IAB Member Leon Panetta’s Influence on Young Leaders and Careers in Government Service, Public Policy

July 13, 2016

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by Jack Modzelewski

FleishmanHillard is very fortunate to have Leon Panetta on its International Advisory Board (IAB) for most of the past two decades. The former long-time Congressman from Northern California joined FleishmanHillard’s IAB soon after leaving a White House post where he was chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. He later left the IAB while serving as CIA director and then Secretary of Defense in the first term of President Obama’s administration. But he returned in 2013 to be on the IAB again. Through the years, Secretary Panetta has helped us with many important client situations and business consultation opportunities.

These days, Secretary Panetta is most proud of the work of The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, which he co-chairs with his wife Sylvia, who is also CEO of the Institute. The organization’s mission from its start in 1997 has been to “inspire and prepare people for lives of public service and greater civic engagement.” The non-partisan Institute is based at the California State University, Monterey Bay, and during its existence has engaged from colleges across the state young leaders who have attended its study center to prepare for potential careers in public policymaking.

The Panetta Institute also hosts the Leon Panetta Lecture Series, which this year took the theme of “An America in Renaissance or Decline?” and the challenges facing major institutions in society.

Colleagues from FleishmanHillard’s San Francisco office, Jan Rasmussen and Ryan Bowling, joined me at a recent Panetta Lecture forum on the challenges of “Changing Society, Technology and Media.” And what forum it was! Participants included broadcast news journalists Ted Koppel, Judy Woodruff and Howard Kurtz, with Secretary Panetta as moderator.

Among some of the noteworthy quotes from the discussion:

  • Koppel on the diminishing influence and objectivity of the network news: “The news networks have been squeezed (financially) to the point where they don’t give you the news you need to know versus the news you want to know.” He acknowledged that information is coming “at us faster than ever before and critical thinking is even more important.”
  • Kurtz on the era of narrowcasting and social media platforms for political commentary, including expressing anger with political direction: “There is a new positive, healthy democratic side to merging social media…Back in the days when we had just three broadcast networks, it was a one way conversation (in news coverage). Anybody with a modem and something to say…can yell back at us, which I think is a healthy development.”
  • Commenting on political polarity in America, Woodruff summarized the challenge of bipartisan outreach: “The difficulty today is that so many Americas are not ready to listen to a President or to a politician if that person is not aligned in their political lane, or if they don’t already square with their (political) views.” With 40 percent strongly identifying with liberal views and 40 percent with conservative views, the communications battle is for the 20 percent of those who are more independent in their political thinking.

You can see the panel program in its entirety on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlVqj0SpCKc. For more information on The Panetta Institute, the website is Panetta.Institute.org.

Panetta Lecture Series