Honors Advantage

Leon Panetta Urges Students to Contribute to Community

Former CIA director and secretary of defense visits Drew.

Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA, secretary of defense and White House chief of staff, urged students in Drew’s Baldwin Honors Program to participate in their communities and to be active citizens when they graduate from college.

“The test of life is whether or not you make a difference in the lives of others,” said Panetta, who visited Drew as the Thomas H. Kean Visiting Lecturer and was the final speaker in this year’s Drew Forum series.

Panetta, who served in government for several decades, shared many of his experiences such as working for civil rights and helping to save California’s Monterey Bay.

Panetta also recounted leading the CIA when when US forces located Osama bin Laden–how American Special Forces secretly traveled 150 miles into Pakistan at night and scaled 18 foot walls to reach bin Laden’s compound. “It was a remarkable mission,” Panetta said. “It was one of the most significant things the CIA has done in the last 25 years.”

He also talked about how he, as Secretary of Defense under President Obama, allowed women to serve in combat roles in the military and got rid of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy for gays.

Panetta also had plenty of criticism for those working in Washington, D.C., criticizing politicians for gridlock that prevents finding solutions to important issues, such as tax reform, entitlement programs and infrastructure.

He also warned that terrorist threats against the U.S. are real and that America must take a leadership role against terror groups in the Middle East and other countries, saying, “Whether we like it or not, the U.S. has to provide leadership in the world.”

After meeting with Baldwin Honors students, Panetta joined former Governor Thomas Kean and Drew President MaryAnn Baenninger for dinner, then spoke to more than 500 people in the Baldwin Gymnasium. He praised Drew, noting, “This is a great university with a great history and your dedication to the liberal arts is providing the very best education possible for young people.”

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