Michael McFaul, Michèle Flournoy and George Will to Examine America’s Role in the World at Leon Panetta Lecture Series

The twenty-first annual Leon Panetta Lecture Series, 2018 – Is the American Dream Alive and Well?, continues Monday evening, March 26, at the Monterey Conference Center at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available and can be purchased by calling the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200. Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta will moderate this discussion.

Michael McFaul

Michèle Flournoy

George Will

The second forum will focus on Global Crisis and the American Dream – America First or America as a World Leader Speaking with Secretary Panetta on the topic will be Michael McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012 – 2014); Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012); and George Will, Political Columnist, Television Commentator and Author.

“President Trump has launched a new era of foreign policy with a much stronger focus on domestic policy,” said Secretary Panetta. “The United States is moving away from taking an active stance on international treaties and issues facing the global community. What will this mean for our own security and that of the world at large? Does such an approach leaves us vulnerable to threats from nations like Russia and North Korea? Can we protect our security and our democracy without  traditional diplomatic and trading alliances? I”ll pose these questions to three experts on defense and foreign relations.”

Reserved seat tickets for individual events 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 California can watch a live TV broadcast on Comcast Cable and Comcast Hometown Network. Residents north through the San Francisco Bay Area and east through portions of Sacramento can watch on PBS-affiliated KQED digital cable stations. The California Channel also provides a statewide broadcast of the program.

The lectures are also available for viewing on the Panetta Institute YouTube channel, aired live on public radio stations and are viewable via live web streaming. All past lectures are archived on the Panetta Institute website.

The remaining two events in the celebrated series will continue to focus on the theme  — “2018 – Is the American Dream Alive and Well?” Additional panelists include former journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta: “Immigrants live the American Dream.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to Secretary Panetta’s commentary.

Secretary Panetta on MSNBC Warns of Heightened Risk in Aftermath of False Alarm

Secretary Panetta has called the recent false alarm about a ballistic missile strike “a wakeup call” that a simple misunderstanding could lead to a war.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on January 15, Secretary Panetta said the false alarm “stressed the point that the biggest danger in dealing with North Korea is the danger of miscalculation and misjudgment. The tensions are so high that people might do things that will create some kind of backlash that could ultimately lead to war.”

“If a false alarm goes out and the North Koreans are not sure what’s happening and may react to it, our military does not know what’s happening,” Secretary Panetta said. “Our military might react and we could find ourselves in the middle of a nuclear war as the result of somebody pushing the wrong button. That’s a reality. That’s what we have to pay attention to and prepare ourselves with better procedures, better process and much better ability to be able to react should we face that kind of danger.”

Secretary Panetta also said that people currently do not trust a lot of what they hear, including words from President Donald Trump.

“We kind of casually live from day to day with this kind of threat, when in fact, we ought to be fully preparing ourselves in order to defend and protect this country,” said Secretary Panetta. “That’s the first order of business. Yes, we need to negotiate with the North Koreans. Yes, we need to build alliances. But in order to be strong at the table, whatever table we’re at, we have to make very sure to the North Koreans that the United States, South Korea, Japan and our allies, are fully prepared to deal with any contingency from North Korea, and right now, we can’t say that.”

Secretary Panetta said he’s also concerned about the rhetoric from both North Korea and the United States, including Trump’s Twitter taunt about the size of his nuclear “button.” Such language, he said, has “no place in what is a very dangerous situation.”

“This ought to be a moment of seriousness,” Secretary Panetta added. “It ought to be a moment where the United States and the rest of the world seriously tries to deal with this threat from North Korea. When the president uses that kind of language and when the North Korean leader responds to that kind of language, all that does, very frankly, is increase the tensions between both countries.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the commentary, click here.

Senators Rob Portman and Jack Reed Honored at 2017 Jefferson-Lincoln Awards Gala

The Panetta Institute honored two United States senators at the eighteenth annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards: An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service dinner and gala, at the beautiful Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, on Saturday, November 11, 2017.


Senator Rob Portman

Senators Rob Portman (R), Ohio and Jack Reed (D), Rhode Island join a distinguished legacy of past honorees who continue to fight for the most important tenets of American democracy: standing up for compromise, principled leadership and transparency in governing.

In welcoming nearly 400 community members and Panetta Institute supporters who attended the black-tie gala, Secretary Leon E. Panetta described the event “as an opportunity for all of us to come together, to renew our commitment to our great democracy. We all recognize that these are challenging times for our democracy. However, at the Panetta Institute we strongly believe in the strength and resilience of the American people and of our system of government.”

Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia M. Panetta added, “It is now one year since the historic 2016 presidential election that revealed deep divisions within our nation. It is a good opportunity for all of us to better understand why an angry and frustrated public voted for dramatic change. Unfortunately, Washington still struggles with deep partisanship and the ability to govern by consensus and compromise. The institutions of our democracy are being tested, and each of us is being tested whether we can work together to give our children a better life.”

In accepting his award, Senator Portman commented on the deep partisan divide in Washington, and said “That’s why it’s more vital than ever that you have a Panetta Institute. You want to let young people know that public service is an honorable calling. We (Americans) continue to be the beacon of hope and opportunity to the rest of the world. But we need to polish that reputation. It’s hard to find common ground these days. Ultimately, reaching across the aisle is required to find solutions.”

Senator Jack Reed

Senator Reed concurred, saying “This country’s greatest strength is people who care about their government, which works to ensure that it’s doing its best to create a just society here and a peaceful world.” Referring to challenges both internationally and domestically, Senator Reed said, “They are a summons to service for all of us.”

Senator Portman has served in the Senate since 2010, when he ran a campaign that focused on common sense conservative ideas to help create jobs and get the deficit under control. He co-authored the bipartisan Leveling the Playing Field Act, which was signed into law by President Obama, giving the federal government better tools to fight unfair imports. He also authored the ENFORCE Act, which was signed into law and helps the federal government crack down on countries that try to evade United States’ trade laws.

Senator Reed is Rhode Island’s senior senator, elected in 1996. He is a national leader on consumer protection, defense, education, and economic issues. He has led efforts to promote responsible budgets, create jobs, and strengthen the  economy.

As one of just eight Senators in United States history to graduate from West Point, Senator Reed is a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which controls the funding of the federal government. He also serves as Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, where he has played a pivotal role in safeguarding our nation.  He has always worked across the aisle to support our troops, and was instrumental in convincing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to continue serving in the Obama Administration and implement the plan to withdraw forces from Iraq.

“In presenting the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards, the Panetta Institute recognizes individuals who have dedicated their careers to the most vital principles of our democracy,” said Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “In presenting these awards annually, we pay tribute to those leaders who are committed to the principles that have historically made our country  an inspirational example of the democratic process at its best.”

The gala and dinner benefits Panetta Institute offerings, including Monterey County Reads, the Congressional Internship Program and the Student Leadership Program. The event featured a four-course meal prepared by some of Northern California’s finest chefs.

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

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

In awarding its 2017 Jefferson-Lincoln Awards to Rob Portman, United States Senator (R), Ohio; and Jack Reed, United States Senator (D), Rhode Island, the Panetta Institute continued an eighteen-year tradition of honoring public officials and dedicated journalists who continue to fight for the most important tenets of American democracy, standing up for compromise, principled leadership and transparency in governing.

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

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

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

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

John McCain

Dianne Feinstein

Lisa Murkowski

Susan Collins

Robert Mueller







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

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

Wolf Blitzer

David Brooks

Judy Woodruff

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

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

Secretary Panetta Cites Importance of Literacy and Praises Volunteers as Monterey County Reads Celebrates its Twenty-Year History

Secretary Panetta: “Volunteers are protecting the American dream.”

As the award-winning Monterey County Reads program entered its twenty-first year, the Panetta Institute hosted its annual Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, September 22, 2017 at the California State University, Monterey Bay University Ballroom, honoring the 207 reading volunteers and thirty eight elementary schools that participated in the Institute’s landmark literacy initiative during the 2016-17 school year.

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

Keynote speaker was Secretary Leon E. Panetta. He praised the Monterey County Reads volunteers, saying, “You have books and the ability to read. Those are the tools. You are in your own way fighting to protect our freedoms and protect our country. Because you are willing to put yourself forward and do what you have done, you in a very real way are protecting the American dream.”

Secretary Panetta said that the ability to read and understand has never been more important than it is today. “Knowledge is critical to our freedoms. We are barraged by information here in the twenty-first century. In order to understand that information, you’ve got to have the ability to read and gain knowledge — now more than ever. If you don’t have knowledge, you are a prisoner and you are chained to a wall of ignorance. The challenge here is to break those chains and give people the ability to learn.”

Dr. PK Diffenbaugh, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District superintendent, served as master of ceremonies

“To be successful in this highly technical world, literacy is essential,” Secretary Panetta continued. “It’s essential to the ability to enjoy the American dream. It’s essential to our democracy. It’s essential to the ability to be a productive citizen and to succeed.”

The event also featured opening remarks by Institute Co-Chair and CEO, Sylvia Panetta, who cited Monterey County Reads as the first program started by the Panetta Institute “And today, it’s one of our most important.”

Dr. PK Diffenbaugh, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District superintendent, served as master of ceremonies. Also speaking was Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County superintendent of schools. Additional comments were presented by Boronda Meadows Elementary principal Susana Máncera-Juárez and volunteer Frances Nolder, who serves at Mary Chapa Literacy and Technology Academy in Greenfield.

Mrs. Panetta and honored volunteers, from left, Nicholas Payne, Gisselle Perez and Charlie Ruiz

The Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony is held at the beginning of the school year as a way to honor all the program participants as they are gearing up for classes. “We want everyone who has participated in Monterey County Reads to know that they are making a meaningful difference in the lives of children with each passing day,” said Mrs. Panetta. “It’s as simple as reading with those students who otherwise might get left behind.”

In honor of their dedication and outstanding work in helping local elementary school children improve their reading skills, volunteers were presented with certificates of recognition along with special pins. Participating schools also received a framed certificate in appreciation for their support.

The ceremony also featured the presentation of a special Golden Threads longevity award to volunteers who have participated in the program for five and ten years. The event honored eight volunteers for their generous commitment of time and service for five years, and three volunteers were recognized for ten years that they have dedicated to the program.

Secretary Panetta was introduced by Dr. PK Diffenbaugh.

In its twenty-year history, nearly 34,000 Monterey County Reads volunteers have read nearly 125,000 hours one-to-one with 17,000 students.

“Secretary Panetta and I have always believed that each of us has a responsibility as members of our democracy to give back to our community,” said Mrs. Panetta. “For more than two decades volunteers from throughout this county have been fulfilling this responsibility by giving their time to Monterey County Reads. During the last school year, thirty-eight elementary schools opened their doors to the program. Working together, the school site staff and volunteers are providing invaluable assistance to our youth. This event gives us the opportunity to recognize their service and celebrate the impact of their good work.”

“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 was sponsored by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy and the Monterey County Office of Education.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Christina Faliero, Policy Research Fellow, 2017

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

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

In addition to Secretary Panetta, lecturers include attorneys, educators and former elected officials. Currently working with the fellows are Sonia Banks, an attorney and educator who leads the program; Fred Keeley, former California State Assemblyman; Bill Daniels, attorney and lecturer; and Richard Kezirian, an Institute professor.

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta and participants in the Congressional Internship Program.

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

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

“Our 2017 national poll of college students found that today’s college students take the most pessimistic view of the direction of the country in the history of the survey,” said Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “Three out of five students say the country is on the wrong track.”

“At the Panetta Institute our goal is to demonstrate that they themselves can change that perception,” he continued. “Our intern program gives these young men and women the training and financial resources they need to work in Washington and participate in our democracy.”

Among the experts presenting to interns in Washington, D.C. were Dr. Pat Griffin, former assistant to the president for legislative affairs and partner, GriffinWilliams, LLC; Secretary Panetta; Dr. Alice Rivlin, former director, U.S. Office of Management and Budget and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Michèle Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy and co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security; Jimmy Panetta, United States Representative (D), California; Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute; Tom Daschle, former United States Senate Majority Leader (D), South Dakota; Thomas Wickham, J.D., parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives; Jamil Jaffer, J.D., founder, National Security Institute and adjunct professor of law and director, National Security Law and Policy Program; Brian Fitzpatrick, United States Representative (R), Pennsylvania; and Jeff Denham, United States Representative (R), California.

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

Former Vice President Dan Quayle was among the many experts to join Secretary Panetta in addressing interns during the fifteen-day intensive orientation.

Among the speakers addressing students during the training program at the Institute this year in addition to Vice President Quayle and Secretary Panetta were Thomas Wickham, J.D., parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives; Dan Balz, chief correspondent, The Washington Post; Carla Marinucci, senior writer, POLITICO California Playbook; Jeremy Bash, J.D., former chief of staff, U.S. Department of Defense (2011-2013) and the CIA (2009-2011); Sam Farr, former United States Representative; William Lowery, former United States Representative; Marty Russo, former United States Representative; Jim Newton, journalist, author and professor, and many more. For a complete list of speakers, as well as the roster of 2017 Congressional interns, click here.

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

“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.”

–Malcolm Mills, 2016 intern, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

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

Click here for more information about the Congressional Internship Program.

Fiscal Discipline is Missing from Latest Tax Bill, Secretary Panetta Writes in USA Today

The congressional budget process is broken and political leaders in Washington don’t even pretend to care about fiscal discipline, Secretary Leon E. Panetta wrote in USA Today on November 17, 2017.

“As the tax bills under consideration by the Congress make clear, the congressional budget process is badly broken — and there’s no longer any pretense of trying to get deficits and debt under control,” Secretary Panetta writes.
In the article, Secretary Panetta recalls that it was more than twenty years ago that a disciplined federal budget was approved with the cooperation of a Democratic White House and a Republican Congress.

“The recent budget resolution passed by Congress, far from reducing the debt, specifically allowed up to $1.5 trillion in new debt over ten years,” he continued.

“The budget process has not only collapsed, Congress is totally ignoring any semblance of fiscal discipline. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the annual deficit is expected to grow to $1 trillion by 2022, and the national debt will double in the next decade to close to 100% of gross domestic product. The result will be increased interest rates, a slowdown in economic growth, the loss of critical financial resources and the likelihood of a serious fiscal crisis,” he wrote.

Secretary Panetta offered a list of four lessons learned from past budget agreements that ought to be in place today:

  • Everything must be on the table
  • Presidential leadership is critical
  • Budgets must be enforced
  • Budgets are about priorities

“The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission tried in 2010 to recommend a comprehensive budget that reflected many of these lessons,” Secretary Panetta pointed out. “Unfortunately, President Obama and many in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, were unwilling to embrace those recommendations. It will only happen when leaders are willing to take the risks necessary to governing.”

To read the commentary, click here.

Secretary Panetta Joins Two Other Former Defense Secretaries in Urging Congress Not to Accept Republican Tax Bill Because Added Debt Will Hurt Defense

Secretary Leon E. Panetta and two other former secretaries of defense are warning lawmakers not to enact proposed Republican tax restructuring plans, saying they will jeopardize future military spending.

Secretary Panetta: “The proposed tax plan will cause the deficit to skyrocket and will deprive us of the resources we need for defense. This plan is both unwise and dangerous.”

Former defense secretaries Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter joined Secretary Panetta in writing a letter to senior congressional leaders, arguing that because the tax plan is expected to increase the debt, passing it will probably mean future cuts to Pentagon budgets “for training, maintenance, force structure, flight missions, procurement and other key programs.”

“The result is the growing danger of a ‘hollowed out’ military force that lacks the ability to sustain the intensive deployment requirements of our global defense mission,” the secretaries wrote. They cited two recent accidents involving U.S. Navy destroyers that led to the deaths of seventeen  sailors as evidence that cuts in military spending can lead to a “lack of adequate training.”

The trio criticized “a broken budget process in Congress” for leaving the Pentagon with “a lack of certainty as to what budget resources will be provided for defense and other national security requirements in the next year.”

The letter was detailed in a story published November 15, 2017 in The Washington Post.

The Post reported that several lawmakers, including Congress’s most influential hawks, routinely point to the budget process as a threat to national security. They say the budget caps Congress imposed on itself in 2011 are senselessly restricting the Defense Department’s ability to replace broken and outdated equipment, offer adequate training to service members in high-risk situations, and are putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage against its international rivals.

The former Pentagon chiefs struck a similar tone. “Tax relief without fiscal discipline will inevitably add to the national debt,” they wrote. “That increase in the debt will, in the absence of a comprehensive budget that addresses both entitlements and revenues, force even deeper reductions in our national security capabilities.”

In a separate statement, Secretary Panetta said, “The proposed tax plan will cause the deficit to skyrocket and will deprive us of the resources we need for defense. This plan is both unwise and dangerous.”

Their letter is addressed to top House and Senate leaders plus the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

A Casual Conversation With Secretary Panetta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta: Providing leadership makes democracy better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available here.

Secretary Panetta in Washington Post Commentary Urges Congress to Pass Dream Act

Writing in The Washington Post, Secretary Leon E. Panetta has urged Congress to step in and protect the targeted population of “dreamers,” young men and women who were brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents.

“One reason I believe we must keep dreamers in this country is because they provide an outstanding pool of young women and men who can engage in national service, including military service,” wrote Secretary Panetta in the commentary, which was published September 4, 2017.

The Department of Homeland Security created DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — in 2012 in order to provide up to two million “dreamers” the chance for temporary protection from deportation and the opportunity to seek legal work permits.

President Trump announced on September 5 that he was ending the DACA program, but deferred deportations for six months, giving Congress time to replace the program. “Congress should seize this opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation now under consideration to allow dreamers to remain,” Secretary Panetta wrote.

“These dreamers must be vetted through a vigorous application process. To qualify for DACA, they had to have entered the United States prior to age 16, have resided in this country since 2007, be in school or have graduated, and pose no threat to public safety,” wrote Secretary Panetta.

“In a 2017 report on national service issued by The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, we found that patriotic spirit and sense of purpose are declining among young Americans but that national service programs provide an antidote: an opportunity for young people to give back to their communities, strengthen bonds with one another, earn money for college and develop key skills. Dreamers have shown high interest in military and national service.”

In the  commentary, Secretary Panetta described how his own immigrant father arrived by ship in the United States. “At Ellis Island, he listed his total assets as $25 and his profession simply as ‘peasant.’ ”

“My parents became U.S. citizens, but my mother’s dad — my Nono — who had come from Italy to stay with us in Monterey in the early 1940s, was not a citizen,” he recalled. “In 1942, after Pearl Harbor, some 10,000 Italians living in California coastal areas were targeted for removal because it was suspected that they would be a threat to the country during wartime. The order did not apply to U.S. citizens, but it did apply to my Nono, and he was forced to leave us and move inland. I was only 4, but I can still remember my tears as I struggled to understand why my Nono had to leave our family.”

“Fast-forward almost exactly seventy-five years, and again America is contemplating removing people who, though not citizens, have been living in the United States lawfully, serving as productive members of our society. This time, however, the government is contemplating not temporary orders to ‘move inland’but outright deportation of individuals from the country.”

Secretary Panetta concluded: “My immigrant parents came to the United States because they believed they could give their children a better life in this country. This is the American Dream. I had the privilege of living that dream. It is our responsibility to let dreamers live the American Dream as well. That is the value that make our country free, secure and strong for all our people.”

To read the entire commentary, click here.

Congressional Intern Says Program ‘Changed Me as a Citizen’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to the Channel Magazine article.

Student Leaders From Across the State Participate in 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 conducted its eighteenth annual session at the Panetta Institute from June 11 to June 18, 2017.

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta was among the speakers and discussion leaders at the Leadership Seminar. Other featured presenters included former United States Representative Sam Farr. For the third year, the Leadership Seminar offered a seminar on cyber-security taught by professor and cyber-expert John Arquilla. Other speakers included other government and business leaders, as well as legal, military, education and grass-roots organization experts.

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

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

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

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

In its 2017 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.

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

“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.

The Institute has continued to broaden its focus on community volunteers; for the 2016-17 school year, 210 volunteers participated. Reaching out to more community organizations has had a positive ripple effect. Community members typically belong to more than one organization, and when Panetta Institute staff recruits from one group, interested members often spread the word to other organizations. The Panetta Institute has also extended its reach in the Salinas area of Monterey County where there is a great literacy need.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to the entire interview.

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

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

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

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

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


Secretary Panetta 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, 2017 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.”

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.

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, 2016 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.”

“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.”

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, was been presented with the 2016 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on the commission, visit csis.org.

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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