Leon Panetta 2021 Lecture Series Focuses on New Leadership in a New Decade’

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 this year’s series is New Leadership in a New Decade – Can America Be Healed? Secretary Panetta will discuss current challenges with some of our nation’s most eminent recent leaders. Questions are raised in uncharted circumstances stirring a political and cultural divisiveness not seen since the years before the Civil War.

“In extraordinary times like these,” said Institute chairman Leon E. Panetta “the United States must be committed to our Constitution, as were our Founders, and work to make, again, our democratic principles a model for the world.  To be a part of this endeavor, to contribute to its success, is something in which we, together, can take a vast and honest pride, and, to be successful we need to also discuss and debate the best approaches to protecting our country.”

With the hope that we will be able to gather together in discussion and reflection in the future, for safety reasons, the 2021 season will take place via live webinar.  Season subscriptions to the Leon Panetta Lecture Series are available for $400.  Individual tickets to the February 22 lecture sell for $100.


I was concerned a ZOOM version of the famous lecture series would not live up to its long history of providing intimate conversation with those directly involved in the political process.  I was greatly surprised. I enjoyed it tremendously and at times it seemed like a personal presentation just for me.   

— Lecture Series Subscriber


Each of the four live lectures will be available only to sponsors, subscribers and individual ticket purchasers.  Later in the year, the recorded lectures will be released for viewing on the Panetta Institute website at www.panettainstitute.org. or on the Leon Panetta Lecture Series YouTube channel,

The events and speakers for the 2021 Lecture Series are as follows:*

Monday, February 22, 6:00 p.m.: The COVID-19 Pandemic – Can We Finally Win the War?


An adviser to seven United States presidents, Dr. Anthony Fauci was appointed Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases(NIAID) in 1984.  He oversees extensive research to prevent, diagnose, and treat established infectious diseases, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria as well as emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika.  Dr. Fauci has guided our country’s policy on HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and many other domestic and global health issues.  He was one of the principal architects of the Bush Administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program that has saved millions of lives throughout the developing world.  He also is the longtime chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation.  He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, the George M. Kober Medal of the Association of American Physicians, and the Canada Gairdner Global HealthAward.  He has received forty-five honorary doctoral degrees from universities in the United States and abroad.  He is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than 1,300 scientific publications, including several textbooks.

Monday, March 15, 6:00 p.m.: The Biden Administration and Congress – Can We Finally Govern?


John Kasich served as the sixty-ninth Governor of Ohio (2011-2019), leading the “Ohio Comeback,”restoring Ohio’s fiscal stability, diversifying the state’s economy with more than 500,000 new private-sector jobs, expanding health care coverage for low-income Ohioans, protecting vulnerable residents, and championing a number of reforms to protect the environment. Governor Kasich ran for President during the 2016 Republican primary finishing third in the total delegate count. His message focused on unifying Americans rather than dividing them, championing the great potential of our citizens to make positive impacts in their own communities, a strong national defense and the importance of our international alliances.  When he served in Congress (1982-2000), he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee and worked across party lines to pass the first federally balanced budget since man walked on the moon.  Today, he runs the Kasich Company and serves as a senior commentator for CNN.  He is the author of four New York Times best-sellers.


Claire McCaskill, U.S. Senator from Missouri (2007-2019), is the first and only woman ever elected to the Senate from Missouri. As a Senator she became known for her efforts to curb waste and fraud.  She introduced legislation to extend whistle-blower protections for employees working within the intelligence community.  Throughout her tenure as Senator and her committee assignments, she focused on accountability, transparency, earmark reform, increased independence of the Inspector Generals, credit card regulation, consumer protections and reforms to the reverse mortgage industry and veteran benefits.  Senator McCaskill consistently crossed the aisle to achieve bipartisan legislation and was frequently ranked by experts as one of the most independent Senators.  She served as the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee and senior member of the Armed Services Committee.  Currently, Senator McCaskill is a political analyst on NBC and MSNBC and a visiting fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

Monday, April 19, 6:00 p.m.: Allies and Adversaries – Can the U.S. Be a World Leader Again?           


John Bolton served as United States National Security Advisor (2018-2019) and United States Ambassador to the United Nations (2005-2006).  One of America’s most prominent policy voices, Ambassador Bolton is a foreign policy expert and diplomat who has spent his career fighting to protect America’s national interests.  As National Security Advisor in the Trump administration, he continued his earlier efforts while serving in the George W. Bush administration to prevent North Korea and Iran from gaining deliverable nuclear weapons.  Further, he was a leading voice in both administrations on the need to take strong and meaningful action against international nuclear proliferation and terrorism.  As Ambassador to the United Nations, he led the Security Council to approve a unanimous resolution to end the summer 2006 Hezbollah war on Israel and to create an arms embargo against Hezbollah.  He also assembled an international coalition that blocked the bid of Hugo Chavez to join the Security Council.  Previous to his positions as National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations, he was Under Secretary of State for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005.


Mike Mullen is considered one of the most influential Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in history.  Admiral Mullen was widely recognized as an “honest broker”in his key leadership roles as the top military advisor to two presidents—Barack Obama and George W. Bush— as well as to the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the National Security Council.  He led the military during a critical period of transition, overseeing the end of the combat mission in Iraq and the development of a new military strategy for Afghanistan.  He advocated for the rapid development and fielding of innovative technologies, championed emerging and enduring international partnerships, and advanced new methods for combating terrorism—all of which directly culminated in the bringing of Osama bin Laden to justice.  During his tenure,
Secretary of Defense Panetta, along with Admiral Mullen, provided the certification required to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  He was also responsible for multiple appointments of African Americans to the highest ranks of the military, including General Lloyd Austin, now President Biden’s Secretary of Defense.  Since 2012, Admiral Mullen has been a visiting professor at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.


Michèle Flournoy was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012) where she served as the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations.  She led the development of the Department of Defense’s 2012 Strategic Guidance and represented the Department in dozens of foreign engagements, in the media and before Congress.  Prior to confirmation, Ms. Flournoy co-led President Obama’s transition team at the Defense Department.  In the mid-1990s, Ms. Flournoy was principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction, and deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy in the Clinton administration.  In January 2007, Ms. Flournoy co-founded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a non-partisan think tank dedicated to developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security policies, and served as CNAS’ president.  Ms. Flournoy is a former member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the CIA Director’s External Advisory Board, and is currently a member of the Defense Policy Board and the Council on Foreign Relations, amongst other organizations.

Monday, May 17, 6:00 p.m.: Restoring Trust in the Presidency – Can We Heal Our Political Divide?           


Bill Clinton served as the forty-second President of the United States (1993-2001).  He took office at the end of the Cold War, and during his administration the United States enjoyed more peace than at any other time in the post-World War II era. President Clinton could also point to one of the strongest American economies since 1945, the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in thirty years, the highest home ownership in the country’s history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls.  He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus. He was also the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second term.  In the world, he successfully dispatched peace-keeping forces to war-torn Bosnia and ordered a restricted bombing attack on Iraq when Saddam Hussein stopped United Nations inspections for evidence of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. He became a global proponent for an expanded NATO, more open international trade, and a worldwide campaign against drug trafficking.


Dan Quayle, forty-fourth Vice President of the United States (1989-1993), is widely considered one of the most active Vice Presidents in history.  President Bush named Vice President Quayle head of the Council of Competitiveness, which worked to ensure United States international competitiveness in the twenty-first century.  In that role he made official visits to forty-seven countries, was chairman of the National Space Council, and served as President Bush’s point man on Capitol Hill.  As a leader in causes from legal system reform to deregulation to the renewal of basic American values, he developed a large national following because of his courageous stands on these issues.  His political career began when he was elected to the United Congress in 1976 at age twenty-nine.  He was elected to the United States Senate at age thirty-three.  And, when he took the oath of office as Vice President, he was forty-one years of age.  Since leaving public office, he has authored three books, including Standing Firm:  A Vice-Presidential Memoir, which was on the New York Times’best-seller list for fifteen weeks.  Currently, he is Chairman of Cerberus Global Investments, LLC; President of Quayle & Associates; and has served on many boards of directors.

* All dates and speakers are subject to change.

Lecture Series Sponsors

Tonya Antle

Bank of America

Beacon Global Strategies

Laurie and David Benjamin

Boeing Company

California American Water

Cannery Row Company

Jane and Louis Castruccio

Cathy Brock and Rhonda Williams

City of Monterey

Debra and George W. Couch III

Dorian Daley and Michael Krautkramer

Sherry E. DeBoer

Nancy and Bill Doolittle

Dominican University of California

The Eubanks Family Foundation

Denise Foderaro and Frank Quattrone

Georgia Pacific

Gail Griggs

Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Associates, Inc.

Kaiser Permanente

Stan McKee

Sharon and Stan Meresman

Montage Health

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The O’Brien Family Foundation

Sylvia and Leon Panetta

Susan Prest and Commander Allen Sherwood, USN, Ret.

Anthony B. Varni

Stanley Zax

Zenith Insurance Company



AT&T California

Franklin Legacy Fund

Ray Franscioni

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation

Kathy and Tom Wiggans