Former Defense Secretary, CIA Director Leon Panetta Inspires Bush School Faculty, Students as Inaugural Cameron Fellow

Former Defense Secretary, CIA Director Leon Panetta Inspires Bush School Faculty, Students as Inaugural Cameron Fellow

Secretary Panetta delivers the inaugural Cameron Fellows Lecture on October 10, 2019. Photo credit: Butch Ireland

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta packed his two-day visit in October to the Bush School as the first Cameron Fellow by engaging with faculty and students and delivering the Bush School’s inaugural Cameron Fellows Lecture entitled, “The Challenges of U.S. National Security Decision Making.” The accomplished and widely respected pubic servant also made time to visit the Bush Family Gravesite to pay his respects to President and Mrs. Bush. 

“I think this country can go in one of two directions right now in 2019,” Sec. Panetta told the Cameron Fellows Lecture audience gathered in the Annenberg Conference Center on October 10th. “I think one clear direction — and I think it’s achievable — is an America in renaissance. I see an America that has a strong economy and an America that is creative, innovative … I think we could be a country in which Republicans and Democrats work together to govern, and work together to find solutions to the problems that we face. We could be that kind of country.

“Or we can be an America in decline,” Panetta continued. “We could be an America that is deadlocked and gridlocked and unable to find solutions to the challenges that face us — an America caught up in partisanship and caught up in division, unable to solve problems and divided by our hates and prejudices.”

Panetta, 81, served as CIA director under President Barack Obama and oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. He subsequently succeeded former Bush School Dean Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. Previously, during the Clinton administration, Panetta served as director of the Office of Management and Budget and later White House Chief of Staff.

He represented the Monterey, California area in the U.S. House from 1977 through 1993.

Bush School Dean Mark A. Welsh introduced Panetta and later conducted a Q&A with his distinguished guest.

The Cameron Fellows Program was created and endowed by the late Florence Cameron Crichton, a dear friend of President and Mrs. Bush. The program began some 20 years ago as the Cameron Lectureship and featured over the years many high profile public servants who spoke at the Bush Center.  Mrs. Crichton increased the Lectureship endowment and thus created the Fellows program, to enable speakers to spend additional time at the Center interacting with Bush School students and faculty.  

The Cameron Fellows endowment is held at the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, and the Fellows Program is administered in partnership with the Foundation and the Bush School.

Secretary Panetta, joined by Dean Mark Welsh (right), visiting with Bush School faculty and students. Photo credit: Butch Ireland