Final Event of the 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series
Decision 2020: A Planet on Borrowed Time

The final event of the 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series took place on Monday, September 28 via Zoom Webinar.   The live lecture presentation via Zoom can be viewed by pressing the link below:

Jerry Brown, Governor of California (1975-1983) and (2011-2019);

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago (2011-2019), White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010) and United States Representative, Illinois (2003-2009);

Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (2001-2003) and Governor of New Jersey (1994-2001).

Climate change has become a dominant political concern central not only for environmental policy, but also for national security decision-making. Wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, rising seas, the melting Arctic icecaps, rising temperatures are all evidence of a climate crisis that threatens all life on our planet. The primary villain is the amount of carbon being discharged into the environment because of our dependence on fossil fuels. In the 20th century, oil fueled the economies of the world—its cars, its industries, its geopolitics, its wars and we remain 85% dependent on oil. If in the 21st century, the world fails to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable energy, the life of our planet will be on borrowed time. It is not just a matter of quality of life, it is an issue that can cause the wars of the future!

 — Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

Governor Jerry Brown has been a leader in California politics for nearly a half century creating a legacy of fiscal security for the state and displaying powerful leadership on climate change.  He won his first statewide office in 1970 when he was elected Secretary of State. Four years later, he was elected governor of California and then reelected in 1978.  As governor, he helped the state adopt the nation’s first energy efficiency standards, and made California the leader in co-generation, solar and wind energy.  He strengthened the California Coastal Commission and established comprehensive policies governing development along the coast.  In his third and fourth gubernatorial terms, he dramatically cut the state budget deficit, improved California’s credit ratings, and cut waste and inefficiencies throughout government.  He also enacted historic public safety realignment and raised the state’s clean energy goal to thirty-three percent.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been a leading voice in American politics for nearly three decades at the national, city and party level.  In 1996, Mr. Emanuel was named senior adviser for policy and strategy for President Bill Clinton.  Subsequently, in 2004, he was elected to the United State House of Representatives representing Chicago.  He went on to serve three terms.  In 2009, he was sworn in as President Obama’s Chief of Staff.  He left the White House after one year to return to Chicago to run for mayor.  He was elected in 2011 and enacted policies that were honored by the Sierra Club as impressive signs of progress toward a healthier, greener city.  Such efforts included expanding the city’s environmental inspection program, increasing fines against polluters, closing the city’s last coal-fired power plant and creating the nation’s strongest bulk materials regulations.

Governor Christine Todd Whitman is the former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator under President  George W. Bush.  In that role she provided political insight and understanding on the contentious environmental and emerging energy concerns of our day. On June 27, 2003, after having several public conflicts with the Bush administration, Whitman resigned as a result of the administration’s decision to ease air pollution controls. During her terms as Governor, New Jersey’s violation of the federal one-hour air quality standard for ground-level ozone dropped to four from forty-five in 1988.  Beach closings reached a record low, and the Natural Resources Defense Council recognized New Jersey for instituting the most comprehensive beach monitoring system in the country.  Further, New Jersey implemented a new watershed management program during Governor Whitman’s tenure, and became a national leader in opening shellfish beds for harvesting.  She also agreed to give tax money to owners of one million acres or more of open space and farmland in New Jersey.

Panetta Institute Remains Available to Help

While the Panetta Institute is presently closed to visitors, we are answering phones between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.  We are also accepting emails at and are responding accordingly. 

Third Event in the 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series:  Decision 2020 – A Republic If We Can Keep It was presented  Live to a Zoom audience of over 326 registrations. This forum was broadcast on Monday, September 21, 2020 and featured Todd Buchholz, Maya MacGuineas and Rosie Gumataotao Rios.  The recorded lecture for public viewing can be watched by accessing this link: An Economy on Borrowed Money

Rosa Gumataotao

Todd Buchholz

Todd Buchholz, White House Director of Economic Policy (1989-1992) and Economic Analyst, CNBC;

Maya MacGuineas, President, Bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget;

Rosa Gumataotao Rios, Forty-Third Treasurer of the United States (2009-2016) and Former Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

The nation’s debt is now expected to be as high as our GDP, and the COVID-19 crisis is likely to require additional borrowing in order to provide needed relief. Neither the Republicans or Democrats appear to have any interest in making the tough decisions necessary to achieve fiscal discipline. Economists warn that the record debt will ultimately result in a major economic crisis for the nation. How long can we continue to borrow and spend?  When will rising interest payments on the debt threaten important budget priorities? How long can we ignore this crucial issue that affects our nation’s destiny?

                                       — Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

Second Event in the 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series Featuring Secretary John Kerry and General Jim Mattis

Now Available for Public Viewing

James Mattis

John Kerry

The second event of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series, The Future of American Leadership in a Dangerous World (originally scheduled Monday, May 18) was presented via an online webinar format on Monday, August 31, 2020, 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. featuring:

John Kerry, Sixty-Eighth United States Secretary of State (2013 – 2017); and United States Senator from Massachusetts (1985-2013); and

General James Mattis USMC (Ret.), Twenty-Sixth United States Secretary of Defense (2017-2018) is now available to the general public by clicking the following link.  Leon Panetta Lecture Series Decision 2020 A Republic If We Can Keep It  –  The Future of American Leadership in a Dangerous World 

Secretary Kerry and General Mattis’ experience and profound knowledge that comes from their long and successful careers in government made for a program rich with insights respecting the foreign policy challenges facing the United States today. Both Kerry and Mattis emphasized China’s assertiveness and aggressiveness in the last four years; Russia’s brazen continuation of the policies of a rogue state, destabilizing its neighbors and waging covert cyber war against democracies and the European Union; Kim Jong-un’s single-minded and nuclear-focused foreign policy in spite of President Trump’s personal overtures; and a U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization that is particularly ill-timed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.  Given the rise of authoritarianism, both Kerry and Mattis argued that the United States is not effectively fulfilling its role as the leader of the free world.  The first step toward reasserting this responsibility, they agreed, was to address divisions here at home.

— Leon E. Panetta,
Chairman of the Panetta Institute

2020 Lecture Series Sponsors

The Panetta Institute would like to salute the sponsors of the 2020 Leon Panetta Lecture Series for their extraordinary public service in supporting this important event for our regional and national communities.  
B Y and A-M Abadir Trust
Tonya Antle
Bank of America Charitable Foundation
Beacon Global Strategies
Laurie and David Benjamin
California American Water
Cannery Row Company
Cathy Brock and Rhonda Williams
ChevronCity of Monterey
Comcast /NBC Universal
Debra and George W. Couch III
Dorian Daley and Michael Krautkramer
Sherry E. DeBoer
Dominican University of California
Franklin Legacy FundRonda and Gordon Eubanks
Gail GriggsHamilton, Rabinovitz & Associates, Inc.
Kaiser Permanente
Stan McKee

Sharon and Stan Meresman
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey County Office of Education

Monterey Marriott
The O’Brien Family Foundation
Leon and Sylvia Panetta
Puma Road Winery
Susan Prest and Commander Allen Sherwood, USN., (Ret.)
Denise Foderaro and Frank Quattrone
Santa Cruz Seaside Company
Southern Company

Anthony B. Varni
Kathy and Tom Wiggans
Stanley Zax
The Zenith
2020 Lecture Series Co-Sponsors
Louis and Jane Castruccio
Bill and Nancy Doolittle
Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation
Montage Health
Vishal and Savita Verma


Panetta Institute’s Programs “Going Zoom” In 2020 

Because of the continuing and growing threat of COVID-19 and the restrictions being imposed by State and County government, the Panetta Institute is conducting all its 2020 programs online through video conferences or webinars – allowing our sponsors, supporters, guests and students to continue to participate remotely and safely.

Sylvia and I believe that it is important, particularly in these times of national crisis, to continue the work of the Institute to promote discussions and understanding about the key issues facing our country. We believe that we can use the latest technology to effectively deliver many of our programs to our supporters, the community, and the students we serve.  

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

2020 Congressional Internship Program Gives Students Invaluable Education Through Two Week Orientation at the Panetta Institute

The year 2020 marked the twenty-second year of this celebrated program, recognized as one of the leading internship courses for Capitol Hill. Each fall, the Panetta Institute hosts students for its Congressional Internship Program beginning in mid-August with an intensive two-week course at the Institute and continuing in Washington, D.C. through mid-November. This program provides the opportunity for selected students from the twenty-three California State University campuses as well as three Northern California private schools to intern for the California congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. for eleven weeks after a two-week intensive educational program. Interns also attend an intensive two-week course at the Panetta Institute, where discussions range from United States foreign and defense policy, to cybersecurity issues, to trade, fiscal and monetary policy.  During this training session, students attend lectures led by an array of authorities from diverse disciplines.

This year, due to COVID-19, however, the Washington, D.C. internship portion of the program was canceled.

We are proud that our program has earned the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation.  While it is unfortunate that the internship experience in Washington D.C. had to be cancelled, we believe it is important for our interns to experience  the two-week educational program which is a fundamental and significant part of the Congressional Internship Program experience.  This two-week course will be presented online through video conferencing and interns will be provided twelve units of academic credit for the summer term.  The program taught by leading experts in their field and covers the legislative, executive and judicial branches and processes and crucial issues facing our Nation today. 

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

This two-week program, featuring renowned national speakers, is designed to supplement the intern’s experience through attending and participating in the class sessions, and then completing reflective, substantive session reviews and a well-researched policy paper.  Experts in their respective fields present the two-weeks of seminars.  Guest speakers and their specific topics for this year were:

  • Secretary Leon Panetta on The Founding and Creation of the American Republic;
  • Secretary Leon Panetta on The Legislative Process: Congressional Leadership, Committees and Policymaking;
  • Secretary Leon Panetta on U.S. Foreign Policy and the War on Terror;
  • The Hon. Luis Alejo, Supervisor, District  1, Monterey County Board of  Supervisors; California State Assembly on California’s Agriculture and Farmworkers;
  • John Arquilla, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Defense Analysis, Naval Postgraduate School on Cyber Security;
  • Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent, The Washington Post on The Freedom of the Press;
  • Jeremy Bash, J.D., Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (2011-2013) and Chief of Staff to the Director of the CIA (2009-2011) on Key Lessons from the Russia Investigation;
  • The Hon. Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California on Comprehensive Immigration Reform;
  • Douglas Brinkley, Ph.D., Professor of History, Rice University and CNN Presidential Historian on A Historical Overview of Legislative-Executive Relations;
  • Theresa Cardinal Brown, Director of Bipartisan Policy Center on Immigration and Cross-Border Policy;
  • Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California The Honorable Ming Chin, on American Jurisprudence and the Role of the Supreme Court;
  • The Hon. Marty Russo, United States Representatives and members of the House Ways and Means Committee on The Budget and Appropriations Process;
  • The Hon. Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education (2009 to 2015) on Education Policy;
  • Roger A. Fairfax, Jr. J.D., Professor of Law George Washington University Law School on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
  • The Hon. Sam Farr, U.S. House of Representatives, California, 17th District (1993-2013) and 20th District (2013-2018) on Differences Between the Federal and State Governments;
  • Hector Flores, M.D., Founding Member and Co-Director of the White Memorial Medical Center Family Residency Program on Healthcare Policy;
  • Eddie Glaude, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University; Chair of the Center for African American Studies and Chair of the Department of African American Studies, Princeton University on Race Relations and Social Movements;
  • Ilan Goldenberg, Chief of Staff, Under Secretary, U.S. Department of State on The Role of Diplomacy and the State Department;
  • The Hon. Josh Gottheimer and The Hon. Tom Reed, United States Representatives and Co-Chairs of the House Problem Solvers Caucus and moderated by The Hon. Jimmy Panetta, United States Representative on Congressional Gridlock and Partisanship;
  • Jamil Jaffer, J.D., Founder, National Security Institute Professor of Law and Director, National Security Law and Policy Program, Law Clerk to the Honorable Neil M. Gorsuch, Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States on The Supreme Court of the United States: Recent Decisions;
  • The Hon. Jeh Charles Johnson,U.S. Secretary of Homeland Secretary (2013-2017) on Law Enforcement’s Role in Homeland Security;
  • Markos Kounalakis, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution Stanford University on Global Consensus and the Geopolitics of Climate and Energy;
  • The Hon. John Laird, California Secretary of Natural Resources Agency (2011-2019) on Challenges and Priorities of Natural Resources;
  • Drew Liebert, J.D., Chief Counsel, California Assembly Judiciary Committee (1998-2015) on Election Integrity;
  • Maya MacGuineas, President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget on United States Debt and Budget Policy;
  • Carla Marinucci, senior writer for POLITICO’s California Playbook on The Role of a Free Press in a Democracy;
  • Admiral William McRaven, USN (Ret.), Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (2011-2014) on National Security Policy and Defense Policy;
  • Joe Minarik, Ph.D., Chief Economist, Office of Management and Budget (1993-2001); Senior Vice President and Director of Research Committee for Economic Development on Economic and Trade Policy;
  • Stephen Palumbi, Ph.D., Professor of Marine Biology, Stanford University on The Conservation and Enhancement of Marine Biology and Marine Ecology;
  • Annette Gordon Reed, Ph.D., Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard University on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
  • The Hon. Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and U.S. Secretary of Labor (1993 to 1997) on Income Inequality;
  • Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Professor of Public Leadership and Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School on Foreign Policy with a Study of The Iranian Nuclear Accord as a Case Study;
  • Matthew Spence, Ph.D., J.D., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for The Middle East (2012-2015) Middle East Politics, Relations and Current Affairs;
  • Fernando Torres-Gil, Ph.D., U.S. Assistant Secretary of Aging (1993-1997) and Professor of Social Welfare Policy, UCLA on Aging and Diversity;
  • Professor Amanda Tyler, J.D., Shannon Cecil Turner Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley, Law Clerk to the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States on The Supreme Court of the United States: Landmark Precedents;
  • The Hon. Rafael Vazquez, Superior Court Judge Monterey County on Criminal Justice Reform; and
  • U.S. House Parliamentarian Thomas Wickham, J.D., United States House of Representatives on House of Representatives Parliamentary Rules and Procedures.

The 2020 Class of Congressional Interns:

Name Home Campus
Sophia Aguirre Cal Poly Pomona
Isaac Alferos CSU Fullerton
Ivett Arellano Saint Mary’s College
McKenna Avery San Diego State
Shira Basa San Francisco State
Donalin Bell CSU Channel Islands
Jaaziel Brown CSU East Bay
Matthew Contreras CSU Northridge
Kaitlyn Cortez CSU Bakersfield
Imahn Daeenabi Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Fernanda De Velasco San Jose State
Natalie Kassar Cal Poly Pomona
Rebecca Harbison CSU Monterey Bay
Allison Kustic Dominican University
Alexa Loera CSU San Marcos
Lincoln Mattwandel CSU Stanislaus
Zachary Meade Santa Clara University
Kayleigh Rae O’Connor CSU Fresno
Matiana Parra CSU Los Angeles
Jonathan Serrano CSU Dominguez Hills
Johnathan Solomon CSU San Bernardino
Moira Vancie Sacramento State
William Yates Cal Maritime Academy

More information about the Congressional Internship Program.

The Twenty-First Annual Leadership in Education Seminar Continues in 2020 Via Online Conferencing – Student Leaders Learn Valuable Skills From Diverse Experts

Firmly believing that leaders are made not born, Secretary Leon E. Panetta established the Leadership Seminar in 1999. This year again, this first-of-its-kind program, included student body leaders elected by the twenty-three different campuses within the California State University system, a student leader representative from CSSA and a student trustee from the California State University Chancellor’s Office.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in its twenty-first year, the 2020 Leadership Seminar was conducted through web-conferencing connecting the twenty-five enrolled elected student body leaders to nationally renowned speakers who shared their insights on leadership from a variety of different perspectives in different fields. The program, held from Monday, June 15 through Friday, June 19, provided a unique opportunity for students to interact with this diverse group of prominent leaders, learn from their experiences, and engage in dialogue about current policy issues and leadership challenges in the 21st century.

In our recent national poll, we found that students are deeply dissatisfied with the quality of the country’s political leadership. The purpose of the Leadership Seminar is to inspire students to transform that negative opinion into an interest in bringing positive change to our democracy through active participation and leadership. We want to ensure that these students become involved in the political process at every level and we want to foster a generation committed to lifelong participation in public service.  

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

Joining Secretary Panetta for the 2020 program are the following speakers addressing the noted topics:

  • Presidential Leadership: Leadership in Turbulent Times

Douglas Brinkley, Ph.D., Historian, CNN Historian and Professor Rice University

  • Leadership in National Security: The Links Between Cyber Security National Security and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jeremy Bash, NBC Security Analyst and Former Chief of Staff for the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense

  • Leadership in the Judicial Branch: Delivering Equal Justice Under the Law

Justice Ming W. Chin, Associate Justice California Supreme Court

  • Leadership in Business: The “Bottom Line” in Achieving Success in the Real World

Dorian Daley, J.D., Oracle Vice President and General Counsel

  • Leadership in Competitive Sports: Developing Character and Conviction

Coach Hermann Edwards, Arizona State University Head Football Coach, NFL Coach and Player and ESPN analyst

  • Leadership in the Media: Journalism as Civic Leadership

David Gergen, J.D., Presidential Advisor to four U.S. Presidents and CNN Political Analyst

  • Leadership in Congress: Forging Consensus and Building Coalitions

U.S. Representative Joshua Gotthiemer (D-NJ)
U.S. Representative Thomas Reed (R-NY)
U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) as Moderator

  • Leadership and the Budget; Striving for Responsible Leadership

Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

  • Leadership in the Military: From Commitment to Command

Admiral Bill McRaven, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

  • Leadership in Education: Developing and Delivering Life-Long Learning Skills

President Janet Napolitano, University of California System and Former Secretary of Homeland Security

  • Community Leadership: Becoming Effective Change Makers

Fernando Torres-Gil, Ph.D.,U.S. Assistant Secretary on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  • Leadership and Race: How to Develop Leadership that Contributes to Social Justice

Chris Womack, Executive Vice President Southern Company

Students further completed sixteen hours of course work by submitting written deliverables based on the lessons they learned from each speaker. Students also made two presentations along with a written report on the Panetta Institute’s 2020 Youth Civic Engagement Survey, and a final written leadership proposal wherein student body officers described their goals for the 2020-2021 school year and the methods they planned to use to achieve those goals. Upon successful completion of the program, participating student body leaders received three units of academic credit and a Certificate of Completion issued by the Panetta Institute. The Leadership Seminar is a California State University accredited course. The total number of student participants to date is 549.

Through this program, student leaders are exposed to a wide-range of leadership challenges through which they enhance their understanding of the versatility of leadership styles and approaches and develop the skills to address different situations capably and authentically.

— Sylvia Panetta, Co-Chair of the Institute and Founder of the Program

The 2020 student body elected officers who participated in the Panetta Institute’s Leadership Seminar were:

Name Institutional Affiliation Title
Cynella Aghasi CSU Stanislaus ASI President
Jasmine Bhardwaj CSU Monterey Bay AS President
Andrew Carrillo San Francisco State University ASI President
Diana Chavez CSU Los Angeles ASI President
Vanessa Chicaiza CSU Bakersfield ASI President
Zobeida Delgadillo San José State University AS President
Jeremiah Finley Humboldt State University AS President
Alondra Esquivel Garcia California State Student Assn. Student Representative
Michael Garrett CSU San Marcos ASI President
Vanessa Groppetti Dominican University AS President
Bre Holbert Chico State University AS President
Christian Holt San Diego State University AS President
Melissa Kadar Sonoma State University AS President
Maryana Khames CSU Student Trustee Student Trustee
Shayna Lynch Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ASI President
Evelyn Campos Martinez CSU Dominguez Hills ASI Director of Students
Noah Marty CSU Sacramento ASI President
Roselva Merida CSU Northridge AS President
Graciela Moran CSU San Bernardino ASI President
Sophie Nguyễn CSU Channel Islands ASI President
Omar Prudencio-Gonzalez CSU Long Beach ASI President
Hisham Qutob CSU Fresno ASI President
Marcus Reveles CSU Fullerton ASI President
Euridice Sanchez-Martinez CSU East Bay ASI President
Lucille Yu Cal Poly Pomona ASI President


2020 Policy Research Fellows Program – Fellows Embark on Studies into Bipartisan Approaches to Today’s Biggest Issue

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law.  At the conclusion of the fall 2019 semester, a total of ninety-three law students have participated in this program.

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

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

Through this program, Panetta Institute professors teach law students from the Santa Clara University School of Law the art of governing through the study of real-world policy issues. Since COVID-19 has closed the campus at Santa Clara, the Panetta Institute continues the fellowship program on-line through video conferencing.  

Throughout the academic semester, fellows will explore the diverse political, social, and economic contexts within which public policy is developed. Fellows examine the history, foundations, and theories of public policy and gain real-world insight into the field. They examine demographic data, budget concerns and current social trends and themes to understand, analyze, and address the current policy issues that face the nation.  They are guided by Secretary Panetta and Institute professors Sonia Banks, an attorney and educator who leads the program; Fred Keeley, former California State Assemblyman; Bill Daniels, attorney and lecturer; and Richard Kezirian, an Institute professor.

“The Fellows Program focuses on research that would lead to policy solutions addressing this country’s very real problems. Panetta Institute Fellows examine not just the easy policy answers, but instead at what compromise between divided factions actually would look like,” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “Participating students work directly with experienced professionals with legal, historical, educational and political perspectives.”

This Fall, there are four Santa Clara law students serving as fellows who have just begun this program for the fall 2020 term.  They are Romae-Anne Aquino, Cydney Chilimidos, Kirby-Dzunganh Nguyen and Nathan Pope Ed.D.  Fellows are studying via Zoom conferencing with Panetta Institute professors offering their lectures for the fall semester.  Fellows will examine and present realistic in-depth approaches to policy that address the concerns of competing interests. By the conclusion of the semester, each student will present a proposal that demonstrates the use of analytic tools as well as the knowledge of how policies move from the theoretical to actual implementation.

Last Spring, seven law-school students from the Santa Clara University School of Law completed their research on several key public-policy issues facing the nation today, from immigration and climate change to cyber-security and cost of higher education.

Each of the seven fellows have embarked on their in-depth research on the following topics:

  • Breanna Espe –U.S. TRADE POLICY/Trade with China in light of President Trump’s tariff.
  • Farouq Ghazzawi — SAUDI ARABIA/U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia in light of the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East and negotiating strategies vis-a-vis Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Victor Gonzalez — IMMIGRATION/What would comprehensive reform look like?
  • Morgen Olson — CYBER WARFARE/Preventing election interference.
  • Nenad Pesic — GUN CONTROL/Current federal laws and troubling loopholes when purchasing a gun.
  • Elias Rodriguez — CLIMATE CHANGE/Evaluating potential approaches to increased environmental regulations.
  • Robert Sisco — EDUCATION/Comprehensive reform of student loans and student debt.

Monterey County Reads Program 

This is an acclaimed program that provides training to volunteers to read one-to-one with first, second and third-grade students who are reading just below grade level.  This past school year, volunteers read with nearly 500 children.  With schools remaining closed as a result of the pandemic, the Panetta Institute is meeting with local school leaders in order to explore online options to continue this vital reading program for the selected children. 

This 23 year literacy program has proven critical to giving young children the ability to read and learn. We are working on an effective way to continue this program on-line.

— Sylvia Panetta, Co-Chair of the Institute and Founder of the Program

Jefferson-Lincoln Awards —

An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service Dinner

The Panetta Institute’s annual fundraiser at The Inn At Spanish Bay where the Jefferson-Lincoln Award is presented to those selected leaders that have provided outstanding bipartisan service to the nation.  The event was set to take place on November 7.  Unfortunately, because of the current COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people that can attend a large dinner event, the Panetta Institute has made the difficult decision to cancel the dinner this year.  The Panettas stated, however, that the Institute will present the Jefferson-Lincoln Award in 2020 to leaders who have provided bipartisan leadership to the nation.

It is critical, particularly in these challenging times, that we continue to take the time to honor those leaders who have the courage to do what is right regardless of party or politics.

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

Secretary and Mrs. Panetta made clear that while the COVID-19 crisis has required necessary adjustments, the goal of the Institute is to continue to move forward with its programs and fulfill the mission of inspiring public service and leadership in our democracy.

The Panetta Institute’s Twentieth Nationwide Survey Finds That College Students Have Been Profoundly Impacted by COVID-19.   

In the spring of each year, the Panetta Institute commissions a poll of 800 students at four-year colleges across the country to study student attitudes and opinions on social trends, level of political involvement, personal career expectations and a variety of national and international issues.  The Panetta Institute uses the findings to help guide its curriculum and advance its mission, which is to encourage young people to consider careers in public service and prepare them for the challenges they’ll face as future leaders.  With more than two decades of collected data, the Panetta Institute’s Youth Engagement Survey has become a highly respected source of information for scholars and journalists interested in tracking the views of the country’s next generation of voters and decision-makers.

Click here to access 2020 Youth Survey Engagement Report

COVID-19 Most Significant Issue for College Students 


This year’s poll was conducted from April 29 to May 5 and found 79% of the students polled said that COVID-19 is changing their life in a very or fairly major way; 70% are worried that someone in their immediate family might catch the coronavirus.

By 67% to 33% college students are more worried that the United States will move too quickly in loosening restrictions rather than taking too long. Students say that the coronavirus is the top issue for them personally at 39% with healthcare a distant second at 11%.

Majority of Students Prefer In-Person Classes 



On campus, students are generally satisfied with how their institution has handled the coronavirus, but they question the benefits of distance learning and its impact on the value of their education.


While 83% support their institution’s decisions in the face of this health emergency, a majority (58%) prefer in-person classes to online classes.








74% report that they miss attending classes in person a great deal or a fair amount, topped only by missing hanging out with friends at 84%.



64% of students have seriously considered demanding that their institutions reduce tuition while classes are being offered online, while 42% say they will seriously consider taking time off until classes return to being held in-person.

Finally, due to COVID-19, 41% say they will graduate from college later than planned, 20% will change their choice of a career or profession, and nearly half (47%) say their family has lost a significant amount of income due to COVID-19.

Assessment of Nation’s Direction 

Regarding their view of the country in general, college students describe the country as being “off on the wrong track” (56%) instead of moving in “the right direction” (44%), a slight an improvement over last year’s percentages, 64 percent and 36 percent respectively.


“While all Americans are being impacted by the coronavirus, it is clear from the survey that students in particular believe their lives are changing in a major way”, notes Institute chairman and former United States Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “Their concerns go deeper—to the direction of our country, to the health of our democracy and to the quality of our leaders.”

Indeed, when asked—how well would you say democracy is working in the United States today— 58% say very well or somewhat well while 35% say not too well and 7% not at all well.  Also, when asked about the country’s future, only 32% of students describe themselves as “more confident and secure,” with 68% saying they’re “more uncertain and concerned” – one of the most pessimistic views recorded by the survey in more than two decades.

One of the more remarkable trends over the survey’s history has been the rise in student concern about climate change. 85% of the students say that climate change is a very serious or somewhat serious problem.

“Here again we get an indication why students express such dismay with the direction of the country,” says Secretary Panetta. “With the lack of a national strategy to address climate change, students are worried about the consequences to them and the world they will inherit.

2020 Presidential Race 



Overall, students show a high level of interest in this year’s election at 61% with 84% of students being registered to vote, a figure higher than past election years.




Donald Trump remains unpopular on campus and trails Joe Biden by nearly two to one in this year’s poll at 65% of students disapproving of his performance in office.

















On every issue, the poll shows university students believe Joe Biden would do a better job than Donald Trump

Elections —  Mail In Ballots




Related to this year’s election, 57% students favor mail in ballots….




….  and a majority of them feel confident that our nation’s system of checks and balances between the three branches of government is working effectively.

Financial Distress

College students continue to experience serious personal financial distress — 56% have student loans, with an average debt exceeding $30,000.

“This kind of burden not only impacts bank accounts and the ability to make a future purchase like a home,” says Institute co-chair and CEO Sylvia M. Panetta. “It also puts serious constraints on students’ career choices after graduation.”

Public Service

Because of the Panetta Institute’s mission to promote civic involvement, our surveys always ask students about their level of interest in public service. This year’s study finds a record-tying percentage of students are interested in public service.

Level of interest to work in a program directly related to healthcare of frontline responders 57%;  in a national service program in exchange for a grant or financial assistance to help pay for college 61%; involved in activities to help their local community 67%; interested in working for a not-for-profit community organization or foundation after they graduate 43%; working in public health 41%; working in a job that is considered essential for dealing with the coronavirus 39%.

“This is a finding that boosts our spirits at the Institute,” says Mrs. Panetta, “and we’re also encouraged by students’ continuing high level of involvement in their communities.”

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

Panetta Institute Physically Closed During ‘Shelter In Place’ Order Yet Our Work Continues

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy currently is closed in compliance with the state of California’s orders to contain the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said, “We appreciate the community’s understanding as we take steps to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. We are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of the public, our employees and our volunteers.”

Speaking about the program changes and the work of the Institute, Secretary Leon E. Panetta said, “This is a challenging and unpredictable time. We appreciate our supporters’ understanding and cooperation as we respond to the requirements of this emergency. Though the immediate future remains uncertain, hopefully all government and private institutions, and the public will be able to effectively mobilize to contain this terrible threat as soon as possible. We remain confident that if we all do our part in this crisis, we will prevail and restore the health and strength of our community, our state and our nation. We believe the lectures are important events for our democracy.”

Innovative Afternoon Student Program Offers Students the Opportunity to Engage With National Leaders

Students from around the Monterey Bay and Northern California once again participated in the first event in 2020 Student Afternoon Program, a key segment of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.

More than 420 students were in attendance at the Monterey Conference Center on the afternoon of February 24 to listen to and ask questions of Secretary Leon Panetta and three speakers who appeared later that evening as part of the Lecture Series program.

Joining Secretary Panetta onstage before the students were Bret Baier, Chief Political Anchor, Fox News and host, Special Report with Bret Baier; David Gregory, CNN Commentator and Former Moderator, NBC’s Meet the Press; and Mara Liasson, National Correspondent, National Public Radio and Political Analyst, FOX News.

Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta commented, “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. The program for students is one of the most important things that we do at the Institute.”

In keeping with its mission of attracting young people to lives of public service, the Panetta Institute invites students from Central Coast and Northern California high schools, colleges, universities and the local military installations to the afternoon program. Several hundred students from around the Monterey Bay area then have the opportunity to participate in lively discussions with the featured speakers.

The Panetta Institute professors, Sonia Banks, J.D. and Richard Kezirian, Ph.D.,  present lectures that provide a historical, policy and political foundation to prepare students for the topics that are discussed by the speakers.

In addition, The Wednesday Seminar, scheduled prior to each Monday Lecture Series Student Afternoon Program, offers a specially selected group of fifteen to thirty-five students from underserved communities an advance review of the subject matter to be covered at the main event. The seminar  also provides extra time for special attention to any gaps in knowledge that these students might have.

Further, Mrs. Panetta and the Panetta Institute professors, as well as leading members of the Monterey Bay community, speak about the importance of lives of public service and the importance of active participation in our nation’s democracy.

Failed Leadership in Iran and the United States Threatens the Peace, Secretary Panetta Writes in The Washington Post

Leaders of both the United States and Iran have failed to provide the leadership necessary to move forward toward peace in the Middle East, Secretary Panetta wrote in a Washington Post commentary on January 7.

Secretary Panetta: “Beware failed leadership.”

“As the nation begins a new year, the drums of war are beating more loudly than ever,” writes Secretary Panetta, “Yet we too easily forget, with memories of past wars fading, how they begin. History makes clear that, too often, the cause is failed leadership — struggling to exercise good judgment, miscalculating what others will do, sending mixed messages to adversaries, ignoring intelligence and relying on the false belief that power alone is enough to quickly prevail in any war.”

All the factors of failed leadership are present in the U.S.- Iranian relationship, according to Secretary Panetta. “Both sides had mistakenly assumed they could bully the other into doing what they wanted. Absent any willingness to stop and engage in serious negotiations, each side will be trapped in a cycle of punch and counterpunch.”

As for President Trump, writes Secretary Panetta, he was reluctant to respond to a series of Iranian attacks on bases and allies over the past year. Among his miscalculations:

  • Declining to act after Iran’s brazen September attack against Saudi oil facilities.
  • Suddenly withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria — abandoning Kurdish allies and allowing Turkey, Russia and Iran to expand their influence in Syria.
  • Signaling  that Middle Eastern countries should take care of their own problems.

Iran miscalculated as well:

  • Attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last June
  • Using proxy forces to go after U.S. bases and allies in the region.
  •  Firing rockets at a military base near Kirkuk on Dec. 27, killing an American contractor.

Then, writes Secretary Panetta, President Trump ordered F-15E fighters to attack Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy militia in Iraq and Syria, with reports of twenty-five people killed and fifty wounded. “Whether the White House anticipated the action’s consequences is not clear. But consequences happened.”

First, Secretary Panetta says, “Violent pro-Iranian protests endangered the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The United States responded with deployments of Marines and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division. The president then made the fateful decision to order the killing in Baghdad of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force. After rocket attacks against two U.S. bases in Iraq, the world is now waiting for the next shoe to drop.”

Soleimani’s death should not be mourned, writes Secretary Panetta. Soleimani was responsible  for killing thousands of innocent people and hundreds of U.S. military personnel over the years, “But the fact is that his killing, contrary to the president’s assertion, only increases the risk of war with Iran.”

The Iranian crisis now becomes critical. ” For the past three years, he has questioned the role of the U.S. global leadership, criticized alliances and often ignored the guidance of his more experienced military and diplomatic advisers. The reality of a potential war has caught up with his tweets.”

He concludes: “The fate of his presidency and the fate of the nation depend on whether Trump will finally get serious about the threat of war and his responsibilities as commander in chief.”

To read the complete commentary, click here.

Honorees at 2019 Jefferson-Lincoln Awards Gala Express Optimism That Cooperation Will Replace Polarization 

Featured at the twentieth Jefferson-Lincoln Dinner were, from left, Rep. Thomas Reed, former Sen. Alan Simpson, Janet Napolitano, Secretary Panetta, Mrs. Panetta and Joshua Gottheimer.

The Panetta Institute once again honored a slate of public servants at the twentieth annual Jefferson-Lincoln Awards: An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service dinner and gala, held at the beautiful Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

Supporters of the Panetta Institute were treated to a sumptuous dining experience provided by a host of talented chefs led by local master chef Bert Cutino, as well as the honoring of the latest Jefferson-Lincoln Award recipients for their commitment to bipartisanship in representing the American people as well as their own constituents.

United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), University of California President Janet Napolitano, United States Representative Joshua S. Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) and United States Representative Thomas W. Reed II (R-New York) were the latest in a series of national figures to be honored not only for their years of public service, but also for their spirit of bipartisanship in representing the American people as well as their own constituents. Also appearing at the gala event were former United States Senator Alan Simpson, who accepted a Jefferson-Lincoln Award on behalf of Senator Alexander, and Garrett Ashley, president of the California State University Foundation.

UC President Janet Napolitano: “I see great hope.”

Honorees acknowledged the divisiveness of today’s governance, even as they expressed their optimism that the political dialogue can move toward more collaboration. UC President Janet Napolitano said, “I see great hope for us as I look at the upcoming generation.” She is encouraged, she said, by students that are committed to equality and policies that are based on a “fact-based foundation.”

Senator Alexander, speaking by video, commented on the “split-screen” aspect of Washington, D.C. “On one screen there is the polarization that catches the media’s attention. On the other, one would see collaboration.” He cited successful new legislation that rewrote education laws, approved a major medical research bill and a new strategy to fight opioid abuse.

Representative Reed, a member of the bipartisan “Problem Solvers” Congressional caucus, said his goal is to someday have the consensus-building group not necessary, because it would be replaced by a “Problem Solvers Congress.”

Representative Gottheimer said “America will always be greater when we remember how America was built — with bipartisan cooperation and a focus on the challenges of the time.”

Former Senator Alan Simpson: “Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

Also speaking was CSU Foundation’s Ashley, who commented that bipartisanship and leadership go hand-in-hand. “That is why CSU has supported the Panetta Institute for over twenty years, and why CSU looks forward to supporting the Panetta Institute for another twenty years.

Former Senator Simpson, who accepted the Jefferson-Lincoln Award on behalf of Alexander, recalled his career in Washington, observing: “The difference between my day and today … is the hatred between members of each party. And, hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”

The Jefferson-Lincoln Awards dinner serves as the Panetta Institute’s major yearly fundraiser, benefitting Panetta Institute offerings, including Monterey County Reads, the Congressional Internship Program and the Student Leadership Program.

To inquire about sponsorship for Panetta Institute’s programs, call the Panetta Institute at 831-582-4200.

PBS Journalist and Panetta Institute Honoree Jim Lehrer dies at 85

Jim Lehrer, the celebrated television newsman who co-founded what is now called the PBS NewsHour and who presided over twelve presidential debates, died January 23 at his home in Washington. He was 85.

Jim Lehrer was presented a Jefferson-Lincoln Award by Sylvia Panetta in 2009.

Mr. Lehrer was an honored by the Panetta Institute in 2009 with a Jefferson-Lincoln Award in honor of his setting an example for others in the journalism profession. Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta said that Mr. Lehrer was “a model for fairness and reasoned discourse. He brought a civility to his work.”

In honoring Mr. Lehrer at the Jefferson-Lincoln Awards dinner, Mrs. Panetta presented the award “in recognition of his ability to challenge assumption while communicating respect and an open mind.”

Mr. Lehrer began his career as a newspaper reporter in Texas before switching to broadcast journalism in the late 1960s. He became co-anchor with newscaster Robert MacNeil in 1975. He moderated presidential debates from 1988 to 2012, and retired in 2011. He also was the author of more than twenty books.

Secretary Panetta Focuses on the Need for Literacy at Event Honoring Schools and Volunteers in Monterey County Reads Program

The award-winning Monterey County Reads entered its twenty-third year this fall, and the Panetta Institute honored those who have helped make it a success at the annual Volunteer and School Recognition Ceremony on Friday, September 20, 2019.

Secretary Panetta delivered the keynote address.

The celebration was held at the CSUMB University Center Ballroom, and honored the many reading volunteers and elementary school personnel that participated in the Institute’s landmark literacy initiative during the 2018-19 school year. .

In honor of their service and outstanding work in helping local elementary school children improve their reading skills, volunteers received certificates of recognition along with special pins. Participating schools also were awarded certificates noting their important involvement and support.

Providing the keynote address was Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy. He praised volunteers, teachers and administrators for working together to provide literacy to the very children who need it most. “Literacy, the ability to read, is the key to the American Dream,” Secretary Panetta said.

“Thank God there are those like all of you,” he told the audience, “who care about helping our children.”

Secretary Panetta cited statistics showing increasing illiteracy nationwide, saying that thirty million people, a tenth of the population, cannot read. “It impacts the quality of our democracy. Teaching children to read is the key to our freedom.”

“Literacy is power,” Secretary Panetta said. “Knowledge is power. And providing that to the children of Monterey County is giving them a chance at succeeding in life.”

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta announced to the honorees that in the history of Monterey County Reads program volunteers have provided 134,500 hours of one-to-one reading, providing help to 19,200 children. “This afternoon we recognize a year’s worth of hard work and dedication.”

Simón Salinas, former State Senator and Monterey County supervisor, served as master of ceremonies.

“For more than two decades the residents of Monterey County have answered the call of service and given generously of their time on behalf of these children. This event gives us the opportunity to recognize their service and celebrate the impact of their good work.”

— Sylvia Panetta

“Secretary Panetta and I have always believed that the American Dream is to give our children a better life,” said Mrs. Panetta. “That’s what we did for own children and it’s what we strive to do for the students who participate in the Panetta Institute’s programs. However, this mission is most closely linked to our literacy initiative Monterey County Reads. Working together with teachers, school administrators, and the greater Monterey County community, we are helping the children in our region to have the skills they need to succeed, obtain a better a life and most importantly participate in our democracy.”

The ceremony also featured the presentation of a special Golden Threads longevity award to volunteers who have participated in the program for five and ten years.

Now in its twenty-third year, Monterey County Reads volunteers continue to work with children throughout Monterey County. These volunteers include parents, business owners, members of religious and service organizations as well as high school, college, university and military students, to name some. Volunteers receive training from literacy specialists, followed by on-site orientations before beginning regular one-to-one reading sessions with specially selected children in the early elementary grades.

For more information regarding the event or about volunteering with Monterey County Reads, please call The Panetta Institute for Public Policy at 831-582-4200.

Monterey County Reads Analysis Suggests Positive Effect

A statistical analysis of the Panetta Institute’s longest-running program, Monterey County Reads, appears to demonstrate a positive effect on students’ post-test scores.

Assessment data for the 2017-2018 school year was analyzed by experts at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, who reported the improvement, while also acknowledging that additional impacts, such as regular course work, influence from parents and even educational television, also can drive test score data.

“On the whole,” the report concludes, “the positive statistical difference in pre- and post-test scores demonstrates that the Monterey County Reads program is a benefit to the students.”

Monterey County Reads is offered to public elementary school students enrolled in first through third grade throughout Monterey County. This program especially addresses the needs of the lower socio-economic level of the county’s population by enlisting community volunteers come into the school to read one-to-one with the students.

During the twenty-two year history of Monterey County Reads, the Panetta Institute has analyzed data measuring children’s progress in reading. The Institute works to assure high quality program outcomes by conducting orientations at the beginning of the year with school site teams at each participating school, and performing pre- and post -assessments for every participating student.

Monterey County Reads is just one leg of a strategy to help the students who need assistance the most,” said Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “The commitment of teachers, other school officials and especially parents are part of the overall picture to addressing the very real need for literacy.”

“This report appears to indicate that Monterey County Reads is helping,” Mrs. Panetta added. “But it also demonstrates that schools, parents and the community all play a role.”

Global ‘Flashpoints’ Call Out for Better Leadership Here at Home, Secretary Panetta Says

A number of potentially dangerous flashpoints threaten the security of the United States and the world, said Secretary Leon E. Panetta at a wide-ranging talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C, on April 25. Secretary Panetta appeared at the event with John J. Hamre, CSIS president and CEO and by Alice Hunt Friend, CSIS senior fellow.

Secretary Panetta and CSIS Fellow Alice Hunt Friend.

“My fear is we’re not paying enough attention to the potential of any one of these flashpoints turning into a major confrontation,” Secretary Panetta said. “I’ve commented that it reminded me a lot of that period before World War I, and there were some of the same factors: territorial disputes; alliances that were not working as well as they should; terrorism; and, frankly, failed statesmanship, failed leadership in dealing with that, and thinking that somehow none of those flashpoints would suddenly turn into World War I.”

Secretary Panetta pointed to a number of areas of concern — and especially his worry that the political leadership of the United States is not meeting the challenges that the country faces.

Among the flashpoints:

  • Terrorism: “We just saw what happened in Sri Lanka. ISIS remains a real threat, along with al-Qaida, along with Boko Haram, along with al-Shabaab. These are real threats to our – to our security.”
  • Failed states in the Middle East: “We’ve seen what happened in Syria. We’ve seen what happened with Libya, with Yemen. These become the breeding grounds for terrorism in the future as well, and instability in the Middle East.”
  • Rogue nations: “North Korea and Iran represent threats to stability.”
  • Russia: “We have a much more aggressive Russia with Putin, seeking not only control of the Crimea, impacting on the Ukraine, deploying forces to Syria, and conducting probably one of the most bold and sweeping cyberattacks on our own election process in this country.”
  • China: “China is asserting its militarization of the South China Sea, developing its capabilities, and frankly, filling a lot of the vacuums that the United States has made through its whole Belt and Road Initiative.”
  • Cyber: “Cyber is the battlefield of the future and has the potential to literally destroy our country. You don’t have to use an F-35. You don’t have to send aB-2 bomber. You don’t have to put boots on the ground. You can simply sit at a computer and deploy a sophisticated virus that could literally paralyze our computer systems, our electric grid, our financial systems, our government systems, our banking systems – anything that runs by a computer.”

Making the situation worse, Secretary Panetta said, is a United States leadership that seems to be shrinking in its role as a world leader. Part of the diminishment is by design, he said, but a large part is due to questionable management and the lack of permanent leadership for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“It’s very difficult to have civilian leadership at the Pentagon be on an acting basis, to have an acting secretary. Not only there, but at DHS and elsewhere. When you have an acting leader as opposed to having a full-fledged secretary of defense, make no mistake about it, it impacts on the morale of the institution and of the troops, because there’s a sense that an acting secretary is only temporary and not confirmed by the Senate.”

Secretary Panetta expressed concern about both the president and the political leaders in Congress. “I’m concerned about the president and some of the things he does that politicize the military – talking about his military, urging troops to lobby the Congress, using the military – deploying the military to border areas as part of a political statement,” he said.

As for members of Congress, he said, “I’m not so sure that today they think governing is good politics. They think stopping the other side is good politics. I’ve never seen Washington as partisan as it is today.”

Secretary Panetta: “Leadership is critical”

Secretary Panetta ended his talk by discussing the role of leadership, a founding principle in his creation of The Panetta Institute For Public Policy.

“Leadership is critical to everything we’ve talked about. I tell the students at the Panetta Institute that we govern either by leadership or crisis. If leadership is there and willing to take the risk associated with leadership, then we can avoid crisis. But if leadership is not there, we will inevitably govern by crisis, and my biggest concern today is we are, largely, a country that is governing by crisis and that undermines trust in our very institutions and in our very democracy.”

Secretary Panetta also touched on other subjects in his wide-ranging talk:

  • National Service: “All young people ought to give two years of their life to some kind of national service to this country. I don’t care whether it’s education, or conservation, or health care, or education – whatever it is, the military – give two years of your life back to this country. Serve this country. And then, you know, we can provide a GI bill with benefits, rather than trying to figure out how we forgive student loans or, you know, give free education. You know, if these people serve, we ought to be willing to provide GI benefits to allow them to get a good education. That’s the way to do it. It’s in return for service to the country.”
  • Building Global Alliances: “There’s no question that we are a strong nation. But to then take that strength and be able to convert it into the opportunity to provide necessary leadership so you can build those alliances based on the same values – I mean, what makes us strong as a country are our values, who we are. That’s critical. We need to build alliances. We need to, obviously, strengthen NATO. We need to build an alliance with the ASEAN countries in Asia. We need to build alliances in Latin and Central America. We need to build alliances with our moderate Arab friends in the Middle East and Israel. I mean, the ability to create those alliances is not easy. It requires U.S. leadership. And who provides that U.S. leadership in helping to build those alliances? The State Department, our diplomats, along with our military commanders, working together. That is what can provide for the security of the United States in the future. And if we undercut one of those capabilities, if we weaken it, then we are weakening our ability to provide that necessary leadership.”
  • Transparency in Government: “I think it’s important obviously to make clear to the public what we are doing. Look, obviously there are classified areas that you’re not going to share. But at the same time, I think the public is entitled to know what is taking place. It’s the men and women in uniform that you are putting on the line, who are putting their lives on the line. I think the American people need to understand the sacrifices that are being made and the decisions that are being made that impact on our national security. And to somehow to try to avoid being transparent with the American people I think undermines support for the very department and for the very missions that the department has to implement. So I am a believer in transparency. I’m a believer that, you know, we deal – you deal with the press, because it’s the press that then presents that information to the American people.”

Secretary Panetta Receives Prestigious Honor from West Point Association of Graduates

Secretary Panetta reviews the West Point’s Corps of Cadets as 2018 Thayer Award recipient.                                                                                                                         Photos by Allyse Pulliam, Courtesy of the Middletown Times Herald-Record

Secretary Panetta received the 2018 Sylvanus Thayer Award on October 4, 2018 from the West Point Association of Graduates — the group’s top award for a United States citizen other than a West Point graduate.

West Point Association of Graduates Board Chairman Lt. Gen. Joseph E. DeFrancisco, (USA, Ret.) Class of 1965, said, “Having Secretary Panetta forever associated with West Point through the Thayer Award speaks directly to its purpose of recognizing a citizen of the United States, other than a West Point graduate, whose outstanding character, accomplishments, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives. His life of service to our nation truly exemplifies the West Point values of ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’”

Secretary Panetta, in his acceptance speech at West Point, said he accepted it not for himself but “on behalf of the winner of the award sixteen years ago.” In 2002, the award was presented not to an individual but to the American Soldier at large.

Secretary Panetta told a gathering of West Point graduates, “Every time I signed a deployment order, I said a silent Hail Mary that they would all return.”

The Thayer Award is named for Col. Sylvanus Thayer, the fifth superintendent of West Point. Thayer is known as the Father of the Military Academy because he established many practices and traditions that continue to this day. The award is presented each year to an American citizen whose life of service to the nation embodies the West Point motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Secretary Panetta meets with West Point’s Brigade Staff.                         Photo by Allyse Pullium, Times Herald-Record

Lt. Gen. DeFrancisco added: “The West Point Association of Graduates is honored to present the Thayer Award to Secretary Panetta. His distinguished public service career has spanned five decades, starting in 1964 as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, to time as a Congressman, to leading several national agencies and serving in high-ranking positions for two U.S. Presidents, through today as Chairman of an institute devoted to attracting men and women to lives of public service.

Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, West Point’s superintendent, said Secretary Panetta’s career was clearly undertaken in response to President John F. Kennedy’s call in his 1961 inaugural address to “ask what you can do for your country.”

“Thank you for your example of being a leader of character,” Lt. Gen. Williams said.

Secretary Panetta told the cadets they are becoming leaders at an especially dangerous time in the world, and mentioned terrorism, a new chapter in the Cold War with Russia, increased tensions with China and cyber attacks. “If the United States fails to provide leadership in a troubled world, no one else will,” he said.

Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute to John McCain as an ‘American Patriot’

Secretary Panetta attended the funeral service in Washington and paid tribute to the life and service of Senator John McCain in an article for Fortune magazine’ on August 29, 2018, calling him “one of the great American patriots of our time.”

“His life was the very definition of patriotism,” wrote Secretary Panetta, “bravery in battle, devotion to country, faith in the values of our democracy, and the courage to fight and keep fighting for a better America.”

The relationship between the two goes back to 1982, when then-Congressman McCain joined Secretary Panetta in the House of Representatives.

“John was never the easiest person to get along with but then again, no patriot is. Their first concern is not whether they are loved, but whether our country is loved.”
                                            — Secretary Panetta

Secretary Panetta soon figured out that the new congressman was out of the ordinary. “Even after over five years as a POW in Vietnam, he still had the midshipman’s ‘raise hell’ attitude that earned him so many demerits at the Naval Academy. He picked fights with his colleagues almost coming to blows on the floor of the House. He challenged his leadership leading the charge to reverse the Catastrophic Health Care Bill supported by President Reagan. Whatever the cause, he was both maverick and fighter.”

There was more to him than that. “There was a genuine humanity and good humor. He spent hours visiting with former Congressman Mo Udall, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. There were moments on the House floor after an emotional debate when there were tears in his eyes. But it was that mix of emotion, boldness and caring that served him well in Congress and got him elected to the Senate.”

Secretary Panetta also saw McCain’s rise to leadership. “I personally witnessed his influence in the world – defending America when necessary, but always standing by his view that America must lead. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he supported a strong defense and led the passage of some of the most important reforms in seven decades at the Department of Defense. He was tough, fair and totally devoted to a bipartisan approach to national defense.”

Secretary Panetta worked closely with Senator McCain on matters of intelligence. “As Director of the CIA, I personally briefed him on our most sensitive operations and always, after a number of intense questions, he gave his support. He believed that intelligence was critical to our national defense.”

As for a commitment to bipartisanship, Secretary Panetta recalled, “In the last few years, we both commiserated over the partisanship that was slowly eroding the ability of Congress to get anything done. He spoke of the importance of governing when The Panetta Institute for Public Policy honored both he and Senator Russell Feingold for their bipartisan work on election financing reforms.”

(Senators McCain and Feingold were honored in 2002 at the Panetta Institute’s Jefferson-Lincoln Awards: An Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service gala.)

“He hated political gridlock. In many ways, I believe his now famous thumbs down on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was his way of saying he believed loyalty to country was more important than loyalty to party.”

Secretary Panetta concluded: “I last saw John in Washington when he was in a wheelchair. We met in the Capitol to discuss our mutual concerns about North Korea. He still had that sparkle in his eye that made clear he had not lost his will to fight to the end. John was never the easiest person to get along with but then again, no patriot is. Their first concern is not whether they are loved, but whether our country is loved. Because of his devotion to the nation, he is, and always will be, an American patriot.”

Storybooks Distributed to Students as Monterey County Reads Marks Another Year

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

Nearly eight hundred books were distributed again last year to children participating in the twenty-first year of the Monterey County Reads, the Panetta Institute’s award-winning program that includes thousands of volunteers committed to fighting illiteracy in Monterey County.

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

“It was so nice to see the students’ progress and pride in their improved skills.”

–Martha Delaney, Volunteer,
Fremont Elementary School,

The cumulative numbers of storybooks distributed in Monterey County Reads‘ twenty-one year history demonstrates the breadth of this program. In that time, nearly 18,000 books have been distributed to the children participating in the program.

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

The Institute has continued to broaden its focus on community volunteers; for the 2017-18 school year, 169 volunteers participated. Reaching out to more community organizations has had a positive ripple effect. Community members typically belong to more than one organization, and when Panetta Institute staff recruits from one group, interested members often spread the word to other organizations. The Panetta Institute has also extended its reach in the Salinas area of Monterey County where there is a great literacy need.

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

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

In awarding its Jefferson-Lincoln Awards each year, the Panetta Institute continues a tradition of honoring public officials and dedicated journalists who continue to fight for the most important tenets of American democracy, standing up for compromise, principled leadership and transparency in governing.

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

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

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

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

John McCain

Dianne Feinstein

Lisa Murkowski

Susan Collins

Robert Mueller






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

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

Wolf Blitzer

David Brooks

Judy Woodruff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available here.

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