On Thursday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m., the Ruth Pauley Lecture Series will kick off its 34th season with a virtual conversation on the challenges of leadership in our times between former Secretary of Defense Dr. Leon Panetta and Sandhills Community College President Dr. John Dempsey.
Panetta began his long and distinguished public service career in 1964 as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, receiving the Army Commendation Medal. Although long associated with the Democratic Party, Secretary Panetta started his political career as a Republican, serving as a legislative aide to Republican Senator Thomas Kuchel of California.
In 1969, he joined the Nixon administration first as a special assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and then as head of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, a post he was forced out of when he tried to speed up the pace of school desegregation, against the wishes of the administration.
After changing party affiliations, Panetta was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, representing the area around his hometown of Monterey, Calif. He was re-elected eight times. During his time in Congress, he served as chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and worked on issues related to agriculture, federal budget, ocean and healthcare issues.
Panetta was also a central figure in the Clinton administration. He left Congress in 1993 to become director for the Office of Management and Budget, where he was instrumental in developing the policies that led to a balanced federal budget and eventual budget surpluses. In 1994, he was appointed White House chief of staff and was credited with bringing order and focus to White House operations and policy making.
Upon leaving the Clinton administration in 1997, Panetta and his wife, Sylvia, established The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay. Reflecting Panetta’s ideals and personal example, the nonpartisan, not-for-profit study center seeks to attract thoughtful men and women to lives of public service and prepare them for the policy challenges of the future.
Panetta returned to public service at the start of the Obama administration as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, where he supervised the operation to find and bring international terrorist Osama bin Laden to justice. Then, as secretary of defense, he led efforts to develop a new defense strategy, conduct critical counter terrorism operations, strengthen U.S. alliances, and open military service opportunities to Americans regardless of gender or sexual orientation. He chronicles his life in public service in his best-selling memoir “Worthy Fights,” which was published by Penguin Press in 2014.
Over the years Panetta has served on numerous boards and commissions. He co-chaired California Forward, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Council on Base Support and Retention. In 2006, he served on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan national commission seeking a new course for the war in Iraq.
At present, he serves on the boards of directors for Oracle and Blue Shield of California. He serves as co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Defense Personnel Task Force and the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Countering Violent Extremism.
Tune in for the discussion followed by a question-and-answer session on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m. at www.ruthpauley/watchonline or live on Facebook @RuthPauleyLectureSeries.