school.”

“Monterey County Reads has been a vital resource in helping our struggling readers to have more one-to-one time and individualized feedback from a competent volunteer. The students (and teachers) look forward to Monterey County Reads volunteers coming each week. The volunteers are enthusiastic and dedicated. Students understand why literacy is so important when they see parents and community members volunteering their time and effort towards a student learning to read.

–Linda Williams, Principal,
Robert Down Elementary School, Pacific Grove

The cumulative numbers of storybooks distributed in Monterey County Reads‘ twenty-year history demonstrates the breadth of this program. In that time, more than 17,000 books have been distributed to the children participating in the program.

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

During the past school year, the Institute continued to broaden its focus on community volunteers. 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.

Military Needs Change to Attract Personnel, Secretary Panetta and Former Republican Senator Jim Talent Write in The Wall Street Journal

Senator Jim Talent

Secretary Panetta

Secretary Panetta joined with former Republican United States Senator Jim Talent (R-Missouri) in a commentary published May 2 in The Wall Street Journal to call for changes in how military personnel are recruited and retained.

The authors suggest “replacing the current system with a more flexible model that expands the military’s access to talent. This model would reward experience and performance without unduly burdening military families.”

Citing the military’s difficulty in finding enough qualified personnel, Secretary Panetta and Senator Talent wrote, “Our military still operates with a personnel system designed in 1947 to fight the Soviet Union. Unchanged since then, this one-size-fits-all system for recruiting, retaining and promoting troops, treats nearly every service member as an interchangeable cog.”

Secretary Panetta and Senator Talent recently led a Bipartisan Policy Center task force focused on modernizing how the military manages its personnel. They argued that the recruiting process — primarily geared toward young adults — “is trapped in the past.”

“The future force will also require experienced professionals with highly valuable skills such as engineering, cybersecurity and foreign languages. We recommend discarding policies that prohibit experienced individuals from entering the military at higher ranks so that the military can entice talented recruits.”

Secretary Panetta called on the military to encourage troops to continue serving by allowing them to compete for promotion. “Military promotions today are largely a seniority-based system governed by predetermined timelines. Those not promoted on schedule are kicked out. We recommend placing increased emphasis on merit and allowing individuals to seek promotion when ready. This will allow troops in critical specialties, like cyber, to master their skill sets without racing to meet arbitrary promotion cutoffs.”

They continued: “Serving in the military will always require sacrifice. On the battlefield and back home, service members place what’s best for the military ahead of their personal desires. Career service members typically will move nearly a dozen times—usually with a family in tow. This can help produce well-rounded troops. But it also results in stress and instability for military families. We recommend giving service members more influence over when and where they move.”

Secretary Panetta and Senator Talent called on Congress to promote a personnel reform to create an up-to-date fighting force.

“To strengthen our military, we must focus not only on new ships, planes and tanks, but also on those who sail, fly and drive them,” they concluded.

Click here to read the commentary.

United States Has Limited Options Regarding North Korea, Secretary Panetta Writes

The United States has “no good options” in dealing with threats from North Korea, secretary Panetta wrote in a commentary published in the April 17 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“In a dangerous world filled with flash points, North Korea represents one of the most immediate threats,” said Secretary Panetta. “And, yet, in responding to this threat, U.S. national security reviews have looked at everything from preemptive military action to a policy of ‘strategic patience.’ The bitter reality is that there are no good options.”

Citing evidence that North Korea now has more than a dozen nuclear weapons and may be preparing for a sixth nuclear test, Secretary Panetta said, “They are making progress on solid-fuel rocket motors and miniaturization of warheads to fit on top of a missile, and they have over 20,000 rocket launchers, artillery pieces and heavy mortars.”

Secretary Panetta characterized North Korean leader Kim Jung Un as  someone who abuses his power, starves his people and threatens the U.S. and the international community. “The history of North Korea is the history of a nation that has bounced from provocation to accommodation and back again without significant economic or diplomatic success except to preserve the regime.

“The danger is that provocation could lead to miscalculation — and a war that nobody wants,” Secretary Panetta continued.

“It is for that reason that the only option is for the United States to maintain and strengthen our military and intelligence capabilities, support our allies, increase economic sanctions and pressure China to force North Korea back into negotiations. If some combination of pressure and engagement continues to fail, all we are left with is containment and deterrence, in the hope that the regime, like the old Soviet Union, will self-destruct.”

He concluded: “That may not be very satisfying, but it is the bitter reality.”

Here is a link to Secretary Panetta’s commentary.

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.

Secretary Panetta on CNN Questions Effectiveness of House Intelligence Committee

Secretary Leon Panetta appeared on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer March 28 to question the effectiveness of the House Intelligence Committee in its investigation of Russian interference in the United States’ election process.

Secretary Panetta: “Chairman Nunes has a basic decision to make.”

Secretary Panetta said  the committee’s investigation has been hampered by the actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has acknowledged that he secretly visited the White House and then announced he had evidence that communication by associates of President Donald Trump had been swept up in incidental collection by spy agencies.

Secretary Panetta questioned Chairman Nunes’ actions, saying that by “wandering off” by himself he has now called into question the effectiveness of the committee’s work. “Chairman Nunes has a basic decision to make as to whether or not he’s going to run a credible investigation into this issue, or whether he is just going to do a political sideshow.”

Specifically, Secretary Panetta criticized Chairman Nunes for not sharing any information with ranking committee Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, also of California. “What he did was wander off, went to the White House, got secret information there. He went to the president and then briefed the press without telling his ranking member what he was doing.” He added: “You cannot have a credible investigation without a close working relationship between the chairman and the ranking member.”

Secretary Panetta also questioned why Chairman Nunes canceled hearings earlier in the week when the House Intelligence Committee was scheduled to take testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan.

“Their testimony would be critical to being able to determine what the facts are as it relates to Russian interference,” Secretary Panetta said. “What the American people expect is that we will find the truth and that’s the purpose of these investigations — by the Senate Intelligence Committee, by the FBI and by the House Intelligence Committee.”

“The whole purpose of these investigations is to find out the truth of what the Russians did in the election,” Secretary Panetta said. “The major question is why these hearings would be canceled abruptly.”

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

On Saturday, April 1, 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.

Below is the full text of Mrs. Panetta’s remarks from the event.

This evening, I have the great honor of recognizing one of the hardest working and most dedicated public servants I have ever known as she receives the recognition of the Medgar Evers Freedom Legacy Award.

Throughout her life, my dear friend Helen Rucker has been a champion for civil rights, equality and civic engagement. She has led her life as an example and has been tenacious in her efforts, ensuring that everyone she meets understands the great responsibility and privilege it is to participate in our democracy.

I have known Helen for almost fifty years. We first met when I was working with Charlie Knight in public education. Later when Leon served in Congress, Helen was a tireless precinct walker and campaign volunteer. More than that, over the years she became my dear friend and sounding board. I can’t count the number of times that I reached out to Helen to discuss the best ways to bring the community together. No matter if the issue was the closure of Fort Ord, water management, transportation, and in the past 20 years the Student program for the Leon Panetta Lecture Series with outreach to underserved high school students who could benefit from this program, Helen is there to help.

Helen is a force and a mobilizer. She is never content to simply rest on past successes, or accept mediocrity as the status-quo. Helen challenges herself and all those she comes in touch with to do more, to work harder, and to be better.

Each June, the Panetta Institute holds a program for student leaders from throughout California. These students spend a week at the Institute hearing from different leaders: elected officials, athletes, military leaders, religious leaders and more. As part of this program, I moderate a panel on grassroots and community organizing and every year among different leaders in the community, I always invite Helen. That is because Helen’s presentation to these youngsters is not just eye-opening, not just inspirational, but for many in the audience her presentation along with the other members is life-changing.

Helen tells these young people about her childhood growing up in segregated Louisiana. She tells them about how a love for reading brought her to teaching and eventually to serve as a school librarian where she was able to share the power of reading with students for generations to come. When she retired she still had more to give and so she tells these young people about her decision to run for local government and about her terms as a Seaside City councilwoman, mayor pro tem and member of the board of trustees for Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. She shares her story with these young men and women and then she challenges them. She tells them to take stock of the opportunities that they have been given and reminds them of those that have fought and have sacrificed so that they can have freedoms that they all too often take for granted. In so doing, she forces everyone in the room to question their apathy and to recommit themselves to fighting for what is right, to becoming involved in a cause they believe, and to making their community and their nation a place in which to be proud. She also reminds everyone about the right and responsibility to vote – her words: “You do not have a right not to vote.”

Helen brings that message to the entire community every day through her work with the Seaside Voter Education/Registration Center, where she promotes the importance of everyone registering to vote in every election.

Before I close, I’d like to share one other story about my work with Helen. For more than twenty years now, Helen has served as a member of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series taskforce. In this role Helen attends meetings on the planning of each event and she volunteers during each lecture. At the start of each meeting, I ask those assembled to introduce themselves and state who they are representing. When we get to Helen, she speaks up loudly and clearly and introduces herself as “Helen Rucker, representing the community.” In so many ways that one phrase is Helen. In her every action Helen is there steadfast in her representation of her community, and without question the community is blessed to have her as its champion.

Creative, dedicated and principled, Helen is the kind of public servant we always hope to inspire our Panetta Institute students to emulate. I am proud to call her my friend and so lucky to have her as my colleague and collaborator.

Leon and I salute you as you receive the Medgar Evers Freedom Legacy Award on this day, Helen. We congratulate you and express our deep gratitude for your tremendous public service.

Lessons of World War I Resonate Today, Secretary Panetta Argues

Current and future generations of America should remember the lessons learned in World War I, a time of sacrifice by American citizens that led to this country’s emergence as a world leader, Secretary Leon E. Panetta writes in a recent commentary published by USA Today.

“One hundred years ago, 4.7 million patriotic Americans answered President Woodrow Wilson’s call and put on a uniform to help ‘make the world safe for democracy.'” writes Secretary Panetta in the April 5, 2017 edition of USA Today. “These Americans came from all walks of life: college students, lawyers, farmers and sharecroppers. They all served: whites, African Americans, Native Americans and recent immigrants from across the globe.”

“The brave American combatants paid a heavy cost,” Secretary Panetta continues. “More than 50,000 died at the hands of the enemy, while just as many perished from non-battle injuries such as the influenza pandemic. Untold numbers of Americans came home maimed or suffering from the effects of poison gas.

Because of that sacrifice, Secretary Panetta writes, “America became a better democracy and a world leader. Equal rights for women, African Americans and other minorities gained momentum in the twentieth century because everyone played a role in defending the nation. World War I was the first time the U.S. engaged with the rest of the world and provided the leadership necessary for our allies in the world to unify to confront a common enemy. We continue to bear that responsibility or world leadership today.”

“There will always be threats to our freedom,” Secretary Panetta adds. “Future generations of Americans will, sadly, need to step forward again to protect it. Those future generations will need to look back at World War I for its lessons…. Time cannot diminish the importance of what they have done for us.”

Click here to read the commentary.

Secretary Panetta Honored by California Forward; Calls for a New Commitment to Leadership

Secretary Leon Panetta was honored with the first-ever Forward Thinker Award January 26 by California Forward, a non-partisan public interest group co-founded by Secretary Panetta ten years ago.

Secretary Panetta was presented the Forward Thinker Award.

In accepting the award at a celebration dinner in San Francisco, Secretary Panetta spoke of the need nationally for bipartisan governance and how California Forward has “made giant steps in the right direction.”

Secretary Panetta added, “If California Forward can continue to fight those battles there’s no question in my mind that the dream of my parents for a better life will become real for our young people in the future.”

The issues initially taken on by California Forward included redistricting, bipartisanship and the state budget. Over the past decade, California Forward has expanded its focus to address other concerns, such as the restoration of upward mobility – by fortifying workforce development programs, reforming housing policy and by promoting a new state water supply that sustains California’s future.

In praising California Forward, Secretary Panetta spoke of the need for good governance, and warned of the danger resulting from “divisions and partisanship that divides both parties from the ability to work together.”

Secretary Panetta warned, “It’s a perfect environment for populists. Or soothsayers. Or snake-oil salesmen. Or people who say ‘I can solve it.'”

Instead, Secretary Panetta continued, bipartisan governance is needed by “new leadership” committed to compromise and solving problems. Citing California Forward as an example, he called on public servants and elected officials to commit to governing as top priority, “not to party, not to money, not to special interests.”

Secretary Panetta concluded his address by saying: “The real strength of this country is not in Washington, D.C.; it is in the resilience, common sense, dedication and the will to fight by the American people.”

Here is a link to a video of Secretary Panetta’s speech.

Economic Issues, Gridlock and Budgets Under Discussion at Second Installment of Leon Panetta 2017 Lecture Series

Two leading political figures found areas of agreement despite differing points of view as the second installment of the Leon Panetta 2017 Lecture Series was presented on Monday, April 3, at the Sunset Center in Carmel.

Secretary Panetta, Carly Fiorina and Robert Reich discuss the economy.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, joined Secretary Panetta onstage to discuss The Economy — Trade, Jobs, Taxes and Immigration. Also under discussion was the relationship between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, and the inability of either party to work together.

Regarding the failed effort by Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, Ms. Fiorina lamented that the majority party moved ahead without any support from the opposition party, “making exactly the same mistake Democrats made with Obamacare. Democrats and Republicans are going to have to recognize that the only way we’re going to solve these pressing problems is to find some common ground.”

Secretary Reich agreed, saying that the two sides “have got to look beyond party to the nation and the nation’s good.” He also added a pointed criticism of President Donald Trump. “I worry about the temperament and the character of the man now in the presidency.”

Both speakers blamed extreme partisanship for the lack of progress on key economic policy — tax reform, jobs, infrastructure and, particularly, the federal budget and the debt. Their words prompted Secretary Panetta to briefly step away from the role of moderator and discuss his approach to budgeting during his years as budget director in the Clinton administration — the last time the federal budget was balanced.

Citing the current federal debt of twenty trillIon dollars, Secretary Panetta quoted a new report from the Congressional Budget office that estimates that number will triple over the next thirty years.

“Let me as the moderator say a few words because I’ve been through this on the deficit,” Secretary Panetta said. “If you’re serious about a twenty trillion dollar deficit, then you’ve got to put everything on the table. You’ve got to put both Republicans and Democrats in the room. They’ve got to make decisions on entitlement savings, on taxes, on defense spending and discretionary spending. That’s how we balanced the budget in the past and that’s how we’ll balance the budget in the future.”

The next events in the Lecture Series will be Our Democracy — Parties, Politics and Governing (May 29) and The World — Terrorism, Russia, China, Populism and Cyber (June 5). For ticket information, call the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

In Memoriam: Panetta Institute Board Member Roger Coleman Passes Away

Roger Coleman, a longtime member of the Panetta Institute Board of Directors, passed away at his Carmel home March 18. He was less than two weeks from his 88th birthday.

“Roger Coleman was an important part of the Panetta Institute,” said Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “We relied upon his counsel and support, and we appreciate the many contributions he made to the Institute.

A native of Newark, Mr. Coleman attended the University of Colorado, and he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.S. in 1950.

That same year, Mr. Coleman joined a division of S.E. Rykoff & Co., an institutional wholesale grocer in Los Angeles founded in 1911. He became general manager in 1963. Four years later, he took over as president. Under his leadership, the company grew steadily and went public, becoming the largest wholesale food-service provider in the western United States.

In 1983, Mr. Coleman spearheaded the acquisition of John Sexton & Company in Chicago, doubling Rykoff’s size overnight and greatly expanding its geographic reach. By the time he retired in 1992, after twenty-five years at the helm, through his leadership, annual revenue had expanded to more than $1 billion.

Mr. Coleman retired in Carmel, where he became a well-known, active member of the local community and was involved in many philanthropic activities. In addition to serving on The Panetta Institute board, he served on the boards of the Monterey Symphony and Monterey County Animal Services. At the time of his death, he was also active on the board of Beacon House, a nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment center in Pacific Grove.

During his service on the Panetta Institute Board of Directors, Mr. Coleman particularly enjoyed hosting dinners for the cohorts of students in the Institute’s Leadership Seminar and Congressional Internship Program. He had an avid interest in the students’ endeavors to pursue lives of public service and to encourage others of their generation to become active participants in our democracy.

In addition to his philanthropy and civic engagement, Mr. Coleman was known for the delicious home-made apple pies he baked and took great pleasure in sharing with others.

Mr. Coleman is survived by three children and five grandchildren. It was Mr. Coleman’s request that memorial donations be directed to the Panetta Institute and the Beacon House.

Selection Interviews Conducted for Nominees in Prestigious Panetta Internship Program

Prospective participants in the nineteenth annual Congressional Internship Program arrived at The Panetta Institute for Public Policy in March for interviews with Panetta Institute staff and a representative of the California State University system’s Chancellor’s Office as part of the final selection process for the program.

Unknown-3Qualified students with high academic achievement and an interest in public service from twenty-six campuses vied for the opportunity to be part of the 2017 intern class and serve for eleven weeks in the Washington offices of the California congressional delegation.

Each intern is nominated by the president of his or her campus. This includes the twenty-three CSU campuses, as well as Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University.

After the interview process, selected interns start their studies with an intensive two-week preparation at the Panetta Institute in August. “We are proud that our program has earned the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation,” stated Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “This is due to the thorough preparation we provide our students before they depart for Washington, D.C., as well as the support and instruction we give them while they are serving in their respective offices.”

When in Washington, interns work full-time in their assigned congressional offices. Their workdays include answering constituent phone calls, conducting tours of the Capitol, and attending hearings and meetings on behalf of the congressional office where they serve.

An intern from 2016,  Malcolm Mills of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, spoke of his experience: “The internship opportunity taught me more about politics and how the federal government functions than I had learned in all my years in school and watching the news.” He added: “Someone told me that this would be a life-changing experience. At the time, I couldn’t grasp the truth in those words. But after this experience, I’d say that was the perfect way to describe this opportunity.”

In addition to their daily tasks, interns also attend weekly seminars held exclusively for them by the Institute. These seminars are 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.

“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.”

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 annual fundraiser.

Expanded Research Fellows Program Focuses on the Challenge of Bipartisanship and Practical Public-Policy Decisions

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

This semester’s course of study was specially created by Secretary Leon Panetta and focused 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.

An expanded faculty for 2017 has facilitated the fellows’ research, and advised the fellows in developing both written and oral presentations, which they completed in April. Fellows first researched issues such as tax reform, immigration, climate change, infrastructure and healthcare and developed written and oral reports. Each fellow then initially developed policy positions that adhered to standard political framing — both Republican and Democrat. At that point, Institute instructors questioned and challenged 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 presented 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, and that hard work, research and a commitment to getting results is necessary to our nation today.”

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.

Three fellows started their work in January. Participants served 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.

In addition to Secretary Panetta, program lecturers include attorneys, educators and former elected officials. Currently working with the program are Fred Keeley, former state Assemblyman; Bill Daniels, a local attorney; Sonia Banks, an attorney and educator; Richard Kezirian, the Institute’s professor; and Ellen Wilson, archivist and writer.

Professors worked with the fellows through the entire program, helping guide them through their research into issues and ultimately questioning and challenging their work as part of gaining understanding into the actual political challenges faced by the nation’s leaders. The combined faculty used its collective experience in public service, conflict resolution, education and legal practice to guide fellows in the techniques of policy analysis and the application of these techniques to current public-policy issues.

“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.

Many of the past fellows have gone on to successful law careers, both regionally and nationally. To name a few:

  • 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.
  • Roujin Mozaffarimehr, a fellow in the spring of 2013, is an associate attorney at Mathews & Peddibhotla Law Group in Newark, CA.
  • 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.

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

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.”

Fellows 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.

Cal Poly Magazine Touts Panetta Institute’s Congressional Internship Program

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has long participated in Panetta Institute programs, and the college’s latest magazine takes an in-depth look at the Institute’s Congressional Internship Program, with an article in Cal Poly magazine written by 2016 intern Malcom Mills.

Mr. Mills noted, “For two and a half months I was in Washington, D.C., representing Cal Poly as a Panetta Institute for Public Policy Congressional intern. I learned about Congress by working in a congressional office. The internship opportunity taught me more about politics and how the federal government functions than I had learned in all my years in school and watching the news.”

Former Congressional Intern Malcom Mills at the Capitol (Photo by Logan Werlinger, courtesy of Cal Poly magazine)

Now a senior sociology major at Cal Poly, Mr. Mills  said the experience exceeded even his high expectations. “Someone told me that this would be a life-changing experience. At the time, I couldn’t grasp the truth in those words. But after this experience, I’d say that was the perfect way to describe this opportunity.”

His article explains how the program begins with a two-week orientation at the Institute. “Within hours of arriving, we were sitting down with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Vice President Dan Quayle. Throughout that time, experienced public servants spoke to us on a broad range of topics, including how the federal government is supposed to function versus how it actually functions, the finer points of being an effective congressional intern, and how to make the most of our time in Washington, D.C. By the time we were finished at the institute, it felt as if we were already done — but it was simply the beginning.”

Following the orientation comes the actual eleven-week internship, and Mr. Mills cited the significant contribution he was able to make while interning for Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA). “The staffers in her office …  encouraged me to learn more about the daily operations of a congressional office. They had me work on various projects for them and the congresswoman, which allowed me to further my knowledge about how the political process works. I interacted with the constituents in her districts, learning more about the district and the issues important to its citizens. I attended congressional briefings in which experts and passionate advocates informed the staffers and the congresswoman about various issues. By the end of the internship, I felt like I was part of the staff, which made saying ‘goodbye’ much harder.”

Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said that Mr. Mills’ article is representative of what she hears from those who participate in the Congressional Internship Program. “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 2017 issue of Cal Poly Magazine, click here.

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 and 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.

Panetta Institute Lecturer Presented with Gibson Award by Monterey County Bar Association

Professor Bill Daniels on the cover of BarLine magazine

Professor Bill Daniels on the cover of BarLine magazine

William Daniels, supervising attorney for the Panetta Institute’s Policy Research Fellows Program and a Monterey attorney in the field of conflict management, has been presented with the Gibson Award by the Monterey County Bar Association.

The award is named in honor of the Chief Justice Sheridan Gibson of the California Supreme Court, and is presented annually by the Monterey County Bar Association. In accepting the award, Mr. Daniels paid tribute to the late justice and reflected on the importance of the rule of law. “The rule of law is what makes all of us Americans,” he said. “The Gibson Award reminds me that I’ve been lucky in finding and making opportunities to serve the rule of law.’

A specialist in the field of conflict management and a co-founder of the Monterey College of Law, Mr. Daniels also works with law students at the Institute’s Policy Research Fellows Program. His area of expertise is in the role of mediation and how judicial knowledge can aid in addressing community concerns.

Mr. Daniels began his law career as a public interest attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance from 1967 until 1970. In that year, he was appointed assistant professor of social sciences at City University of New York. In 1971, he joined the Monterey County law firm of Heisler, Stewart, Silver and Daniels and has remained at that firm to the present. He co-founded the Monterey College of Law in 1973 and the Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management in 1988.

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, 3,488 Monterey County Reads volunteers have read nearly 126,000 hours one-to-one with approximately 17,235 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.

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, 2016. 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, 2016, 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 2016 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, 2016 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.

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. “

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

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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The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
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