Leon Panetta 2020 Lecture Series Focuses on Decision 2020: A Republic If We Can Keep It’

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

The theme for the most recent Lecture Series was Decision 2020:  A Republic If We Can Keep It. The title was taken from Benjamin Franklin’s response to a citizen’s question, “Dr. Franklin, what have you given us? A monarchy or a republic?” as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention’s final session in September of 1787. Franklin replied with clarity and forethought, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

“The Founders designed our republic,” said Institute chairman Leon E. Panetta “but it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that it is preserved. That is the duty we face as we approach the 2020 election. How do we protect our republic from the dysfunction in Washington; from the threat of fiscal disaster; from the impact of climate change; and from the realities of a dangerous world? I’ve invited experts from across the political, academic and journalistic landscape who know these issues first-hand and who understand how essential these topics are to the health of our republic.”

In past years, each of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series programs has been also broadcast live throughout California by Xfinity Channel 819 and other cable networks and has been broadcast live on public radio.  C-SPAN periodically broadcasted these lectures nationally as well. The lectures are also available for viewing via on the Leon Panetta Lecture Series YouTube channel and at www.panettainstitute.org/lecture-series/webcastinformation through this Leon Panetta Lecture Series link under Archives.

Prior to the pandemic, dates for the four Monday lectures were scheduled for February 24, April 20 and May 18. However, the final three lectures were scheduled for the fall and were conducted via live webinar audience.

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

Betty Danner Canfield, Santa Cruz


Joining us will be respected journalists, policy experts, former elected officials and military leaders. These are discussions we need to have at a critical time in our history,” said Secretary Panetta.

The events and speakers for the 2020 Lecture Series were as follows:*

Monday, February 24, 7:00 p.m.: Decision 2020 – Impeachment and the Election


The host of one of the nation’s top rated cable news programs, Bret Baier  has anchored more than thirty political specials on Fox News Channel (FNC) and has traveled the world with various administrations and military officials. Mr. Baier began his career in television journalism working at stations in Raleigh, North Carolina, Rockford, Illinois and Beaufort, South Carolina. He was named FNC’s southeastern correspondent in 1998 and went on to serve as the network’s national security correspondent. Mr. Baier was named FNC’s chief White House correspondent in 2006 and covered the second term of the Bush administration. Today, he is FOX News Channel’s chief political anchor and the anchor of Special Report with Bret Baier, the top-rated cable news program in its timeslot and consistently one of the top five shows in cable news. During the 2012 political season, Mr. Baier served as co-anchor of FNC’s America’s Election HQ. He provided extensive election coverage, anchoring presidential and vice presidential debates, the Republican and Democratic conventions and moderating five Republican presidential primary debates. Alongside Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, Mr. Baier anchored three GOP debates in 2016. He interviewed all of the 2016 presidential candidates as well as President Donald Trump; Vice President Mike Pence; former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush; and former Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2017, Mr. Baier was awarded the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism.


With a career in journalism spanning three decades that has taken him across the country and around the world, David Gregory spent nearly twenty years at NBC News. He served six years as the moderator of Meet the Press and was Chief White House Correspondent during the entire presidency of George W. Bush. He contributed anchoring duties to all the network’s major programs including Today and Nightly News and served as a political analyst. He traveled with President Bush on 9-11 and was with him during his first visit to Ground Zero after the attacks. From the White House, Mr. Gregory covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, earning a reputation as the toughest questioner in the press corps. At Meet the Press, Mr. Gregory scored a string of exclusive interviews including an interview with Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Gregory also broadcast from Afghanistan after conducting the first interview with General David Petraeus once he took up his position leading U.S. forces there. During the 2012 campaign, Mr. Gregory moderated a debate among the Republican candidates and conducted interviews with numerous foreign heads of state. He was a staple of NBC’s special coverage anchoring the breaking news of Osama Bin Laden’s capture and death and was a key player in election night coverage spanning four presidential cycles. Today, Mr. Gregory is a political analyst on CNN as well as a visiting professor at Georgetown University.


A national correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), a contributor to FOX News Channel (FNC) and considered one of the most high profile political journalists working today, Mara Liasson joined NPR in 1985 as a general assignment reporter and newscaster. From September 1988 to June 1989 she took a leave of absence from NPR to attend Columbia University in New York as a recipient of a Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism. As part of her work at NPR, Ms. Liasson covered Congress and served as the White House correspondent during all eight years of the Clinton administration. Now, as the national political correspondent, her reports can be heard on the award-winning news magazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition. During her tenure, she has covered all the presidential elections since 1992 and reports on Senate and House races every election year. She is an expert on elections, national policy and on relations between the White House and Congress. Ms. Liasson joined FOX in 1997 and serves as a panelist on Special Report with Brett Baier and FOX News Sunday. In recognition of her work, Ms. Liasson has received numerous awards and honors, including the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Merriman Smith Award in 1994, 1995 and 1997 for excellence in daily news reporting.

Monday, August 31 6:00 p.m.: Decision 2020  – The Future of American Leadership in a Dangerous World


With a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam launching a lifelong commitment to protecting the rights of veterans, John Kerry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1982 and was elected to the United States Senate two years later. In 2009, he became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, assuming a leadership role on key foreign policy and national security issues facing the United States, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, China, nuclear nonproliferation, and global climate change. On February 1, 2013, he was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States. In this post, Secretary Kerry became the first Secretary of State to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister since the 1979 revolution and helped secure the eventual signing of the landmark 2015 agreement to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. Secretary Kerry was also a key architect of the Paris Climate Accord, signing the historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions in 2016. A best-selling author of A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America and This Moment on Earth, Secretary Kerry released his first memoir, Every Day Is Extra, in 2018. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs at Yale University as well as the inaugural Visiting Distinguished Statesman for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Secretary Kerry was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2004.


A former Secretary of Defense and retired Marine General who has spent nearly fifty years in the service of his country, James Mattis rose from an eighteen-year-old reservist to the highest rank of four-star general in the U.S. Marines. He capped off his military career as head of the United States Central Command, where he was in charge of all American forces serving in the Middle East and oversaw operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Syria, Iran, and Yemen. He retired from the post in 2013. In 2017, he answered the call to serve again, as the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet cleared to take office. Gen. Mattis served as the twenty-sixth Secretary of Defense for nearly two years before resigning with distinction. As Secretary, Gen. Mattis focused on combat readiness and served as the primary author of a new American defense strategy whose central goal was to take on “revisionist” powers that “seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models.” Viewed as the steady hand in tumultuous times, he championed building a network of alliances and strategic partnerships around the world. As part of his “hearts and minds” approach to counterinsurgency operations, Gen. Mattis established the Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning, which remains active today. The Center for Marine officers and senior enlisted personnel provides cultural awareness and language skills training to ensure units can operate effectively in complex expeditionary environments.

Monday, September 21, 6:00 p.m.: Decision 2020 – An Economy on Borrowed Money            


A former White House senior economic advisor and best-selling author, Todd Buchholz is a respected voice on economic and fiscal policy as well as the financial markets at home and abroad. Mr. Buchholz joined the administration of President George H.W. Bush as White House Director of Economic Policy in 1989 and served in that position until 1992. After leaving the White House, he was president of the G7 Group, Inc, an international consulting firm whose clientele included many of the top securities firms, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. In 1996, he was named managing director of the $15 billion Tiger hedge fund. Currently he teaches at Harvard University where he was awarded the Allyn Young Teaching Prize. Mr. Buchholz is the author of numerous critically acclaimed and best-selling books including: Market Shock: 9 Economic and Social Upheavals that Will Shake Our Financial Future; New Ideas from Dead Economists; New Ideas from Dead CEOs; From Here to Economy; and Lasting Lessons from the Corner Office. His latest book, The Price of Prosperity: Why Nations Fail and How to Renew Them was published in 2016. Mr. Buchholz is a frequent guest on ABC News, PBS and CBS, and he recently hosted his own special on CNBC. He is routinely asked to provide perspective in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.


President of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and an expert on budget, tax, and economic policy, Maya MacGuineas has been a leading budget expert for the past twenty years and a political independent. Ms. MacGuineas has worked closely with members of both parties and serves as a trusted resource on Capitol Hill. Ms. MacGuineas worked at the Brookings Institution and on Wall Street, and in the spring of 2009 she did a stint on The Washington Post editorial board, covering economic and fiscal policy. Ms. MacGuineas has run the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget since 2003, and works mainly on issues related to fiscal, tax, economic and retirement policy. She has been called “an obsessively nonpartisan, data-driven, well-connected champion of…fiscal responsibility” and “an anti-deficit warrior.” She testifies regularly before Congress, is a regular commentator on television and has published broadly, including regularly in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Atlantic, and numerous other outlets. Ms. MacGuineas oversees a number of the committee’s projects including the grassroots coalition Fix the Debt; the committee’s Fiscal Institute; and FixUS, a project seeking to better understand the root causes of our nation’s growing divisions and deteriorating political system, and to work with others to bring attention to these issues and the need to fix them. Her most recent area of focus is on the future of the economy, technology and capitalism.


The forty-third Treasurer of the United States, Rosa Gumataotao Rios has had a career focused on real estate finance, economic development and urban revitalization in the public and private sectors. Prior to her presidential appointment as Treasurer, Ms. Gumataotao Rios was managing director of investments for MacFarlane Partners, a $22 billion real estate investment management firm based in San Francisco. Other real estate/urban revitalization activities include serving as the director of economic development and/or redevelopment for multiple cities such as Oakland, Fremont, San Leandro and Union City. Ms. Gumataotao Rios was the longest serving Senate-confirmed Treasury official beginning with her time on the Treasury/Federal Reserve Transition Team in November 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. In her role as Treasurer of the United States, Ms. Gumataotao Rios was the CEO of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint, including Fort Knox. Her day-to-day responsibilities included overseeing all currency and coin production activities with almost 4,000-employees in eight facilities nationwide and an annual budget of approximately $5 billion. In her first five years, she saved over $1 billion by implementing efficiencies and innovative concepts while meeting increased production demand and increasing employee morale at record levels. In 2016, she received the Hamilton Award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Ms. Gumataotao Rios currently serves on the board of Fidelity Charitable Trust, the Schlesinger Council at Harvard and the Advisory Committee for Artemis Real Estate Partners.

Monday, September 28, 6:00 p.m.: Decision 2020 – A Planet on Borrowed Time             


A  fixture of California politics for nearly a half century, creating a legacy of fiscal security for the state and displaying powerful leadership on climate change, Governor Brown won his first statewide office in 1970 when he was elected California Secretary of State. Four years later, he was elected Governor of the State of California and then re-elected in 1978, by a margin of twenty-one percent. 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. Governor Brown instituted cutting-edge environmental protections that became guidelines for the nation to follow. He strengthened the California Coastal Commission and established comprehensive policies governing development along the coast. Governor Brown was elected for his third gubernatorial term in 2010. He dramatically cut the state budget deficit, improved California’s credit ratings and cut waste and inefficiencies throughout government. Governor Brown also enacted historic public safety realignment, and raised the state’s clean energy goal to thirty-three percent.


Former New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd Whitmanserved in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from January of 2001 until June of 2003.  She was the 50th Governor of the State of New Jersey, serving as its first woman governor from 1994 until 2001.  As Governor, Whitman earned praise from both Republicans and Democrats for her commitment to preserve a record amount of New Jersey land as permanent green space. As EPA Administrator, she promoted common-sense environmental improvements such as watershed-based water protection policies.  Governor Whitman is the author of a New York Timesbest seller called It’s My Party Too, which was published in 2005 and argues for the need to find a “productive middle” in politics.  In 2017, Governor Whitman was awarded The Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service.  She currently serves as President of The Whitman Strategy Group (WSG), a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues.


A leading voice in American politics for nearly three decades, Rahm Emanuel has served in positions at the national, city and party level. In 1996, Mayor Emanuel was named senior adviser for policy and strategy for President Bill Clinton. Among his special projects was helping to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. In 2004, Mayor Emanuel was elected to the United States House of Representatives representing Chicago. He went on to serve three terms and was named chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 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 with fifty-five percent of the vote, becoming the city’s fifty-fifth mayor. Mayor Emanuel led major investments across education, youth programming, neighborhood development, transportation, infrastructure, public health and public safety. During Mayor Emanuel’s tenure, Chicago’s students experienced record educational gains. Mayor Emanuel was also honored by the Sierra Club for what the organization said were 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.

Each of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series programs will be broadcast live throughout California and are also available for viewing via live web-streaming at http://www.panettainstitute.org/programs/lecture-series/webcast-information/ on the Leon Panetta Lecture Series YouTube channel, and are broadcast live on public radio.

* All dates and speakers are subject to change.

2020 Lecture Series Sponsors

The Panetta Institute would like to salute the sponsors of the 2020 Lecture Series for their extraordinary public service in supporting this important event.

Tonya Antle

Bank of America Charitable Foundation

Beacon Global Strategies

Laurie and David Benjamin


B Y and A-M Abadir Trust

California American Water

Cannery Row Company

Chevron Corporation

City of Monterey

Comcast NBCUniversal

Debra and George W. Couch III

Dorian Daley and Michael Krautkramer

Sherry E. DeBoer

Dominican University of California

Ronda and Gordon Eubanks

Denise Foderaro and Frank Quattrone

Franklin Legacy Fund

Gail Griggs

Hamilton, 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

Susan Prest and Commander Allen Sherwood,
USN (Ret.)

Puma Road Wines

Southern Company

Anthony B. Varni

Kathy and Tom Wiggans

Stanley Zax

Zenith Insurance Company


AT&T California

Cathy Brock

Louis and Jane Castruccio

Bill and Nancy Doolittle

The J. Willard and Alice F. Marriott Foundation

Montage Health

Santa Cruz Seaside Company

Vishal and Savita Verma

Rhonda Williams