Ted Koppel, Judy Woodruff, Mike Rogers and General Ray Odierno Among Speakers at Sunset Center for Leon Panetta 2016 Lecture Series


Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Moderator

Subscriptions are now available for the nineteenth season of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series, which brings nationally known leaders and policy experts to the Monterey Peninsula to discuss major national and international issues.

The 2016 Leon Panetta Lecture Series will focus on the theme, An America in Renaissance or Decline? The Challenges Facing a New President and will be held at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel on March 14, April 18, May 9 and June 27.

Sunset Cultural Center

Sunset Cultural Center

The live, ticketed evening lectures, which are also televised throughout California, will move to Carmel while renovations are occurring at the Monterey Conference Center, the long-time site of the lecture series.

The discussions will focus on War, Terrorism and Global Threats; Jobs, Debt and Taxes; Gridlock, Partisanship and Executive Action; and Changing Society, Technology and Media. For a complete listing of dates and speakers, click here.

The mission of the Lecture Series is to bring together leading experts and elected officials from varying points of view to have balanced, respectful and candid discussion on the key issues facing our nation and our world. The Institute believes these one-of-a-kind conversations are an important step in identifying solutions to pressing policy problems and to creating an informed and engaged electorate.

Afternoon Student Program to be held at Golden Bough Playhouse

The award-winning Afternoon Student Program, a key component of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series, will also be moved this year to Carmel, and will take place at the historic Golden Bough Playhouse.

Every year, high school and college students from around the Monterey Bay and Northern California area have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the same speakers that appear at the evening Lecture Series.

In keeping with the Panetta Institute’s mission of attracting young people to lives of public service, the Student Program features interactive sessions with the speakers during afternoon sessions prior to that evening’s program. In 2015, more than 1,100 students participated.

“We are grateful to the Pacific Repertory Theatre for making available the Golden Bough Playhouse for the student program,” said Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta.  “Having students from all over the region attending is an opportunity for them to come face-to-face with some of the nation’s leading political and governmental leaders. This program is one of the most important things that we do at the Institute.”

Secretary Panetta Among Former CIA Directors Featured on Showtime’s ‘The Spymasters’ to Discuss What Goes Into Life-and-Death Decisions

cia-logoA documentary featuring an inside look at the inner workings of the Central Intelligence Agency has premiered on Showtime and spotlights the insights of twelve former directors of the organization — including former CIA Director and Institute Chairman Leon E. Panetta. In addition, two others who served as acting directors are also interviewed for the program.

The opening scene of The Spymasters features Secretary Panetta describing how he wrestled with the decision to order a drone strike on a man suspected of planning the deaths of two CIA agents in an attack dramatized in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” He said he knew that women and children would also die if the drone hit its mark.

Describing the scene, Associated Press TV writer David Bauder reported that “the segment humanizes the job from the start.”

Secretary Panetta and the other former directors discuss at length the successes and failures of policies, and debate the morality and effectiveness of drone killings, the questioning of prisoners and other strategies.

Filmmaker Jules Naudet organized interviews with the former CIA directors, starting with former President George H.W. Bush and continuing through the directors — including Secretary Panetta — who had to deal with terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The former CIA directors collectively speak on record for the first time. They candidly discuss terrorism, tragedy, interrogation, and the life-or-death decisions they made.

The Showtime documentary is the second work by Mr. Naudet to focus on high-level government positions — both of which have included Secretary Panetta. Two years ago he produced the documentary The President’s Gatekeepers, which featured Secretary Panetta and other former White House chiefs of staff who discussed the responsibility of offering advice and counsel to the president of the United States.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta Calls For United States to Lead a Coalition to Aggressively Fight Back Against ISIS

Secretary Leon E. Panetta has called on the United States to exhibit strong leadership in the battle against the terrorist group ISIS with appearances on several television news programs in recent weeks.

Secretary Panetta on Meet the Press calls for U.S. leadership

Secretary Panetta on Meet the Press calls for U.S. leadership

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Secretary Panetta told host Chuck Todd, “The U.S. has to lead in this effort because what we’ve learned a long time ago is that if the United States does not lead, nobody else will.”

Secretary Panetta said that “U.S airstrikes alone are not going to win here,” and called upon President Obama to help lead a coalition of countries to help take territory away from the terrorist group.

“We need to set a Joint Command Center where all of these countries are together on their objectives. And secondly, we need to increase our effort there, we need to increase the tempo of our air strikes, we need to organize ground forces, particularly, the Sunnis and the Kurds and arm them so that they can take territory back from ISIS. And frankly, we need to increase Special Forces and our intelligence advisors, not only to guide these forces, but to go with them in order to ensure that we are successful in this effort,” he told the Meet the Press host.

Secretary Panetta also appeared on Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neil Cavuto, suggesting that a coalition by NATO–treaty countries take on the battle against ISIS in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris on November 13. He told Cavuto: “I think the president of the United States and other world leaders need to recognize that this is not a time to just kind of sit back and hope that somehow this enemy will go away. This is a time to mobilize the world against that kind of barbarism.”

Earlier in November, Secretary Panetta brought a similar message to the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, saying that the United States is operating on a crisis basis. “When a crisis occurs, we respond to the crisis. But we don’t have any kind of larger strategy to try to deal with what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s happening with ISIS.”

Panetta Institute Honors Top Journalists at Sixteenth Annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards

Four television journalists were honored by The Panetta Institute for Public Policy at the sixteenth annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards gala celebrated on November 14, 2015 at The Inn at Spanish Bay.

Secretary and Mrs. Panetta with honorees David Martin and Jim Miklascewski

Secretary and Mrs. Panetta with honorees David Martin and Jim Miklaszewski

The tribute to the journalists was underscored by the previous day’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which prompted Secretary Leon E. Panetta to remind the more than 400 attendees “to join hands with our friends and allies in sorrow but also in commitment to do all we can to bring those involved to justice, to defeat them and to defeat terrorism.”

As a result of the attacks, two of the four honorees were away in Paris covering the story — Scott Pelley, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor and correspondent for the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes; and Martha Raddatz, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent.

However, two other honorees were able to attend: David Martin, CBS News national security correspondent covering the Pentagon and the State Department, and Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent.

“Just as we expect those in uniform to immediately respond to a crisis, so too in a democracy founded on the principle of a free press and an informed public, we would expect no less from those whose responsibility it is to cover the news and to report to the American people,” said Secretary Panetta.

In honoring the journalists, Secretary Panetta said, “We honor four journalists who deeply understand the importance of their profession and the duty they hold to the preservation of our democracy. Each has spent significant time covering our men and women in uniform. Like me, they have been humbled by the courage shown by these young people as they put their lives on the line for freedoms that we so easily can take for granted. This awareness is evident in their commitment and in their integrity. We honor not only their professionalism, we honor their patriotism.”

Both Mr. Martin and Mr. Miklaszewski spoke of their professional relationship with Secretary Panetta over the years. Mr. Miklaszewski observed that “Leon was confident enough in himself to accept opinions of others. He was capable of putting aside politics and partisanship to do what’s good for the American people.”

Mr. Martin wryly commented on the sometime antagonistic relationship between the press and public officials, and said he was “proud to call myself part of the club that never laid a glove on Leon Panetta.”

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 gala and dinner serves as the Panetta Institute’s major yearly fund-raiser. Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta told the audience, “The monies raised here support  our programs throughout the year, purchasing books for young readers in Monterey County Reads, paying for those in the Congressional Internship Program to fly and live in Washington, D.C., and helping us prepare students for their participation in the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.”

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.

Monterey County Reads Featured in Program Hosted by the League of Women Voters

The success of the Panetta Institute’s Monterey County Reads program was on display at the monthly “Lunch and Learn” program of the League of Women Voters of the Monterey Peninsula November 11 with two representatives of the Institute describing how the program has changed the lives of first-, second- and third-grade students.

The Panetta Institute’s Tyler Crocker and Donna Bessant appeared alongside representatives of two other literacy programs that also are working toward the goal of raising the literacy rate for all in Monterey County.

“We feel that if children are able to get that one-to-one attention for at least six hours a semester, their growth in reading excels,” said Mr. Crocker. Ms. Bessant added, “The bottom line, of course, is that we have children who read better.”

Also appearing at the luncheon event were Cathy Andrews, Monterey County Free Libraries Literacy Program Coordinator and Len Foster of the Literacy Campaign sponsored by the Community Foundation for Monterey County.

Here is a video of the program:


Secretary Panetta Receives George Catlett Marshall Medal From Association of the United States Army

Secretary Leon E. Panetta received the 2015 George Catlett Marshall Medal, the highest award presented by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), on October 14 at the George Catlett Marshall Memorial Dinner.

Secretary Panetta was honored for his "selfless service."

Secretary Panetta was honored for his “selfless service.”

The presentation took place at the George Catlett Marshall Memorial Dinner, the final event of the association’s three-day annual meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C.

The Marshall Medal is awarded annually to an individual who has exhibited selfless service to the United States, in the tradition of soldier-statesman General George C. Marshall. The medal is presented by the AUSA Council of Trustees in recognition of attributes such as contributions to national defense, exemplary public service to the nation and commitment to the highest American ideals.

Secretary Panetta was honored specifically for his contributions to the United States as a strong supporter of national defense and his devotion to those men and women who have served or are now serving to protect American freedom and liberty. “Leon Panetta is a shining example of selfless service. He has almost 50 years of service to our nation, as an Army officer, a member of Congress, the 23rd Defense Secretary, CIA Director, White House Chief of Staff and one of our nation’s top minds on the federal budget,” said General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., AUSA president and CEO. “The son of Italian immigrants, he has often spoken of living the American dream and giving his heart and soul to our nation. Our award is a sign of our gratitude to him.”

Established in 1950, AUSA is a private, non-profit educational organization that supports America’s Army-Active, National Guard, Reserve, Civilians, Retirees, Government Civilians, Wounded Warriors, Veterans and family members.

Speaking about this recognition, Secretary Panetta said, “it has been the greatest honor and the heaviest responsibility of my more than fifty-year career to lead and represent young American men and women as they put their lives on the line to protect our great nation. I was inspired by their sacrifice and courage and I am humbled to be honored by the AUSA and stand alongside the many other remarkable patriots who have been presented with the Marshall Medal.”

Institute Fellows Focus on Creation of a National Service Program

Three law-school students from the Santa Clara University School of Law have completed their studies as part of the Policy Research Fellows Program, focusing on the possible creation and implementation of a national service program for young people, an issue raised by a recent Panetta Institute poll of college students across the United States.

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

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

The law students not only researched historical precedents, including the history of the military draft as well as New Deal programs established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the 1930s, but also on potential programs that could be created in the future.

Toward that end, fellows met with visiting public officials to discuss the viability of public-service programs. Fellows met with John Laird, California Secretary of Natural Resources, to discuss the idea of a statewide program focused on environmental public service. Participants also met with others knowledgeable in the legislative process, including State Senator Bill Monning, former Assemblyman Fred Keeley, and  Drew Liebert, former chief counsel of the  California Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Future participants in the program will build upon this research to continue fulfilling the Panetta Institute’s mission of inspiring young people to become involved in public service. A new class began in January.

The research into a national service program follows a study commissioned by the Panetta Institute last year that revealed that sixty-three percent of college students said they would support a system that would provide grants or financial assistance to help pay for college in exchange for two years of national service.

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

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

In addition to policies surrounding a national service program, fellows also conducted research in support of other Institute programs, including  the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards, An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service, held on November 14, 2015.

Fellows work under the direction of Panetta Institute staff, including attorneys. Following completion of the program, they receive academic credit for their work. Directing them were Bill Daniels, a local attorney, Dr. Richard Kezirian, the Institute’s professor and senior program coordinator, and Ellen Wilson, senior program coordinator.

Secretary Leon E. Panetta Gives Keynote Address at Eighteenth Annual Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony for Monterey County Reads

Secretary Leon E. Panetta gave the keynote address at a special Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, September 11 honoring reading volunteers and elementary schools who have participated in the Institute’s landmark literacy initiative, Monterey County Reads.

Secretary Panetta spoke about the importance of public service and the essential role literacy plays in our democracy. The Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony, featuring Secretary Panetta, was held at the University Center Ballroom at CSU Monterey Bay.

Secretary Panetta praises volunteers for service above self.

Secretary Panetta praises volunteers for service above self.

“The American dream is to give our children a better life,” said Secretary Panetta. “These volunteers and the teachers and the school-site personnel who work with them are helping to make that dream possible. By sharing the vital skill of literacy they are giving these children the tools they need to succeed. Their work is a wonderful example of public service.”

The event was emceed by Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta, and featured remarks by Secretary Leon E. Panetta on the importance of reading and literacy for young people. Also appearing at the event was Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski and Carmel City Councilwoman and Monterey County Reads volunteer Victoria Beach.

“Thank you very much for the excellent  ceremony…. It is important that the volunteers in this significant program be recognized and thanked for their essential input into the program”

— Jim Hagan, “Golden Thread” honoree

Additional speakers at the event were Monterey High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor Commander Paul Tanks, USN (Ret.), who has worked with the Panetta Institute to have cadets serve as reading volunteers at La Mesa Elementary School and Foothill Elementary School, and Claudia Morales, Monterey County Reads school site coordinator at Loma Vista Elementary School in Salinas.

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 preparing 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.”


Commander Paul Tanks discusses Monterey High School’s Naval Junior ROTC volunteers.

One-hundred sixty-five reading volunteers and thirty-five schools were honored for their dedication and outstanding work in helping local elementary school children improve their reading skills. These volunteers received certificates of recognition along with special pins. Participating schools also received a certificate honoring their important participation and support.

Six volunteers received the program’s Golden Threads award in recognition of providing five or more years of service toward this vital effort.

In its eighteen-year history, almost 3,000 Monterey County Reads volunteers have read nearly 120,000 hours one-to-one with approximately 15,000 children in Monterey County elementary schools.

“We continue to increase our volunteer numbers,” Mrs. Panetta added, “and we want to celebrate all the volunteers, teachers and other school officials by recognizing them now for their past work as well as their future commitment.”


Sylvia Panetta congratulates volunteer Peggy Casey

“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 the most. 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.”

Volunteers are sponsored by a wide variety of business service clubs, educational institutions, religious organizations, military installations and other community groups that form the backbone of the program. Community groups or businesses interested in sponsoring more volunteers are urged to contact the Panetta Institute. Volunteers must be sponsored by a recognized community organization or business.

The Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony is sponsored by The Panetta Institute for Public Policy and the Monterey County Office of Education. Learn more about the event on local television station KSBW and in the Monterey HeraldClick here for more information about this program and how you can help, or call the Institute at 831-582-4200.

Congressional Interns Return Home After Successfully Completing Service in Washington

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Former presidential advisor David Gergen joined Secretary Panetta to address interns at the Institute in August

Participants in the seventeenth annual Congressional Internship Program have returned home after completing eleven weeks of service in Congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

Interns work full-time in the Democratic and Republican congressional offices of the California delegation, as well as attending seminars in Washington as part of their studies.

Their daily tasks ranged from speaking with constituents and opening mail to conducting tours of the Capitol and attending hearings. They also attended several regularly scheduled seminars held exclusively for them by the Institute. These classes were led by members of Congress, top government officials and experts in a variety of fields, from the federal budget to healthcare and from national security to foreign policy.

In 2015, interns witnessed some historic congressional debates, specifically surrounding President Barack Obama’s proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, as well as domestic policy debates such as the potential de-funding of Planned Parenthood, and the question of leadership in the United States House of Representatives. And, the interns were present to witness first-hand the grandeur and ceremony surrounding Pope Francis’ speech to Congress.

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

“Being an intern on Capitol Hill during the Congressional vote on the Iran nuclear deal was an incredible, historic and life-changing experience. I am grateful to have witnessed the debate of what many have called one of the most important foreign-affairs agreements in the history of the modern world.”
— N’dea Moore-Petinak, 2015 intern

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

Speakers at the seminars included Secretary Panetta; Tom Daschle, former United States Senate Majority Leader; Sam Farr, United States Representative (D-Monterey); Michéle Flournoy, former Undersecretary of Defense; Pat Griffin, former Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Bill Lowery, former United States Representative (R-San Diego); Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget; Michael Morell, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Alice Rivlin, Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Thomas J. Wickham, Jr., Parliamentarian of the House of Representatives;

The program got underway in August at the Institute. Former Vice President Dan Quayle, political commentator David Gergen and Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz were among the many experts joining Secretary Panetta in speaking to and meeting with the class of 2015 interns during the two-week orientation.

In total, thirty-seven political and government leaders shared their knowledge and experience as part of this educational programs presented at the Panetta Institute.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle

Former Vice President Dan Quayle

The preparatory classes at the Institute began with Secretary Panetta discussing the founding and creation of the American republic followed by sessions dedicated to Congress, the Supreme Court, the United States Presidency, the economy and budget policymaking, cybersecurity and national defense, as well as media and campaign financing. The course work also included programs focusing on policy issues as well as how congressional office-holders coordinate their work with state and local governments and constituents.

“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.”

Read more in an editorial in the Monterey Herald.

Secretary Panetta’s Memoir, Worthy Fights, Released in Paperback

Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s best-selling memoir, Worthy Fights, was released in paperback on September 15, 2015.

The book remains one of the most-discussed books of the last year, with its account not only of Secretary Panetta’s insights into current foreign affairs, but also his recollections of his more than fifty years of public service.

Worthy Fights is an overview of Secretary Panetta’s values, which he describes at length. He makes the case that political leadership should be more about serving the public than about partisan battles, and how integrity is indispensable to a successful political career.

The memoir begins with his formative childhood years and then his service as an Army intelligence officer, continuing through his time as an aide to California Senator Tom Kuchel, a controversial tenure in President Nixon’s Department of Health, Education and Welfare and a stint as a staffer with New York Mayor John Lindsay.

The book then examines Secretary Panetta’s return to Washington, D.C., where he served for sixteen years in Congress, followed by major leadership positions: director of the Office of Management and Budget, White House Chief of Staff, director of the CIA and ultimately as Secretary of Defense.

The memoir also details how Secretary Panetta and his wife Sylvia founded The Panetta Institute for Public Policy as part of their ongoing belief in the value of public service.

Worthy Fights is a blueprint for effective leadership in the public arena, with real-world examples of how a public servant can be a successful advocate without losing his or her commitment to the principles of plain-spoken values and integrity. It can be purchased at local bookstores or at

Institute Hosts 2015 Student Leadership Program, Focusing on Practical Lessons on How to Lead on Campus and in Public Service


Courtesy KSBW-TV8

A celebrated program for student body presidents and other elected student body officers from the California State University system and three private universities completed its sixteenth annual session at the Panetta Institute on June 20, 2015.

The diverse group of student leaders spent eight days at the Institute for the comprehensive program, learning from experts in a variety of fields. An impressive list of leaders shared their experiences and their strategies for success with program participants.

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

“Partisan politics have brought Washington to a standstill,” explained Institute chairman Leon E. Panetta. “The future of our democracy depends on our leaders’ abilities to come together and govern. At the Panetta Institute, we believe this kind of change can come about by inspiring a new generation of leaders to become involved in public service and to lead in a manner that emphasizes common sense governance, compromise, consensus and coalition building. The Leadership Seminar is designed to teach young leaders these skills and inspire them to consider greater participation in our democracy at the local, state and national level. The course builds the foundation not only for campus leadership, but also for their future participation in our democracy and for their future public service careers.”

The 2015 program included twenty-two panel and individual sessions featuring thirty-eight speakers.

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.

One student at the 2014 leadership program, Anaisy Tolentino of Santa Clara University, commented: “Thank you for fostering a renewed sense of hope for our country, strengthening my desire to serve it, and giving me the tools to do so. While only twenty-eight people sat in that classroom, the magnitude of the Panetta Institute’s ripple effect will undoubtedly be felt across many communities.”

Panetta Institute Releases Results of 2015 Student Poll; Findings Show College Students Supportive of National Service in Exchange for Financial Aid and are More Focused on International Issues

The Panetta Institute has released the results of its annual poll of United States college students and for the first time findings show a large majority (63 percent) would be interested in a program that would provide grants or financial assistance to help pay for college in exchange for two years of national service.

Institute Chairman Secretary Leon E. Panetta described the 2015 results as a “hopeful indication that the ‘me generation’ is becoming the ‘us generation’.”

The heightened interest in public service seen in survey extends to electoral politics as well with 32 percent of students saying they would consider running for federal office if given the opportunity and 36 percent saying they would be interested in state or local elected office.

Students also expressed a desire for the United States to take a greater leadership role in foreign affairs.

The findings come from a study the Panetta Institute has commissioned in the spring since 1999, looking at U.S. college students’ views and attitudes on subjects ranging from their political preferences to their personal economic prospects to interest in public service, along with a variety of domestic and international policy issues

Other topics covered in the 2015 survey include sexual assault on college campuses, views on energy policy, the threat of terrorism and projections on the 2016 presidential contest.

For more on the latest Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s National Survey, click here.

Panetta Institute Education Programs Honored by Association of California School Administrators

The Panetta Institute received the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 10’s Partners in Educational Excellence Award for 2014-2015 for two of its educational programs.

The Institute was honored for both the Monterey County Reads program and the Leon Panetta Lecture Series Afternoon Student Program.

In announcing the award, the ACSA said that the Panetta Institute “has enabled our students to read with local volunteers as well as learn firsthand from national and international leaders about pressing issues in our society and economy today. We deeply appreciate the tremendous contributions your organization has provided to the education of the youth in our region.”

ACSA is the largest umbrella organization for school administrators in the nation, serving more than 14,500 school leaders. It was formed in 1971, and consists of regions within California, offering a variety of resources for development by school district administrators.

The ACSA award was presented on May 1 at the group’s Spring Fling Dinner and Awards event at San Juan Oaks Golf Club in Hollister.

Panetta Institute Calls for More Community Volunteers in Literacy Initiative

The Panetta Institute is reaching out to the business community for its help in volunteering for the Panetta Institute’s longest-running program, Monterey County Reads.

“By committing to just one hour a week, volunteers can achieve life-changing benefits for children – the same people that will be serving their communities in just a very few years,” said Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta.

ricky cabreraResearch shows that raising the reading level for children by the end of third grade can permanently improve their learning skills, as well as make a difference in achieving success as adults.

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

Employees from Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital are among those from the business world who have joined in volunteering for Monterey County Reads, participating along with high-school and college students, military personnel, retirees, parents and members of religious and service organizations.

“The need is now — more than ever before,” said Mrs. Panetta. “The mark of a successful program is that we continue to need new volunteers.”

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

Now in its nineteenth year, Monterey County Reads organizes regular one-to-one reading sessions with specially selected children in the early elementary grades. Since the program’s inception, almost 3,000 volunteers have read with approximately 15,000 children for nearly 120,000 hours.

One volunteer reacted to his experience this way: “It’s exciting to watch a child have a new world open up to him just by simply reading a story. It’s the most rewarding project I’ve ever been involved in.”

In May, Monterey County Reads, along with the Leon Panetta Lecture Series student program, was selected to receive the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 10’s Partners in Educational Excellence Award for 2014-2015.

For more information about volunteering or helping the program through a donation, please call the Panetta Institute

Click here to learn more about this program and how you can help.

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

Fred Meurer

Fred Meurer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Us

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
100 Campus Center, Building 86E
California State University, Monterey Bay
Seaside, California 93955

Phone 831-582-4200
Fax 831-582-4082

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