Former Secretary of Defense, Panetta was a founding co-chair of California Forward. He believes that many of the reforms that have been put in place by the people of California in the last several years–Citizens Redistricting, an Open Primary and Term Limit changes–have turned state government from a gridlocked, hyper-partisan, crisis-driven entity to one that is now a national model on how to break a similar gridlock in our federal government.
Plainly there is still much work to be done to restore the trust in government. Voter turnout in California is abysmal. Stories about State Senators being arrested, elected officials lying about where they live in order to get elected and not paying their taxes have dominated the news in the early part of 2014.
But most elected officials are hard working, serious people trying to do better for their constituents. Leon Panetta was one of those.
Why did he choose his life in the public sector?
Panetta told current California Forward co-chair Lenny Mendonca in a recent video interview that his own call to service was inspired by his immigrant parents, serving in the military and John Kennedy’s call to young people in the early 1960s to “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
At this stage of his career, he could relax and enjoy retirement. But that’s not his style.
He and his wife Sylvia formed the Panetta Institute at California State University Monterey Bay to help inspire today’s young people to a life in public service. Students from across the California State University system go to the Institute and then are placed in public service internships to learn how government works and ultimately how they can improve it.