Leon Panetta 2018 Lecture Series Focuses on ‘Is the American Dream Alive and Well?’

Each spring, Secretary Panetta moderates the Panetta Institute’s highly acclaimed Leon Panetta Lecture Series that brings national leaders, policy experts and journalists to the Monterey Peninsula.

The theme for the 2018 Lecture Series is 2018 — Is the American Dream Alive and Well?  A complete list of speakers is detailed below.

“It is so important to engage our youth and even our not-so-young citizens in our political system of democracy … today more than ever.”

Betty Danner Canfield, Santa Cruz

The lecture series returns to its original home at the newly renovated Monterey Conference Center in downtown Monterey. Speakers will appear before a live theater as well as television audiences. During the afternoon of each lecture, the speakers meet with students from the Central Coast and Northern California high schools, colleges and military installations.

For information about subscriptions for the 2018 Lecture Series or to inquire about becoming a sponsor for the events, please call the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200. Lectures are scheduled for February 26, March 26, April 30 and May 28.  All events start at 7:00 p.m.

Ticket and Broadcast Information

All the Leon Panetta Lecture Series programs are broadcast live throughout California by Comcast, Comcast Hometown Network, the California Channel, KQED and other cable networks. C-SPAN periodically broadcasts these lectures nationally. The lectures are also available for viewing on The Institute’s YouTube channel and via live web-streaming. They are also broadcast live on KAZU FM 90.3, the Central Coast’s public radio station.


The events and speakers for the 2018 Lecture Series are as follows:

February 26, 7:00 p.m.: The Economy and the American Dream — Impact of Debt, Growth, Immigration and Tax Cuts


A respected bipartisan leader, Kelly Ayotte was a trailblazing United States Senator and is an impassioned expert on national security, commerce and job creation.

Kelly Ayotte served as New Hampshire’s first female attorney general from 2004 to 2009. Elected to the United States Senate in 2010, she chaired the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations. A strong advocate for military readiness and the nation’s servicemen and women, Senator Ayotte fought for budget certainty and opposed defense sequestration.

Senator Ayotte is also a leading voice on national security and was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top fifty Republicans on national security affairs in the country.

Senator Ayotte worked to advance policies to encourage private-sector innovation and job creation. She was instrumental in working to pass the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act to establish public-private institutions that leverage investments in manufacturing technologies. She also helped establish provisions of the Manufacturing Universities Act aimed at boosting skills training to meet the workforce needs of the high-tech manufacturing sector.

An advocate for tax reform, Senator Ayotte helped pass proposals to reduce and suspend business taxes and supported efforts to rein in federal regulations that discourage investment and innovation. She worked to strengthen transportation infrastructure, boost small business exports, and expand broadband Internet access. Further, she helped lead the effort to extend the Export-Import Bank, allowing American businesses to compete in a global economy.

Senator Ayotte earned a B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and her J.D. from Villanova University School of Law.



A key participant in nearly every major policy debate over the past three decades, Christopher Dodd represented Connecticut in the United States Congress for thirty-six years, becoming one of the country’s most widely respected legislators.

Senator Dodd authored or co-authored major legislation in the areas of education, health, financial services, foreign policy and election reform. In his final term in the Senate, he was the principal author of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, crafted in the wake of one of the worst economic downturns in history. He also played a decisive role in the writing and passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A leader in the fights for both financial regulatory reform and national healthcare, Senator Dodd also offers valuable perspective on the international landscape. He interacted extensively with leaders across three continents during his time as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chair of the United States-India Senate Caucus. He is also a recognized expert on Latin America.

Senator Dodd is also well known for bringing much-needed attention to children’s and education issues. He formed the Senate’s first children’s caucus, authored the first child care legislation since World War II and wrote the Family and Medical Leave Act, which has provided more than 100 million Americans with job-protected leave for health and caregiving needs.

Senator Dodd received his B.A. from Providence College and his J.D. from the University of Louisville.


March 26, 7:00 p.m.: Global Crisis and the American Dream — America First or America as a World Leader?


A recognized expert on Russia, United States-Russia relations, and American foreign policy around the world, Michael McFaul provides essential insight into increasing Russian aggression and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

An experienced diplomat, Michael McFaul served for three years as the special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council. He was named Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation in January 2012 and served in that position for two years.

Ambassador McFaul is the author, co-author, or editor of several monographs including: Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can, published in 2009; Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World, published in 2009; Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough, published in 2006; Between Dictatorship and Democracy: Russian Postcommunist Political Reform, published in 2004; Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War, published in 2003; and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin, published in 2001.

Today, Ambassador McFaul is a professor of political science and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University. He is also director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a non-resident associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ambassador McFaul received his B.A. and M.A. from Stanford University. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in International Relations.



Former under secretary of defense for policy, Michèle Flournoy served as the principal adviser to the secretary of defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations. She led the development of Department of Defense (DoD) FY2012 Strategic Guidance and represented the department before Congress and in the media, as well as in dozens of foreign policy discussions.

In the mid-1990s, Ms. Flournoy served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction, and deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy in the Clinton administration.

Ms. Flournoy held the post of distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University and then as senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In January 2007, Ms. Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a non-partisan think tank dedicated to developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security policies, and served as CNAS’ president. After the 2008 election, Ms. Flournoy co-led President Barack Obama’s transition team at DoD.

Ms. Flournoy is a former member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the CIA Director’s External Advisory Board, and is currently a member of the Defense Policy Board and the Council on Foreign Relations, amongst other organizations.

Ms. Flournoy earned her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford University.



One of the most widely recognized and read writers in the world, George Will has had his newspaper column syndicated by The Washington Post since 1974 and currently appears twice weekly in approximately 500 newspapers in the United States and Europe.  Mr. Will served as a staff member in the United States Senate from 1970 to 1972.  From 1973 through 1976, he was the Washington editor of National Review magazine, a leading conservative journal of ideas and political commentary. Mr. Will became a regular contributing editor of Newsweek magazine in 1976 and provided a bimonthly essay for the magazine until 2011.  In 1977, he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his newspaper columns.  Beginning as a founding member in 1981, Mr. Will was a panelist on ABC television’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos and went on to appear on the program for thirty-two years.  In 1985, The Washington Journalism Review recognized Mr. Will as the “best writer, any subject.” He was named among the 25 most influential Washington journalists by the National Journal in 1997.  A prolific author, Mr. Will’s books range from The Woven Figure:  Conservatism and America’s Fabric to One Man’s America:  The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation.  Altogether, eight collections of Mr. Will’s Newsweek and Washington Post columns have been published as books.  He currently serves as a contributor for MSNBC and NBC News.  Mr. Will was educated at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Oxford University and Princeton University, where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree.


April 30, 7:00 p.m.: The American Presidency and the American Dream — The Role of Leadership


One of the most influential journalists in American history, Carl Bernstein has spent forty years reporting on the inner-workings of government, politics, and the hidden stories of Washington and its leaders.

Mr. Bernstein began his journalism career at age sixteen as a copyboy for The Washington Evening Star, becoming a reporter at nineteen. In the early 1970s, Mr. Bernstein joined with Bob Woodward to break the Watergate story for The Washington Post. The two reporters and The Post were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in recognition of their work. Since then, Mr. Bernstein has continued to investigate and write about the use and abuse of political, media, financial, cultural and spiritual power.

In 1992, Mr. Bernstein published his famous essay, “The Triumph of Idiot Culture,” for The New Republic about increasing sensationalism, gossip and manufactured controversy as staples of the American press.

The author of five best-selling books, Mr. Bernstein’s most recent work was the national bestseller, A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, acclaimed as the definitive biography of its subject, published in 2007. Mr. Bernstein is also the co-author of the highly recognized papal biography, His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of Our Time. Published in 1997, the book details the Pope’s pivotal and often clandestine role in the fall of communism. His next book, a masterful memoir of his family’s experience in the McCarthy era, is titled Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir.

Mr. Bernstein attended the University of Maryland.



One of the most famous political investigative reporters in America and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Bob Woodward is a keen observer of the inner-workings of government, politics and the role of leadership.

Mr. Woodward is an associate editor of The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1971. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first in 1973 for the coverage of the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, and second in 2002 as the lead reporter for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Woodward is celebrated for his ability to reveal the inside, hidden stories of Washington and the American presidency. He was written about topics that include the Supreme Court, the CIA, the Pentagon, Federal Reserve, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the efforts to resolve America’s fiscal condition.

Called “the best pure reporter of his generation, perhaps ever” by The Weekly Standard, Woodward has authored or co-authored more national best-selling non-fiction books than any other contemporary American writer. His bestseller, The Price of Politics was published in 2012. The book is an intimate examination of how President Obama and the highest profile Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government’s fiscal condition. Published in 2015, his most recent book, The Last of the President’s Men,  provides the last pieces of the Nixon puzzle and is based on forty-six hours of interviews with President Nixon’s aide who revealed the secret tapes.

Mr. Woodward received his B.A. from Yale University.



Former White House chief of staff and the longest-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in recent history, Reince Priebus offers a keen insight about the Trump White House, Capitol Hill and the future of the Republican Party.

Mr. Priebus has a long history in Republican politics as a grassroots volunteer. He worked his way up through the ranks of the Republican Party of Wisconsin as 1st congressional district chairman, state party treasurer, first vice chair and was eventually named state party chairman in 2007. During his tenure, the state’s Republicans elected Ron Johnson to the Senate, gained two additional U.S. House seats, won the gubernatorial seat, and took back both the state Assembly and Senate, defeating the leaders of both those chambers. In 2009, Mr. Priebus served as general counsel to the RNC, volunteering his time to help manage the party’s most difficult challenges.

The longest-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee in modern history, Mr. Priebus assumed the role in 2011 and oversaw a dramatic turnaround of the GOP. By rescuing the party’s finances, repairing its operations, and rebuilding a strategy that led to landslide wins, he left the RNC as one of the most successful chairmen of either political party in American history.

Mr. Priebus was named White House chief of staff shortly after President Trump’s historic 2016 victory. He left the administration in the summer of 2017.

Mr. Priebus has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a J.D. from the University of Miami.


May 28, 7:00 p.m.: Technology and the American Dream — Impact of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Cyber


A retired four-star Army general and the highest-ranked military official of the United States Cyber Command, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Security Service, General Keith Alexander played a pivotal role in securing the nation’s safety at home and abroad for the past decade.

The longest-serving director of the NSA, General Alexander’s work resulted in some of the most forward-thinking measures related to the production and management of intelligence for the United States government. In 2010, General Alexander was appointed by Congress as the first commander of United States Cyber Command where he established and defined how the nation is protected against cyber attacks.

General Alexander was also a member of the 2016 Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity where he developed key recommendations to create a defensible national cyber architecture to protect national security by promoting rapid innovation and close public-private collaboration while preserving privacy and civil liberties. He also met with President Trump to discuss the emerging Cybersecurity Executive Order.

As the CEO and president of IronNet Cybersecurity, General Alexander provides strategic vision to corporate leaders on cybersecurity issues through development of cutting-edge technology, consulting and education/training. His goal is to bridge communication systems between private and government sectors to create the next level of intelligence sharing and protect the nation against cyber threats on a global stage.

General Alexander is the recipient of the 2016 United States Military Academy Distinguished Graduate Award. He received a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He also holds M.S. degrees in business administration; systems technology (electronic warfare) and physics; and national security strategy.



Current chairman and CEO of Ampere Computing and the former president of Intel Corporation, Renée James has broad knowledge of the computing industry that spans hardware, manufacturing, security, software and services.

Ms. James joined Intel in 1987 as the product manager for the 386 family of microprocessor motherboards and systems. Early in her career she served as chief of staff for former Intel CEO Andy Grove. She went on to hold a number of leadership positions at the firm. As executive vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group, she was responsible for Intel’s global software and services strategy, revenue, profit, and product research and development. Ms. James was named president in May 2013.

During her twenty-eight-year career at Intel, Ms. James led the company’s strategic expansion into providing proprietary and open source software and services for applications in enterprise, security and cloud-based computing. Additionally, she spearheaded an effort to bring more women into engineering and tech roles at the company.

In addition to her work in the technology industry, Ms. James is chair of the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

In 2014, Ms. James was ranked twenty-first on Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women in Business” list and she was named number thirty-seven on the Forbes 100 list.

Ms. James received a B.A. in international business and an M.B.A., both from the University of Oregon.

To see a list of past speakers, click here.


2018 Lecture Series Sponsors

The Panetta Institute would like to salute the sponsors of the 2018 Lecture Series for their extraordinary public service in supporting this important event. For information on becoming a sponsor, call the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

Sue Antle

Bank of America

Beacon Global Strategies

Laurie and David Benjamin


Robin and Elliott Broidy

California American Water

Cannery Row Company

Chevron Corporation

City of Monterey

Comcast Hometown Network

Comcast NBCUniversal

Debra and George W. Couch III

Sherry E. DeBoer

Dominican University of California

Ronda and Gordon Eubanks

Mary Ellen and Michael
E. Fox Family Foundation

Gail and Jim Griggs

Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Associates, Inc.

Stan McKee

Stan and Sharon Meresman

Monterey County Office of Education

Monterey Marriott

Chrissi and Mike Morgan

The O’Brien Family Foundation


Mike and Mary Orradre

Pacific Coast Building Products, Inc.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Leon and Sylvia Panetta

Denise Foderaro and Frank Quattrone

Santa Clara University

Susan Prest and Allen Sherwood

Southern Company

Tanimura & Antle

Edward and Louise Trout

Anthony B. Varni

Welton Foundation

Kathy and Tom Wiggans

Stanley Zax

Zenith Insurance Company



Cathy and Gary Brock

Sarah Jane and Louis Castruccio

Nancy and Bill Doolittle

Joanne Taylor Johnson

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation

Montage Health

Julie Packard

Santa Cruz Seaside Company

Rhonda Williams and Myles Williams