It’s been nearly a month since Leon Panetta left his post as Secretary of Defense. But it wasn’t until an event Thursday night that he received his formal welcome home to Cal State Monterey Bay, home of the Panetta Institute.
It was May 2, 2011 that then CIA Director Leon Panetta led the operation that ended with the death of Osama Bin Laden. Nearly two years later in Panetta’s final days as U.S. Secretary of Defense, he lifted the military’s ban on women serving in combat. So as he returns to his role as Co-Director of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at CSUMB, Cal State Chancellor Timothy White is clearly thrilled. “If I was a 20-something or 30-something or 40-something, I’d say I’d like to come, and be around this Institute and this great man,” said Chancellor White.
At a press conference on Thursday, Secretary Panetta sat flanked by the Chancellor and Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, Interim President at CSUMB (KAZU’s parent institution). Secretary Panetta noted he’s glad to be home, but his mind isn’t far from Washington. “Frankly the biggest concern I have right now is Washington is dysfunctional in terms of the ability to deal with the challenges of facing our country,” said Secretary Panetta. That’s where he sees a role for the Institute he and his wife Syliva co-founded 16 years ago. “I have never lost faith in our democracy and never will, and the reason for that is because I believe there are future leaders who will make their way to Washington to hopefully be able to make the right decisions,” said Secretary Panetta. Right now the Institute is in the process of selecting that next class of future leaders.