Sylvia M. Panetta Formally Commissions Newly Designed Navy Ship USS Milwaukee 

Sylvia M. Panetta

Sylvia M. Panetta

Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta formally commissioned the USS Milwaukee into service for the United States Navy at a special ceremony at Milwaukee’s Veterans Park on Saturday, November 21, 2015.

Mrs. Panetta serves as ship sponsor for the USS Milwaukee, the Navy’s latest littoral combat ship. Littoral combat ships, designed for versatility and speed, are a relatively new addition to the U.S. Navy. They are built to operate close to shore and to quickly switch from one combat mode to another by swapping out different equipment such as anti-mine or anti-submarine gear. Unlike older Navy ships, littoral combat ships operate with much smaller crews. A crew of fifty-four operates the USS Milwaukee, though it will carry around 100 when sailors tied to the helicopter aviation unit are on board.

This ship is considered an important addition to the U.S. military’s transition from warfare that saw navies fighting against one another toward the current military effort to combat terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

A large crowd attended the commissioning ceremony. Nearly 19,000 tickets were distributed for the day’s events, which featured speeches, patriotic music and Wisconsin-made beer and bratwurst. After Mrs. Panetta formally commissioned the ship with the words “Man your ship and bring it to life,” the crew ran from the shore onto the USS Milwaukee, started its engines, engaged its radar and other operations and sounded a long whistle blast.

Activities also included a reunion for members of the last USS Milwaukee, an oiler that earned a campaign star during the Vietnam War and, before it was decommissioned in 1994, helped transport the King Tutankhamen exhibition to America in 1976.

Mrs. Panetta christened the ship in December 2013 in Marinette, Wisconsin with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne over the vessel’s hull. In her role as sponsor, Mrs. Panetta has visited with the ship’s crew several times over the past two years. Further, officers from the ship have participated in programs at The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, speaking with young leaders about leadership in the military and touching on the themes of character, team building and sacrifice.

Mrs. Panetta said, “It is a true honor to be asked to serve as a sponsor of this extraordinary ship and to get to know the remarkable young men and women who will serve as her crew. Secretary Panetta has spent his life working on behalf of this great nation and the principles of our democracy. At the Panetta Institute, we work every day hoping to inspire students to lead lives of public service and participate in the system of government for which so many have sacrificed so much. Our democracy depends, and indeed thrives, on those who give of themselves for the benefit of their fellow human beings”

The USS Milwaukee is the third Freedom-class littoral combat ship built in Marinette, Wisconsin. The USS Milwaukee will now travel through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the East Coast, then south to the Panama Canal to its home port of San Diego for patrols in Asia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a link to the entire interview.

Veteran Journalist and Longtime Panetta Institute Supporter Cokie Roberts Dies

Cokie Roberts, a pioneering journalist whose association with the Panetta Institute goes back many years, died September 17, 2019 of complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

Secretary Panetta honored Cokie Roberts with a Jefferson-Lincoln Award.

Ms. Roberts chronicled Washington for more than forty years on National Public Radio, ABC News, syndicated columns and several books.

“Cokie Roberts was one of the most knowledgeable journalists in Washington, fair-minded and accurate as well as having deep institutional knowledge about how Congress conducts its business,” said Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Ms. Roberts shared her insight and expertise by serving on the Panetta Institute’s National Advisors panel as well as appearing twice as a speaker at the Leon Panetta Lecture Series. She also met with students at Institute programs and was awarded with the Panetta Institute’s Jefferson-Lincoln Award in 2010.

In accepting the award, Ms. Roberts said of the Panetta Institute’s programs for students:  “It’s an island of civility in a sea of cacophony. It’s essential that graduates learn about public policy in this rational, interesting way.”

Ms. Roberts devoted most of her years in journalism to covering Congress, where her father Hale Boggs was a House majority leader who died in 1972 when his plane went missing over Alaska. Her mother, Lindy Boggs, took over his Louisiana congressional seat and served until 1990, later becoming ambassador to the Vatican.

“Because of her commitment to journalism and her deep understanding of Congress and our system of government,” said Secretary Panetta, “She will be missed.”

Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute to Longtime Colleague Alice Rivlin

Secretary Panetta paid tribute to the late Alice Rivlin at a memorial service at Georgetown University on June 21, 2019, recalling their work together over many years as leaders of national economic policy.

Alice Rivlin

Ms. Rivlin, who died at the age of 88 on May 14, 2019 at her home in Washington, D.C., was Secretary Panetta’s top assistant at the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton Administration, and succeeded him as director when he was named President Clinton’s chief of staff.

“I thought that Alice would be around forever fighting for what she believed was right for the country,” said Secretary Panetta “She gave so much to our country. Washington will not be the same without Alice.”

Secretary Panetta and Ms. Rivlin worked together many times over the years, both prior to and following their time in the White House.

Secretary Panetta recalled meeting her more than forty years ago, when both worked at what was then called the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. “Alice knew the pressures I was under and supported my decision to enforce the law,” Secretary Panetta said. “It eventually cost me my job. Alice was one of the first people to thank me for doing what was right regardless of the politics. That was the ‘Alice Rivlin Code of Conduct.’ I learned it from her.”

An expert in national economic affairs and a longtime advocate of finding bipartisan solutions to the country’s fiscal challenges, Ms. Rivlin frequently participated in a number of Panetta Institute programs. For many years she donated her time to the Institute by teaching and working with participants in the Panetta Institute Student Leadership Program and the Congressional Internship Program. She also appeared on stage at the Leon Panetta Lecture Series, and in 2011 was awarded a Jefferson-Lincoln Award at the Institute’s Evening to Honor Lives of Public Service.

Ms. Rivlin spent much of her career affiliated with the Brookings Institution, a leading Washington think tank, leaving that post several times to fill leading government offices, such as serving as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office and as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board under Alan Greenspan.

“Although she was a Democrat, she was bipartisan at heart, and willing to encourage and support those, regardless of party, who were willing to stand up and do the right thing, particularly when it came to fiscal policy,” said Secretary Panetta. “Through her life, she fought for fiscal responsibility and expressed strong views about the failure of political leadership to make the tough decisions necessary for our economy. That is what made her an outstanding candidate to become the first director of the newly created Congressional Budget Office in 1975.”

Secretary Panetta paid tribute to her persistence in proposing and passing a balanced budget during the Clinton Administration. “I can’t tell you how helpful Alice was in convincing the president and his economic team that tough decisions on deficit reduction were needed for the sake of a strong economy,” he recalled. “When that budget finally passed by one vote in both the House and Senate, Alice and I felt a deep sense of relief that all of the past budget fights had finally paid off. When a balanced federal budget was finally achieved, I know there are a lot of politicians who take credit for that but the reality is that were it not for the persistence and dedication of Alice Rivlin, it would have never happened.”

Since then, the budget picture has changed. “We have gone from a balanced budget to a $22 trillion debt,” said Secretary Panetta. “Indeed, that was the subject of the book she was working on when she died.”

Ms. Rivlin is the author of the book “Reviving the American Dream: The Economy, the States & the Federal Government,” published in 1992 in which she argued that deficits were the biggest impediment to economic growth.

“Washington will be a sadder place without her spunk, spirit and will to fight,” Secretary Panetta concluded. “But perhaps if the memory of her courage can inspire future generations of leaders as it did in the past, we will forever be grateful for the code she established – fight for what is right regardless of the politics.

“It is a lesson our country needs to learn now more than ever.”

Sylvia Panetta Honored by Monterey County Branch of NAACP

Sylvia Panetta was honored with a Silver Lifetime Membership award by the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP at its forty-sixth Annual Freedom Fund Gala on Saturday May 26, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

“I am honored and grateful,” said Mrs. Panetta regarding the honor. “Tonight’s focus, as it should be, is America’s nettled reckoning with race. For all the progress, ours is still an exasperating culture with too many left out, and the toxic backwardness of bigotry continuing to affect our society and the human species.”

In recognition of Mrs. Panetta’s longtime support of the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP, Edward W. Armstrong, membership chair, said: “Thank you for your continued support and effort in combatting the omnipresent disparities that continue to be most prevalent in American education, jobs, housing, health care and criminal justice systems.”

In closing, Mrs. Panetta noted that the Panetta Institute’s goals are in line with those of the NAACP. “Hence, comes the vital importance of organizations like the Panetta Institute, which provide programs, without cost to its participants, in hopes that we too can be, like the NAACP, a great elevator, a great E Pluribus Unum machine.

Monterey County Matriarch and Longtime Panetta Institute Supporter Sue Antle Dies

Sue Antle

Sue Merrill Crawford Antle, a longtime leader in the local community and a former board member of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, died on March 7, 2019, at her Salinas home, surrounded by her loving family.

“Sue and her late husband Bob were valued friends and supporters of the Panetta Institute,” said Chairman Leon E. Panetta. “Together they were a great force for good in agriculture and in the community. The success of the Panetta Institute is in large measure due to their  leadership, loyalty and generosity.”

“Sue Antle was a key member of our board after her husband passed away.” said Panetta Institute Co-Chair and CEO Sylvia Panetta. “As a board member and volunteer for the Panetta Institute’s Monterey County Reads program, she gave us hour upon hour of her time in helping us to meet our goal of encouraging and preparing young people for success in their adult years.”

Born on February 23, 1936, in Watsonville, California, Mrs. Antle is remembered along with her late husband as creating a legacy in the heart of Salinas Valley agriculture and for her support of countless community organizations and projects.

Mrs. Antle was raised on a farm in the hills of Browns Valley and met the love of her life, Bob Antle, while attending Watsonville High School. Growing up in Corralitos, Sue was active in 4-H, raising her beloved cow, Blossom, as well as excelling in Home Economics, especially sewing.

Over the course of their 58-year love affair, Mr. and Mrs. Antle created a legacy of their own. As a young couple, they followed the lettuce harvest season with their four small children, with Sue orchestrating the family home, while Bob managed Bud Antle Inc. Throughout the years, Mrs. Antle welcomed many employees and business associates into their home and family life.

During their golden years, Mr. and Mrs. embraced their passion for the enrichment of their community. Mrs. Antle took great joy in co-chairing the “Have a Heart” fundraiser for Cal State Monterey Bay for many years. Her lifelong passion for reading is best illustrated in her dedication to reading books with the many children as part of the Monterey County Reads program run by the Panetta Institute. Her legacy will provide the foundation for children of field workers to be first generation graduates of CSUMB, Cal Poly and Hartnell College.

Mrs. Antle was preceded in death by her husband, Bob, eldest son, Rick and brother, Bill Mauk. She is survived by her twin daughters, Kathy Antle and Karen Hebl, her son, Mike Antle (Cass), and daughter-in-law, Tonya Antle. She is also survived by seventeen grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, Martha Chavez, and her loving and devoted family of caregivers.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at 11:00 a.m., Church of the Good Shepherd, 301 Corral de Tierra Road, Salinas, California with a reception to follow. The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mrs. Antle’s memory to: VNA & Hospice P. O. Box 2480 Monterey, CA 93942.

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

The National Academy of Public Administration’s Elliot L. Richardson Prize was awarded to Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a ceremony at the Reagan Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, February 14, 2018.

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

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

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

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

Sylvia Panetta Pays Tribute to Former Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski

Sylvia Panetta paid tribute to retiring Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski at her retirement celebration December 4, 2018, praising her for  being “the kind of public servant we hope to inspire our Panetta Institute students to emulate.”

Dr. Nancy Kotowski speaks at a recent Panetta Institute tribute to Monterey County Reads volunteers and schools.

Dr. Kotowski served as superintendent of the 24-district County Office of Education for three terms, beginning in 2007. She helped establish a number of partnerships with other organizations throughout the county, including the Panetta Institute.

Mrs. Panetta recalled meeting Dr. Kotowski more than twenty years ago. “We first met when the Panetta Institute was working to launch the America Reads program here in Monterey County. I knew that it would be a significant undertaking to bring community and college volunteers into the classrooms of Monterey County elementary schools and that we would need a strong partner who would be equally committed to matching reading volunteers with children struggling to grasp vital literacy skills. Today, thanks to the strong partnership we formed with Nancy, the County Office of Education and school districts, the program we now call Monterey County Reads has placed more than 3,700 volunteers who have read nearly 134,500 hours reading one-to-one with more than 19,200 children.”

“Nancy is a huge part of that,” Mrs. Panetta continued. “She was also instrumental in our work to ensure that the Leon Panetta Lecture Series Student Program provides a forum for high school, college, university and military students to become better educated, better informed and inspired about key policy issues from our speakers — national leaders.”

Dr. Kotowski is succeeded by Dr. Deneen Guss, who served as deputy superintendent for five years, and was sworn in January 7, 2018.

In taking her leave from the position, Dr. Kotowski said, “I am most grateful to the people of Monterey County for entrusting me with the leadership of public education for our children and our youth. The relationships and partnerships we have are wide and deep throughout the county.”

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

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

Secretary Panetta: Providing leadership makes democracy better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta Honored by California Forward; Calls for a New Commitment to Leadership

Secretary Leon Panetta was honored with the first-ever Forward Thinker Award January 26, 2017 by California Forward, a non-partisan public interest group co-founded by Secretary Panetta ten years ago.

Secretary Panetta was presented the Forward Thinker Award.

In accepting the award at a celebration dinner in San Francisco, Secretary Panetta spoke of the need nationally for bipartisan governance and how California Forward has “made giant steps in the right direction.”

Secretary Panetta added, “If California Forward can continue to fight those battles there’s no question in my mind that the dream of my parents for a better life will become real for our young people in the future.”

Secretary Panetta concluded his address by saying: “The real strength of this country is not in Washington, D.C.; it is in the resilience, common sense, dedication and the will to fight by the American people.”

Here is a link to a video of Secretary Panetta’s speech.

Secretary Panetta Challenges Cal Poly Students to Engage in Public Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvia Panetta Honored at CSUMB Commencement Ceremony

Sylvia Panetta and CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta Named to Advisory Committee for Proposed Eisenhower Memorial

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

Artist's conception of proposed Eisenhower Memorial

Artist’s conception of proposed Eisenhower Memorial

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panetta Institute Education Programs Honored by Association of California School Administrators

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

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

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

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

The ACSA award was presented on May 1, 2016 at the group’s Spring Fling Dinner and Awards event at San Juan Oaks Golf Club in Hollister.

Secretary Panetta’s Portrait Unveiled at Pentagon Ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Leon E. Panetta received the 2015 George Catlett Marshall Medal, the highest award presented by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), on October 14, 2016 at the George Catlett Marshall Memorial Dinner.

Secretary Panetta was honored for his "selfless service."

Secretary Panetta was honored for his “selfless service.”

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

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

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

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

Secretary Panetta Receives Prestigious Dwight D. Eisenhower Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veteran Pacific Grove High School Educator Honored by Panetta Institute

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

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

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

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

Sylvia Panetta Honored by the American Association of University Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The award is named after Dr. William Oliver Baker, a prominent scientist, former head of Bell Labs and a trusted advisor to five United States presidents, starting with President Eisenhower.

Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute to Institute Vice Chair Bob Antle

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