Secretary Panetta Tells Santa Clara University School of Law Graduates About the Importance of the Rule of Law

Secretary Panetta was the featured speaker at Santa Clara University School of Law’s commencement ceremony May 20, 2017 at the university, telling graduates that democracy will mean nothing if Americans aren’t willing to fight for the rule of law.

Secretary Panetta addressed the more than 180 graduates and their family and friends. He said America could go one of two ways: an “America in renaissance” — building on our technological and defense leadership — or “America in decline,” careening from crisis to crisis.

Secretary Panetta: “We are a nation that builds bridges, not walls.”

“The story of the last election was the story of lost trust, angry voters who felt that no one in Washington, no political party, was working to deal with the problems they were facing,” Secretary Panetta said. He added that such divisions are surmountable, but “you cannot be a good leader or a good citizen if you do not respect our Constitution and the institutions responsible for enforcing the requirements of that sacred document.”

Secretary Panetta told how his immigrant parents traveled thousands of miles from Italy to the United States to give their children a better life. “We are a nation that builds bridges, not walls,” he said. “And most of all, we need to respect the truth.”

Secretary Panetta told a story of when he was CIA director and met the families of seven CIA employees killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2009. He said he gave each family a plaque with a biblical verse from Isaiah: “Whom shall I send? … Here I am Lord. Send me.”

“That, ladies and gentlemen,” said Secretary Panetta, “is the sound of the trumpet that must summon all of us to action.”

During his speech, Secretary Panetta said law students who work with the Panetta Institute learn “what it takes to find consensus on issues, which is heart and soul of the legislative process, and frankly has become a lost art in Washington.”

For a transcript of Secretary Panetta’s speech, see below or click here.

Transcript of Commencement Address

Below is a transcript of Leon Panetta’s Commencement Address delivered at Santa Clara University School of Law on May 20, 2017

Thank you very much, Dean Lisa Kloppenberg and faculty and staff and families and friends of the graduates. Thank you for inviting Sylvia and me to participate in this great, great ceremony that takes place in this wonderful location at Santa Clara University. And in particular, I am pleased to be here with the graduates of the year 2017 from the law school. You made it—and I’m sure your family members are saying, “Thank God you made it!”


I’m honored for several reasons to have this opportunity. One is because I’m an alumnus of the law school and graduated back in the class of 1963. That was a time when Bergin Hall was the law school. That was it. All of our classes and all of our work was done at Bergin Hall. And we were the first class with women students at the time. One of those, I would like to acknowledge, Mary Emery, who graduated in my class, served with distinction at the law school, and we miss her greatly.

Secondly, I’m honored because the law has played a very important role in the Panetta family. My brother Joe was a graduate in 1958, and he still continues to practice. Our youngest son, Jimmy, was also a 1996 graduate of Santa Clara Law School and just got elected to my old seat in the Congress, representing the Central Coast. Our oldest son, Chris, is a graduate of UCLA Law School, but is a partner in Fenton & Keller in Monterey. And our daughter-in-law, Carrie Panetta, married to Jimmy, is a graduate of University of Virginia Law School and is a Superior Court judge in Monterey County. Our second son became a cardiologist, I think, to take care of the rest of us.


So, the law has served the Panetta family well.

Thirdly, I’m honored because the Panetta Institute, as mentioned, does host the fellows program, in which we have law students from Santa Clara come to our Institute, learn about the legislative process, learn about issues, and more importantly, learn about what it takes to find consensus on issues, which is the heart and soul of the legislative process—and frankly has become a lost art in Washington. And I’m also honored because of all of you—particularly the graduates receiving your law degree. You are in many ways fulfilling the American dream, the dream of achieving a better life. I know about that dream because I’ve had the privilege to live the American dream. I’m the son of Italian immigrants. Like millions of others, they came to America, early ’30s, few skills, no language ability, little money in their pockets. My father was the thirteenth in his family. He had several brothers who’d come to America before him. His oldest brother settled in Sheridan, Wyoming, and the other brother came here to California. As was the tradition in Italian families, when you come to this country, you visit your older brother first. So they did—and went to see my uncle Bruno, in Sheridan, Wyoming. They spent one winter in Wyoming.


My mother said it’s time to see the other brother in California.


Which they did—made it to Monterey, California. My dad opened a restaurant downtown Monterey. They worked hard. My mother handled the cash register and my father cooked. My brother and I worked in the back. My earliest recollections about that was standing on a chair in the back of that restaurant, washing glasses. (My parents believed that child labor was a requirement in my family!) My father sold the restaurant after the war and then bought some land in Carmel Valley, planted a walnut orchard. Again, we worked hard, moving irrigation pipes, doing all the work you do on a farm. And as those trees grew older, my father used to go around in those days with a pole and hook and shake each of the branches, and my brother and I used to be underneath collecting the walnuts. When I got elected to Congress, my father said, “You know, you’ve been well trained to go to Washington because you’ve been dodging nuts all your life.”


There’s some truth to that. The American dream is something I think a lot about, because I used to ask my father, “Why would you come all that distance to come to a strange land, leaving your family, leaving the comfort of those that you were raised with. Why would you suddenly travel thousands of miles to a strange land?” And I never forgot my father’s comment, which was, “Your mother and I believed we could give our children a better life in this country.” And that is the American dream—the dream of giving our children a better life. But they also made clear that dreams are just dreams unless you’re willing to work hard, to take risks, to sacrifice, to fight, and to never stop fighting until you achieve your dream.


There was a Jesuit here at Santa Clara when I went here who once said to me—I’ve never forgotten this: “Leon, God gives you life, but it is up to you to determine whether you have a life.” And he backed it up with a story that I often tell, because it makes a wonderful point, of the rabbi and the priest who decided they would get to know each other a little better. They decided to go to events and use those events to talk to each other, to learn about each other’s faith. One night, they went to a boxing match and just before the bell rang, one of the boxers made the sign of the cross. The rabbi nudged the priest and said, “What does that mean?” The priest said, “It doesn’t mean a damn thing if you can’t fight.”


Now ladies and gentlemen, we bless ourselves with the hope that everything’s going to be great in America—but frankly, it doesn’t mean a damn thing unless we’re willing to fight for it. In 2017, this nation is very much at a crossroads. By virtue of the decision you’ve made on the career that you’re about to embark on, and the law degree that you received—you are very much a part of the fight in our democracy. Because in a very real way, the future of our democracy will be determined by whether or not we are a nation of laws, whether or not we respect the institutions and the traditions that support our democracy.

I said we’re at a crossroads, and I think this country can go in one of two directions. One, and I believe this, we could be an America in renaissance in the 21st century, an America that has a strong economy and strong growth, an America that builds on this tremendous creativity and innovation that is part of Silicon Valley and part of our country: tremendous advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, information technology, studies into the human genome. We could have young people trained in the skills of the 21st century. We could be a country that can govern itself, that can make decisions on behalf of the American people. And yes, we could have a leaner, but a more agile defense force that remains the strongest on the face of the earth, supporting a global leadership that deals with a very dangerous world.

We could have that kind of America—or we could be an America in decline, an America in crisis after crisis, unable to govern itself, caught in political gridlock, divided by our fears and our hatreds and our prejudices, political attacks that undermine trust in our leadership, our institutions, our freedoms, our laws, unable to protect those freedoms, unable to protect our economy, unable to protect our national security. The kind of downward spiral that is the story of every failed empire in the course of history. What path we take will be determined not just by the quality of our political leadership, but very frankly determined by all of you.

I often say at our Institute, talking about public policy to the students, that in democracy we govern either by leadership or by crisis. If leadership is there and willing to take the risks associated with leadership—and make no mistake about it, if you are a leader, you have to take risks—if  you’re willing to take those risks, we can avoid crisis. But if leadership is not there, then we will inevitably govern by crisis. But if you govern by crisis, there is a price to be paid. And the price is: You lose the trust of the American people in our system of government. And very frankly, the story of the last election was the story of lost trust, of angry and frustrated voters who felt that no one in Washington, no political party, was working to deal with the problems they were facing in their jobs or lack of jobs, in their families, in their ability to survive. And so they desperately wanted change, even with someone that they knew they did not agree with, but it could produce some kind of change, even if the price was political turmoil.

Unfortunately, that anger and frustration is still there, and it affects every generation. The Panetta Institute just took a nationwide survey of college students to determine their attitudes on a number of issues. In the history of our poll, I’ve never seen that level of dissatisfaction. In the poll, trust in the quality of political leadership had plummeted from 48 percent in the survey last year to 29 percent. Three out of five students, over 61 percent, say the country is on the wrong track. That’s the lowest we’ve ever seen. The good news is that students, at the same time, recognize that political decisions are relevant to their lives—and by close to 70 percent, they recognize that if they are involved in our political system, they can make a difference. And that participation, that involvement in our democracy, goes to the heart and soul of what our system of government is all about.


We are nation that was born in the middle of the Enlightenment. Philosophers like Kant and Hobbes and others, for the first time, were debating the role of people in government, the fact that we could self govern ourselves, and our forefathers took note of that. They realized they didn’t want a centralized power in any one branch of government. They didn’t want a king. They didn’t want a king/parliament. They didn’t want a Star Chamber court. In their genius, they created a system of three separate but equal branches of government, each a check and balance on the other. It is a unique system to limit power, but it can also produce gridlock. But the key to breaking that gridlock was the fact that they placed ultimate power in the people, in the people of our country and they framed that in the preamble to our Constitution:  We the people of the United States are responsible for a more perfect union, are responsible to establish justice, are responsible to provide a common defense to promote our general welfare and to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for our children. We the people are the stewards of our democracy and you, future lawyers of America, are the stewards of the rule of law.

Without the rule of law, there would be no democracy. Today, the institutions of our democracy are being seriously tested. In the law, you cannot be a good lawyer if you do not respect the law and the institutions that are responsible for carrying out the law. In the courtroom, you have to be someone who respects the process that you’re involved with and frankly, you cannot be a good leader or a good citizen if you do not respect our Constitution and the institutions responsible for enforcing the requirements of that sacred document.

For 200 years, we have survived as a nation because there are fundamental principles that have always guided our struggles to meet the challenges we faced. In the courtroom, you’re going to fight for your clients. You’re going to fight for their interests, but you have to do it pursuant to the rules and the traditions and the laws that guide the pursuit of justice, the pursuit of truth. There are the judges and the courts, the rules of evidence and the precedents and the procedures. Yes, you’ll fight like hell and you may not like the decisions, but you’ll respect the process. The same is true for public service.

Democracy is best served when it is a cauldron of competing ideas and beliefs, fought out pursuant to the rules and the traditions and the laws that guide the development of public policy. None of this works—none of this works—if we do not respect the fundamental principles that underpin our democracy: respect for our system of checks and balances, for the Congress and its legislative role, for the executive and the powers that are provided under Article II, and for the courts to determine whether the actions of the Congress and the president meet the requirements of our Constitution. No president can govern by edict—or by executive order, for that matter. If you want to change law, you go to the Congress, but you have to deal with it within the limits of power established by our Constitution. We have to respect our cherished freedoms, of free speech and of the press, and of religion.


There are dangers out there, dangers on campuses that seek to restrict the ability of free speech to take place. We can’t be afraid to hear the views of those we disagree with. That’s part of our democracy. We cannot stand by while a free press is intimidated because it reports the facts, and we have to recognize that religions need to be free to express their beliefs—and that we should protect the separation of church and state in that process. We have to respect the diversity of this country, the fact that we are a nation that has welcomed immigrants and refugees from every corner of the world. We are a nation that builds bridges, not walls.


And most of all, we have to respect the truth—respect the truth—the honesty to state the truth about both our successes and our failures. When I first went back to Washington after I got out of the Army, I went to work as a legislative assistant to then Senator Thomas Kuchel. He was a Republican from California, a progressive Republican in the mold of Hiram Johnson and Earl Warren. He was a Republican whip under minority leader Everett Dirksen. He brought us into his office at the U.S. Capitol. There were two legislative assistants and he said to us, “Look, you’re going to be tempted in this town. People are going to try to tempt you to get me to vote a certain way, but I want you to remember one thing. We are here to represent the interests of the American people and the interests of the people of California.”

And then he said something I’ll never forget. He said, “When you get up in the morning, you have to look at yourself in the mirror.” Which basically meant you have to respect yourself and protect your integrity, and no amount of money can buy that.

I believe in American leadership. I’ve served over 50 years in public life. I believe in American leadership, make no mistake about that. We are a country that has faced crisis throughout our history. We faced a civil war, world wars, a recession, a depression, natural disasters, but we have always risen to the occasion—and we will again, because the fundamental strength of our country resides in the people of this country, in our spirit, in our resilience, in our common sense, and in our respect for our founding principles and the will to fight.

As secretary, I saw those values in the men and women that serve this country in uniform, men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to fight and die for this country—fight and die for this country. And sure, if there are those young men and women who are willing to fight and die for this country, is it too much to ask our elected leadership to find a little bit of that courage in order to govern and protect our own country?



When I was director of the CIA, there was a terrible tragedy that occurred. We lost seven CIA officers to a suicide bomber who proved to be a double agent at a place called Khost, Afghanistan. I received all of those officers when they came back to this country and greeted each of their families, and I gave each of their families a plaque that had a verse from the Old Testament from the prophet Isaiah, chapter six, verse eight: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me, send me, send me.’”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of the trumpet that must summon all of us to action, young and old, soldier and citizen, member of Congress, president of the United States, and yes, you, the graduates of the Santa Clara University Law School. Your duty is to the law, but it is also to the nation, the duty to fight and never give up fighting until we have an American renaissance, until the dream of my parents for a better life for all of our children is fulfilled, and until we have a government of, by, and for all of the people. And frankly, it doesn’t mean a damn thing unless you’re willing to fight for it.

Congratulations, God bless you, and God bless our country.

Secretary Panetta Challenges Cal Poly Students to Engage in Public Service

Secretary Leon E. Panetta gave two commencement addresses at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday, June 11, 2016, calling on graduates to do their part to help the United States fulfill its potential in the years to come.

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

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

Citing a 2016 Panetta Institute poll of college studentsthat showed 73 percent of young people predicting that they’ll have a tougher time achieving the American dream than their parents did, Secretary Panetta said today’s graduates have many legitimate concerns — including the state of the economy, political dysfunction and the “bizarre and crazy” politics taking place.

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

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

Sylvia Panetta Honored at CSUMB Commencement Ceremony

Sylvia Panetta and CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta received an honorary degree May 21, 2016 at the twentieth annual commencement ceremony at California State University, Monterey Bay.

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta Named to Advisory Committee for Proposed Eisenhower Memorial

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

Artist's conception of proposed Eisenhower Memorial

Artist’s conception of proposed Eisenhower Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta at Defense Forum Urges President-Elect Trump and Congress to Develop a Coherent Plan to Deal with International Flashpoints

Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned that the United States is dealing with a number of “dangerous flashpoints” and “instability” in the world that would require bipartisan cooperation in Washington, D.C. by both Republicans as well as Democrats.

Secretary Panetta, former Vice President Dick Cheney and CNN"s Barbara Starr onstage at Defense Forum

Secretary Panetta, former Vice President Dick Cheney and CNN”s Barbara Starr onstage at Defense Forum

Speaking at a panel discussion December 3, 2016 at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Secretary Panetta issued a call for a coherent plan to deal with international challenges around the world. “Whether it’s ISIS, terrorism, collapsed states in the Middle East, Korea, Iran, Russia, China or the area of cyber, we are dealing with a whole series of potential threats.”

Secretary Panetta appeared on stage with former Vice President Dick Cheney and CNN’s Barbara Starr to address leaders and key stakeholders in the defense community, including members of Congress, civilian officials and military leaders from the Defense Department, industry, and administration officials.

Secretary Panetta called on leaders of both parties to “develop a defense policy to confront that kind of (dangerous) world. He recalled serving in Congress with then-Representative Cheney, and said: “In our day, governing was good politics. I’m not sure people think governing is good politics now. To some, “stopping things” is good politics. Somehow we’ve got to change that mentality.”

Specifically, Secretary Panetta called for bipartisan agreement on a new federal budget to provide a roadmap for adequate defense spending which now faces severe cutbacks. “The ultimate challenge now is to get a budget, to get Congress to do what should have been done a long time ago.”

Bringing up the sacrifices of those who serve in the military, Secretary Panetta asked, “If these young men and women are willing to put their lives on the line in order to protect this country, why can’t people who are elected to office use a little bit of that courage to take the risk to govern the country?”

With regard to then-President-elect Trump, Secretary Panetta observed, “We don’t know which Donald Trump is going to enter the Oval Office — tweeting Donald Trump, reality TV Donald Trump or the business person Donald Trump. Every president I’ve seen during my time — I don’t care how experienced they are — when they walk into the Oval Office, it’s overwhelming, and it’s going to be true when he walks into the Oval Office.

“My hope and prayer is that he’ll work with all people,” he added, “and have the kind of defined policy that we need to protect this country in a dangerous world.”

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

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


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

Secretary Panetta spoke to students and guests on October 7, 2016 as a part of the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series, which invites prominent leaders to discuss their experiences and beliefs on freedom in America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, 2016 at the group’s Spring Fling Dinner and Awards event at San Juan Oaks Golf Club in Hollister.

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, 2016 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.”

Secretary Panetta Addresses Leadership Issues with Chief Justices; Institute Fellows Take Note of Diverse Views

Secretary Leon E. Panetta addressed the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) at the organization’s February, 2016 meeting in Monterey, telling jurists from around the United States that chief justices “play an important role in the American Dream by upholding the rule of law.”

Among those in attendance was Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who also served as a featured speaker at the event.

Secretary Panetta spoke of the leadership challenges facing the United States, telling justices, “if you’re going to lead, you have to take risks.”

Also attending the conference were law school students in the Panetta Institute’s Policy Research Fellows Program, who recently completed a semester of study at the Institute. Fellow Wesley Dodd said, “As a law student, it was amazing just to be in a room with so many influential leaders of the legal profession. Justice Kennedy’s reflections on the role of the judiciary and the evolving responsibilities of modern judges were incredibly enlightening.”

Another fellow, Holly Lillis, noted the program participants’ role in helping the Institute prepare for the Leon Panetta 2016 Lecture Series. “These lectures promote balanced, respectful and candid conversations between leaders in diverse fields and with diverse views. With these upcoming dialogues in mind, I was impressed by Justice Kennedy’s command and candor as he addressed the changing role of the judiciary. I was also impacted by what I witnessed after his address — a room of justices from diverse backgrounds and of diverse opinions discussing the challenges facing the court with this exact respect and candor.”

The CCJ was founded in 1949 to provide an opportunity for the highest judicial officers of all fifty states as well as United States territories to meet and discuss matters of importance in improving the administration of justice, rules and methods of procedure, and the organization and operation of state courts and judicial systems, and to make recommendations and bring about improvements on such matters.

Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute to Institute Vice Chair Bob Antle

Secretary Leon Panetta paid tribute to longtime friend and Panetta Institute Vice Chair Bob Antle, who died August 3, 2014  in Salinas. Secretary Panetta was one of several speakers at the memorial service for Mr. Antle on August 11, 2014 at the World Theater, California State University, Monterey Bay. The following is a complete text of his remarks.

Bob Antle

Bob Antle

First of all, on behalf of my wife, Sylvia, and all of our boys and family and the staff at the Panetta Institute, I want to extend our deepest condolences to Sue and the entire Antle family over the loss of Bob.

I don’t know about you, but I looked up at that picture, and I have a hell of a time believing that Bob is gone. He is someone that we will really miss, and we will miss him because Bob Antle was life itself. He filled every corner, every corner of that small space in time that we all have, and with his big arms and his big smile and his big heart, he loved and embraced life itself — his family, his work, his community, his fellow human beings.

Bob loved his family, and especially Sue and that 58-year love affair that began at Watsonville High. I know we talk about checks and balances in government, but I believe every strong relationship has checks and balances, as well.

Bob loved life, and he loved a good party. He was someone who could really enjoy the party. He got loud. He got boisterous. He got talkative. As soon as I would walk in the room — the Antles were kind enough to have dinners for congressional interns as well as other events — he would shove a glass of Scotch into my hands. Now, I’m not talking about one-finger Scotch or two. We are talking about a fist. And he wanted me to have it, and he wanted me to enjoy it, and before you knew it, we were off to the races, and we were talking about politics, we were talking about agriculture, we were talking about water.

God, did he want to talk about water. I mean, this is like a priest talking about hell and damnation, especially when it involved government. And he would talk about old times, and we would get more and more talkative and louder, and finally, Sue — and, actually, Sylvia for that matter — you know, it happens when you have been married to somebody for over 50 years; they look at you with a certain look, a quiet look, and they kind of provide that firm grip on your hand, and we quietly go to our tables.

Life is about love, and Bob loved Sue and his sons and daughters and those 21 grandchildren and that one great-grandchild. They were all the heart and soul of his life.

Bob also loved his work. I have often had the chance to go out in the field with Bob. He loved straight rows, and he loved a good crop, and he loved people who were working hard. Sylvia and I had a chance to go to the 100th birthday celebration for George Tanimura, and I remember looking around that big tent, at all of the pioneers in agriculture in this area. They had a huge cake that looked like a packing crate with lettuce and carrots and celery and vegetables. It was remarkable. And I looked at George and Bob, and I realized that these two, along with others in that tent, have brought Salinas agriculture into the 21st century, in technology, in packing and shipping, in marketing, in transportation, in labor relations, in water and seed innovations, and, as mentioned, in improving the conditions of farmworkers with housing and health care and other benefits.

The fact is that the name “Antle” and “Agriculture” are synonymous, and will live forever.

He loved and embraced his community. Through his generosity and his caring and his deep belief and faith that if you give somebody a chance, if you give somebody a chance, they can succeed. They can have the opportunity to succeed in our society, because that was his story. That was his story, and he believed in it.

That is why he got involved with the Panetta Institute, working with Sylvia and me, trying to inspire young people to get involved in public life.

He was one of our first board members. He was a co-chairman, but I have to tell you, for Bob, it was not just an honorary title — it was about working at it. He was loyal. He was dedicated, and he really rolled up his sleeves and worked at it. He would attend board meetings, and for those of us who knew Bob, he had a very sensitive BS meter. I mean, he would sit at a meeting, didn’t say a damn thing, and every other board member would talk, and then near the end, you know, he would kind of look at everybody and say, “you know, that is all BS,” and then we would get his opinion.

He was someone who, along with Sue, attended all of our lectures, our forums, our events, our dinners, and he was always there, always, always loyal and always, always generous. Why? He cared about young people. He cared about our country. And, frankly, he did not give a damn whether you were a Republican or Democrat. Bob had the heart of a Democrat but the business mind of a Republican. But more importantly, he had the soul of a patriot. He believed that the purpose of public service was to make this country better.

And if you could inspire young people to get involved in public service, that was the best investment you could make in the future. And that is why he got involved in CSUMB. When we established the campus, I remember him coming up to me and saying it was the best thing to happen, to establish this campus, and to give young people here, who might never have the chance, the opportunity to get a good education and to improve their lives. And that is why he was so generous and supportive of what this campus was all about.

In the end, his whole life came together into probably his most important quality, which is that he loved and embraced his fellow human beings.

He saw what was good in human beings, and he also saw their faults. Let’s face it. Bob did not tolerate fools easily. If he thought you were saying something foolish, he would tell you. The best part of Bob and something I always loved — he was direct, he was honest, he was straightforward. You did not have to read between the lines. What he thought, what he believed in is what he said. That rare quality of pure honesty, pure honesty. And everything he did, everything he did, is about making people’s lives better. That is the American dream, and Bob lived that dream. He helped countless others, young and old, live that dream as well.

I have always said that I think the ultimate test of one’s life on earth is whether or not you can say that that person made a difference in the lives of others. Throughout his life, Bob Antle made one hell of a difference in the lives of others, and though we will miss him terribly, he will live forever in our hearts, in our memories, and, most of all, in the success of every student and every person that he has ever helped.

God bless you, Bob, and, by the way, would you straighten out those rows in heaven, and would you please have a Scotch ready for the rest of us to join the party.

Secretary Panetta’s Portrait Unveiled at Pentagon Ceremony

Secretary Panetta was honored at the Pentagon on April 16, 2015 by the unveiling of his official portrait as the twenty third Secretary of Defense. The current Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, joined Secretary Panetta for the ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard.

Secretary Panetta was joined by Secretary Carter on stage, as well as Secretary Panetta’s golden retriever Bravo, who sits beside him in the DoD portrait. Secretary Panetta served as Defense Secretary from July 2011 to February 2013; he previously served as CIA director from 2009 to 2011.

hrs_Panetta DoD PortraitSecretary Panetta’s portrait  was painted by Stephen Craighead and hangs in the Secretary of Defense corridor.

At the ceremony, Secretary Carter, who had served as Secretary Panetta’s deputy in the Defense Department, said “Today we recognize the affable son of Italian immigrants who has done so much to secure the American dream for so many, for so long.” He called Secretary Panetta “an American whose service to this country spanned more than forty years, in roles from soldier to statesman, and a Secretary of Defense who led DoD at a time of great change for our military, the United States and the world.”

During Secretary Panetta’s tenure, Secretary Carter said, the former secretary helped end the Iraq War, began the drawdown in Afghanistan “and continued to hand al-Qaida debilitating losses, following on his signature achievement at CIA — the raid that brought an end to Osama bin Laden.” Secretary Carter also noted how Secretary Panetta recognized the contributions of women, gays and lesbians to the nation’s security, and helped make the military more respectful and inclusive. Panetta completed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“And in one of his final acts in office,” Secretary Carter added, “he lifted DoD’s combat ban on women.”

In his remarks, Secretary Panetta said, “I will be honored to have my portrait (alongside those of) all the former secretaries who served here at the Department. And I’d like to think that as people walk by those portraits and see … the serious faces that go with a very serious job, maybe when they come to my portrait and they look at Bravo, a smile might cross their face — in a town where they don’t give a hell of a lot of smiles.”

He added, “In a very troubled world, where we’re dealing with so many flashpoints and so many crises and difficult challenges … we can all smile with confidence that we have the strongest and most capable military on the face of the earth, and that whatever mission they’re asked to do, they will accomplish that mission.”

Secretary Panetta Receives Prestigious Dwight D. Eisenhower Award

imagesFormer Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta was honored April 15, 2015 as the recipient of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from the National Defense Industrial Association in Washington, D.C.

The award is presented annually to leaders who “best reflect President Eisenhower’s beliefs and support for a strong national security and industrial base as well as unwavering support to those who wear the uniform of the United States,” said Major General Arnold Punaro, USMC Ret., chairman of the Association’s board. The award was presented at the Association’s annual awards dinner in Tysons Corner, Virginia,

Secretary Panetta receives the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from NDIA Chairman Arnold Punaro (left) and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Vice Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld

Secretary Panetta receives the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award from NDIA Chairman Arnold Punaro (left) and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vice Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld

“I am  honored to receive the Eisenhower Award,” Secretary Panetta said. “The portraits of Eisenhower and George C. Marshall hung above my desk when I was Secretary.”

In a speech at the awards dinner, Secretary Panetta criticized ongoing gridlock in Washington and said that political dysfunction at home remains a threat to the national defense.

“This country ought to be unified in terms of what kind of authority do we want to provide the president of the United States in order to confront an enemy,” Secretary Panetta said. “To not be able to do that sends a hell of a message to the world.”

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Award is given annually to an American citizen who has made an outstanding contribution toward increasing public awareness of our national defense needs.

Past recipients include former President George Herbert Walker Bush, General Colin Powell, and United States Senators Sam Nunn and Barry Goldwater.

Veteran Pacific Grove High School Educator Honored by Panetta Institute

Lillian Griffiths, a longtime teacher and social sciences department chair at Pacific Grove High School, was presented with the Panetta Institute Champion Award June 1, 2015 for her tireless involvement in the Leon Panetta Lecture Series Afternoon Student Program.

Ms. Griffiths has began her teaching career at Pacific Grove High in 1980, and has been active in supporting the student program since its inception by incorporating it into her government studies and history lesson plans. She has said of the program, “Students make connections with government that they cannot make in a classroom setting. The openness of the speakers and the questions coming from the students are a joy to behold.”

Explaining the decision to honor Ms. Griffiths, Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said, “She is a committed educator who deeply understands that our children are our future and that the best interests of our nation and our democracy are served when we provide avenues for our youth to engage and to achieve. In the past five years alone, she has brought more than 125 students to the lectures. She makes sure her students are prepared on the subject, and she always makes sure that her students write thoughtful, eloquent thank-you letters to the sponsors who provide financial support for the student program.”

Ms. Griffiths was a student at Pacific Grove High before attending San Francisco State University and returning to her alma mater to teach. She announced her retirement last year after serving at the school for thirty five years.

Monterey County Reads Volunteer Honored with Jefferson Award

Luisa Alves volunteers in the Monterey County Reads program.

Luisa Alves volunteers in the Monterey County Reads program.

Luisa Alves, a recently graduated Monterey High School student whose service in the school’s Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) included serving as a volunteer in the Panetta Institute’s Monterey County Reads program, has been honored with the KSBW-TV8 Jefferson Award for her commitment to helping others.

Ms. Alves was one of six individuals honored. A native of Argentina, English is not her primary language, but her love of reading led her to read every week to elementary school children who are at risk of falling behind.

“I love reading,” said Ms. Alves. “When I was a kid my parents would read to me. They really empowered me to read. Helping other kids do the same is rewarding.” She also volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium teaching visitors about the ecology of the Monterey Bay.

She was nominated by Monterey High School’s JROTC instructors Commander Paul Tanks USN (Ret) and Master Sergeant David Duffield USMC (Ret). Master Sergeant Duffield said, “Seeing young ladies like her gives you hope for the future of the world.”

The Jefferson Awards is a nationwide program that has 110 media partners in approximately seventy communities across the country. KSBW-TV8 is among major local newspapers, television and radio stations that honor local volunteers.

Sylvia Panetta Honored by the American Association of University Women

The Monterey chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has honored Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta for her role in establishing a scholarship in her name for deserving students at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC).

For twenty years, scholarships have been awarded to students preparing to continue their education at a four-year college or university. Students are selected on the basis of academic excellence, and funds are distributed when the students show proof of enrollment at their university.

Sylvia Panetta receives a commerative booklet from . Kaz Matsuyama of the JACL, Sharyn Siebert of AAUW, and Dennis Mar of LWV (standing); Sylvia Panetta and Mez Benton (seated).

Sylvia Panetta receives a commerative booklet from Kaz Matsuyama of the JACL, Sharyn Siebert of AAUW, and Dennis Mar of LWV (standing); and Mez Benton (seated).

The event to honor Mrs. Panetta took place at The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. Sharyn Siebert, co-president of the Monterey chapter of the AAUW, recalled how the scholarship came about: “In 1993, in honor of Mrs. Panetta’s lifetime commitment to education and her volunteerism in this area, the AAUW branch, the local chapter of League of Women Voters (LWV) and the County Commission on the Status of Women came together to establish a scholarship in her name at MPC.”

The scholarship was geared toward showing the diversity of Monterey County and it garnered support from the Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), the Italian Heritage Society, the Filipino Community Organization and the NAACP. As part of the presentation, Mrs. Panetta was given a commemorative booklet featuring scores of letters from students who benefited from the scholarship. The book will be added to the Institute’s archive.

Attending the event were Kaz Matsuyama of the JACL, Sharyn Siebert of AAUW, Dennis Mar of LWV and Mez Benton, who is affiliated with both the LWV and AAUW.

Leon Panetta Receives Top Honor From the Intelligence and National Security Alliance

Secretary Leon Panetta was awarded the prestigious 2014 William Oliver Baker Award, the highest award to be presented by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), at its annual dinner in June, 2014.

Secretary Panetta was recognized for his unwavering service to the United States and his dedication, commitment and support of our nation’s intelligence agencies and military.

INSA is a non-profit, non-partisan public/private intelligence and national security organization that provides a unique venue for collaboration, networking and examination of policy issues and solutions. Representing an alliance among senior leaders from the public, private and academic sectors, INSA members form a community of experts that collaborate to develop creative, innovative and timely solutions to the intelligence and national security issues facing the United States.

The William Oliver Baker Award is an annual award that recognizes individuals for:

  • Sustained excellence in their contribution to national security affairs over a considerable period of time, or a single achievement of extraordinary merit;
  • Contribution in the scientific and technical disciplines or in other fields essential to the enhancement of national security interests;
  • Technical enhancement of unusual significance, management proficiency of a high order, or development or application of techniques that permit cost savings of substantial magnitude.

The award is named after Dr. William Oliver Baker, a prominent scientist, former head of Bell Labs and a trusted advisor to five United States presidents, starting with President Eisenhower. A director and consultant to multiple philanthropic foundations and a mentor to many renowned scientists, Dr. Baker spent twenty-five years with Bell Labs. He and his team made significant advances in telecommunications including the laser, satellite systems, and the UNIX computer operating systems, which set the foundation for the robust technologies and platforms in use today.

The awards banquet, which was held in Washington, D.C., stands out as INSA’s premier event, with more than 600 attendees joining the INSA membership for the award presentation and speeches by the intelligence community’s leading authorities.

Secretary Panetta Honored by the Sons of Italy Foundation

Secretary Leon Panetta was honored by the Sons of Italy Foundation at its 26th National Education and Leadership Awards on May 22, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The Foundation honored leaders in government, military justice and labor at the gala, held at The National Building Museum.

Also honored were former United States Senator Christopher Dodd, president of the Motion Picture Association of America; Lt. Gen. Flora Darpino, Judge Advocate General of the United States Army and Harry Lombardo, international president, Transport Workers Union. Actor Joe Mantegna was master of ceremonies and tenor Sean Harris performed.

Also in attendance as special guests were Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, Italy’s ambassador to the United States Claudio Bisogniero, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and U.S. military personnel, both active and veteran.

The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), the biggest and oldest organization in the United States for people of Italian heritage. To date, the foundation has given $125 million to education, medical research, cultural preservation, disaster relief and other special projects.