More than 1,000 grads and those cheering them on filled Buck Shaw Stadium for the University’s 162nd commencement exercises on June 15. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ’60, J.D. ’63 returned to deliver the commencement address and told grads it was their job to hold government leaders accountable. He and his wife, Sylvia, founders of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, received honorary doctorates of public service—presented, fittingly, by graduating senior Victor Republicano III ’13. This past year, Republicano, a classics major and student in the SCU honors program, served as the Panetta Congressional Intern, working on Capitol Hill with members of California’s congressional delegation.
|Gratitude: An honorary degree
presented to Patricia and Stephen
Schott ’60, center, by board chair
Robert J. Finocchio Jr. ’73 and
President Michael E. Engh, S.J.
Honorary degrees were also presented to James Houghton ’81, founding artistic director of the Signature Theater Company in New York; Robert Mathewson, S.J., STL ’63, for revolutionizing Jesuit high school education; and Patricia and Stephen Schott ’60, for their commitment to Catholic organizations and the Catholic community at large. At SCU their generosity has helped fund a baseball stadium and the new admission and enrollment services building.
In her valedictory address, anthropology major and basketball player Ashley Armstrong ’13 spoke of how the Jesuit philosophy of educating the whole person hit home with her when she was interning in Paraguay for a microfinance institution as part of an SCU Global Social Benefit Fellowship.
What is difficult and worthwhile “always seems impossible until it’s done,” Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond ’85, told the 340 graduating students from the SCU School of Law at a ceremony on May 25 in the Mission Gardens. The Jesuit School of Theology held commencement exercises May 25 at Zaytuna College in Berkeley. Sister Dianne Bergant, CSA, a widely respected scholar on the Old Testament, delivered the commencement address.
Commencement for the graduate programs in business, engineering, and education and counseling psychology was held June 14 at SCU’s Leavey Center, with the commencement address by Pamela Eibeck, the first woman president of the University of the Pacific. Lead lives steered by value and purpose, she said, no matter how the road doubles back on you. Deborah Lohse
Former CIA head and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ’60, J.D. ’63 on government by leadership vs. crisis, the best thing you can do, and the worst thing you can do. Plus, the virtues of mixers and the Italian Club.
Thank you all very much, Father Engh, Father Rewak, my fellow honorees, the graduates, faculties, staff, families, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for this opportunity to participate in this great graduation ceremony for the Class of 2013.
First of all, my deepest congratulations to all of you, the graduates of 2013. You made it! And to the families, the spouses and relatives, all of whom at this moment are saying, “Thank god, they made it.”
I am truly honored to be with you today, first of all, because I’m proud to be a Bronco. A graduate of both undergrad and law school, I needed all of the Jesuit grace and blessing I could get in order to survive in Washington—and a hell of a lot of Hail Marys.
|Watch Leon Panetta’s graduation speech|
I wanted to tell you that Steve Schott, who was in the same class that I was in here at Santa Clara, [and I] came here at, I think, what could fairly be called a different era. It was an all-men’s school. This was still pretty much a walled campus. There were no dogs, but there really were a lot of Jesuits around to make sure that we behaved. Pizza and beer was the favorite pastime. Paul Locatelli, S.J. ’60, M.Div. ’74, the outstanding former president and a very good friend and classmate, was here. Together, Paul and I helped establish the Italian Club.
Now, I should admit that the Italian Club that we established was not so much involved in the study of Italian culture or history; it was more about the Italian joys of life. I remember when I got elected to Congress, a Congressman by the name of Frank Annunzio from Chicago came up to me on the floor of the House and he said, “Panetta ... that’s Italian.”
I said, “Yes, it is.”
I wasn’t going to say no to an Italian from Chicago.
He said, “That’s good. We don’t do much on issues, but we eat good.”
And that was true. It was true for the Italian Club.
We also had something in those days called mixers. We would, of course, invite all of the Catholic women’s schools to our events. As a matter of fact, it was at an open house here at Santa Clara that I met my wife, Sylvia, who then was going to Dominican. And I want to thank you for honoring her. She is my love, my partner, and my friend. We will celebrate fifty-one years of marriage in July. Mixers were our version of computer dating.
When you’re wrong
I’m also honored to be here because I am very proud of the Santa Clara University of today. You’re a 21st-century campus of men and women reflecting the great diversity of our society, open to all faiths and beliefs, a broad curriculum that reflects our times, and a commitment to your creed of building citizens and leaders of competence and conscience and compassion.
And I’m particularly honored to address this Class of 2013. This is a critical year, a year that will test not just whether or not you can be good citizens, but whether, in the words of your creed, you can be good leaders. In a few moments, you will receive your degrees, completing obviously what is a very important chapter in your education. And from here, you will take steps, the steps necessary to advance your professional careers in your chosen field, and a lot will depend on your personal initiative and your willingness to work hard.
But a lot will depend on factors that I’m sure you believe at this point in time are beyond your ability to influence. What I want to tell you today is you’re wrong. Take it from me; you really can make a difference. Your career depends on opportunity. Opportunity depends on the state of our economy, the health of our society. Our economy and our society depend on the state of the nation, and the state of the nation, whether you like the idea or not, largely will depend on you.
I do not say that lightly. This is not just another graduation speech cliché. Based on my own life, it happens to be the truth. Over fifty years ago, I sat where you’re at, the son of Italian immigrants, the first in my family along with my brother to get a college education. I had no idea—no idea—that I could impact the policy of this country or people’s lives, but I did, and so can you.
What dreams may go
You can make a difference. Why do I say that? Because in this year of 2013, the year of your graduation, America, our democracy, our great democracy, is at a very critical crossroads in the 21st-century. We have come through a decade of war—over a decade of war. We have witnessed the terrible devastation of a brutal attack on America on 9/11. We have seen a remarkable operation go after the person who was responsible for 9/11, and we made clear to the world that nobody attacks the United States and gets away with it.
We’ve had over 6,000 men and women in uniform who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, 50,000 of them wounded. The rest of the nation, because only two percent of the country served in those wars, the rest of the nation was not called upon really to sacrifice at all in order to pay for those wars. We incurred huge debts. We suffered through a serious and devastating recession. We saw the fall of the Iron Curtain that has left us with a more uncertain and unstable world that has to confront terrorism, rogue regimes, the potential of a cyber war. We have a political system that is in partisan gridlock and real questions about whether you will be able to achieve the American dream, the dream that brought my immigrant parents to America, the dream that we all have of a better life for our children.
We, you and I, now have a real choice. We can either have an America in renaissance or an America in decline. We can have an America on the cusp of what could be a very strong economic recovery, building on a tremendous creativity and innovation that we see right here in Silicon Valley, strengthening an educated and skilled workforce, giving them the clean energy and the resources necessary to grow our economy, advancing opportunity, improving our quality of life, investing in a leaner and more agile defense force that still can remain the strongest and most powerful in the world, that can sustain America’s leadership and values in a very troubled world. Or we could have an America in decline, following in the historic steps of other failed empires, an America in constant crisis, politically dysfunctional, unable to govern effectively, to build a strong future, to protect our most basic freedoms, our economy, or our national defense.
The point is we have a choice. The good news is that we still have time to do what is right. The bad news is that we have seen events move very rapidly in this technological age of the twenty-first century, and they can consume us very quickly if we fail to act.
“Your generation has already changed attitudes in America. You’ve made clear that we should respect every human being on earth and give them a chance to succeed.”
By leadership or crisis?
I often tell our students at the Panetta Institute that we govern in this country either by leadership or by crisis. If leadership is there and willing to take the risks associated with leadership, we can avoid crisis. But if leadership is not there, then we will inevitably govern by crisis.
Today, unfortunately, we largely govern by crisis after crisis after crisis. We can do that. Politicians can somehow survive in office. The public, particularly young people like yourselves, can dismiss Washington as somehow not relevant to your lives. We can govern this way or, more correctly stated, fail to govern. But there is a price to be paid, and that price is the loss of trust of the American people in our system of governing, and every scandal only reinforces that distrust.
During my fifty years of public service, I have seen Washington at its best, and I have seen it at its worst. I believe in American leadership. I’ve seen America face all kinds of crises, from economic recessions to war to natural disasters to scandals that have gone to the core of leadership in Washington. But somehow throughout all of that frustration and anger and gridlock, America has always risen to the challenge, and I believe it will again, perhaps not from the top down, through some sudden conversion or awakening in the halls of power, but more likely from the bottom up, from the wellspring that leadership has always drawn its strength in this country, the fundamental spirit and common sense and values of the American people, the belief that braced our forefathers, the responsibility to act and, yes, to fight for what is right.
Teddy Roosevelt, who understood what it meant to fight, said the following, and I quote, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing you can do is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
I am pleading with you not to do nothing, but to do something; to engage; to get involved; to hold our elected officials accountable; to make them understand there is a price to be paid for doing nothing; to demand action, not sound bites; demand consensus, not gridlock; demand leadership, not crisis.
Let me give you the best example of how Washington did nothing recently. It’s called sequester. Most of you probably have no idea what the hell sequester is. Webster defines sequester as “to confiscate, to seize, to draw back, to take leave.” Congress clearly took leave of their senses when they designed sequester. They deliberately designed a budget mechanism that was so goofy and so mindless in the way it slashed federal spending that the threat of it occurring was supposed to force them to do the right thing. It was designed to do as much damage as possible in order to force action, and guess what? They did nothing, and it took effect.
Leaders who are elected to protect people did nothing. They didn’t even take up a bill to prevent sequester from happening. And the result is that it is harming our economy through lost jobs and pay, harming the most vulnerable in our society and harming our national defense by hollowing out our forces and undermining our readiness. And the shame of it is that it was all avoidable, but only avoidable if our elected leaders are willing to take the risks necessary to protect the country.
“Whom shall I send?”
As a young graduating student here at Santa Clara, I was inspired to public service by my parents, who urged me to give something back to this country, my two years in the military serving this country in uniform, and by a young president who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
My generation was inspired, and it helped change America on civil rights, on women’s rights, on the environment, on issues of war and peace. And now your generation needs to answer the same call, “Ask not why nothing is getting done. Ask what you can do.”
I realize that there is a rising tide of distrust and of cynicism, that many in your own generation are so individualistic that you lack any understanding of what it takes to work together for a common goal. But caring for others, working together for others, is the essence of what our democracy is all about. Your generation has already changed attitudes in America. You’ve made clear that we should respect every human being on earth and give them a chance to succeed.
There is more to be done. There’s more to be done on immigration reform, on protecting our climate, on strengthening the middle class, on balancing our budget, on finding the right balance between our securities and our freedoms, on educating our young, on protecting our nation, on taking the risks necessary to govern. We just celebrated Memorial Day. I ask all of you to remember the example of the risks of our men and women in uniform who are willing to put their lives on the line to fight and, yes, to die in order to protect America.
Let me close by telling you about one family that was willing to do just that. It was on January 15, 2012 in Baghlan Province, Afghanistan. Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Wise, who was 34, an Army Ranger on his fourth overseas deployment, was struck by enemy fire, and he died several days later in an American hospital in Germany. He left behind a wife and two young sons, and, as was my practice as secretary of defense, I wrote a handwritten note to his parents to console them on this hero’s death.
But what made this case different was that it was the second time I had written to the Wise family. [When I was] as director of the CIA, Ben’s brother, Jeremy, was one of the CIA security officers who died in a suicide bombing that took place at Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009.
These are the families that are sacrificing for our country. A few months after the Khost attack, I visited that remote base in Afghanistan, and on the wall was a large plaque with a verse from the Old Testament from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 8: “And then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And then I said, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.’” In Hebrew, it is, “Hineni, send me.”
That is the sound of the trumpet that must summon all of us to action. If our men and women in uniform can respond to that call with incredible bravery and courage, then surely our political leaders can muster just a little of that courage to take the risks necessary to govern. None of this will happen without you. As citizens of our democracy, the trumpet sounds for you. You can make a difference. In the words of Adlai Stevenson, “You are the rulers and the ruled, the lawgivers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.”
You are not just our hope for a better future. You are our future and the key to whether we remain a government of, by, and for all people. Congratulations. Welcome to the flight. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Where you’re coming from
Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond ’85 on Nelson Mandela as a hero. And the meaning of freedom, openness, and things worth fighting for.
This is a wonderful honor and privilege to be here with all of you today. It really is great to be back on this campus. I’m really thrilled to be here. And it’s also great to be staring out at the next generation of Bronco attorneys.
I want to start by saying I realize one important thing. Law school is a choice. Maybe some of you were the first in your family to go to college. But for many of you, I’m sure going to college was probably the norm. But graduate school is different. And law school is completely different. To come here, to put in all this work that you’ve put in, to get where you are today—that’s a choice that you make. You looked at yourself, you looked at your career, your future, you actively sought to change something, to learn more. To improve, to discover, to explore. And for some of you, you may even have sought to understand the intricacies of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. And for that alone you deserve congratulations, Civ Pro not being one of my favorite topics.
But there are others here who deserve congratulations, too. There are a lot of people here today who believed in you. And I think this is a good time to recognize them. The parents who raised you to succeed in ways you never thought possible. The wives and husbands and partners and boyfriends and girlfriends who supported you always, even as you stayed up all night studying, even as you skipped dinners, missed anniversaries. The sons and daughters whose smiles got you through studying for your Con Law final. The professors, who made you believe that the law was alive, that justice was worth working for. The friends who saw that you were having an especially tough time with the rule against perpetuities and took you to the Hut for a drink, or maybe five. Please take this time to thank them all. They are all incredibly proud.
And you deserve to be proud, too. This wasn’t easy. I know that. These three years have been incredibly intense. The all-nighters, the killer exams, and the one day you got called on when you hadn’t read the case. It was a struggle, and I’m sure at times it seemed like you’d never put this gown on that you’re wearing today, you’d never walk across this stage. I’m sure it seemed impossible. Well, it’s always impossible until it’s done. And today, graduates of Santa Clara Law, it is done. Congratulations.
Now, it always seems impossible until it’s done. Those are not my words. Those are the words of Nelson Mandela. I want to talk to you more about Mr. Mandela. But first, no speech would be complete at a law school without a certain kind of a joke.
A lawyer was annoyed to find that his car wouldn’t start. So he called a taxi. Soon one arrives at his house. Climbing in, he proudly told the driver to take him to the halls of justice. “Where are those?” asked the driver. “You mean to say that you don’t know where the courthouse is?” asked the lawyer incredulously. “The courthouse? Of course I know where that is,” replied the driver. “I thought you said you wanted to go to the halls of justice.”
Now obviously this kind of sentiment is something that’s been shared about our profession for many years, and still is. That our motivations are wrong, that we’re not in it for the right reasons, that justice takes a backseat to business and profit. That the courthouse is no place to find what’s right and just and honorable. It’s pervasive in our culture, this sentiment. But I think you know it isn’t true. I think you can look around at everyone you just worked so hard with over the last three years and know with confidence that your motivations are the right ones.
I know it isn’t true, too. But it’s up to each of us to change that perception, to flip the script, to make it clear that we’re lawyers and we’re proud of the work that we do. That we worked hard to get here, and we’ll work even harder to seek truth and to honor a legal system that built this country into what it is today. That the halls of justice are real, and that we know the way. It’ll take work to change this misperception. But it’s work that needs to be done. So I know that, sitting there now, recovering from finals, aching to grab the diplomas that are behind me, probably hung over, the last thing you might want to hear is, “There’s more work to do.” But the truth is, there is more work. And without question, you’re the ones to do it.
Which brings me back to Nelson Mandela. Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 for speaking up against apartheid. He, for generations, remained the loudest, most powerful voice against the segregationist policies of the South African government. For decades he led this movement from a prison cell. He fought for freedom. He spoke from the heart. And I admire him greatly.
In the early to mid-eighties, people around the world outside South Africa heard Mandela’s voice and were starting to join the cause—especially on college campuses. I wanted to join, too. I came to Santa Clara, to this great campus, as an undergrad in 1981. The fight to end apartheid was gaining steam. The need for more voices grew, and the voices already there were getting louder. Now here I was, this guy recruited to play football, not a bad deep-threat wide receiver, if I say so myself. But I was a little bit of a rabble-rouser, too. I saw injustice and, maybe even surprising myself, I didn’t say, “It needs to stop.” I said, “I’m going to help stop it.”
At campuses around the country, there were demonstrations aimed at getting universities to divest funds from companies doing business in South Africa. Santa Clara was one of those schools. And I, along with many others, wanted it to end. Now I knew that this was a school that had long-held values that tilt toward equality and would eventually support such a move. But I also knew that it’s an institution, an over-130-year-old university, and to move that kind of an institution toward progress, forward, faster than it’s ready to move, is sometimes hard. I tried, though. We organized sit-ins. We demonstrated. We held a round-the-clock candlelight vigil right over here in the Mission Church. And people thought it was crazy. They said, “It will never work.” But I knew they were wrong. And eventually we succeeded. Santa Clara University, to its great credit, divested from companies that did business in South Africa.
It taught me an important lesson—namely that institutions, no matter how stuck in their ways they may seem, no matter how implacable on the surface, with proper persuasion, with strong arguments, they can listen. They can adapt. They can change. They can even surprise. Now lucky for you, these skills are exactly what you spent the last three years honing: persuasion, argument, the ability to convince those who will listen of what’s right. You have the tools now to make change in the world. You have the tools to change a system you don’t like. You have the tools to make others change, too. It’s powerful what you’ve learned here. Don’t take it for granted.
Twenty-three years after his imprisonment, amid extreme political pressure around the world, and violent protests within South Africa, President Botha of South Africa offered to release Mandela if he’d renounce violence. But with no promise to abolish apartheid. And after more than two decades in prison, Mandela considered his offer. And he said no. His freedom was not what he was fighting for. Ending apartheid was. His freedom from prison was nothing compared to the freedom from discrimination for millions of his fellow countrymen. And in a statement he released refusing to be released from prison, he even talked about freedom to contract—something you learned about here. If he wasn’t free to live his life, if he wasn’t a free man, how could he enter the agreement to get out of prison to begin with? He knew that he might have been freed from prison, but once he left, he wouldn’t be free in any other meaningful sense.
That was in February 1985. Four months later I walked across pretty much a stage just like this one to grab my undergraduate diploma, knowing that his fight—in however small a way—had become my fight. That he indirectly helped shape my experience at Santa Clara. And that the work I had done on this campus went beyond the football field, beyond the lecture hall, even beyond the library.
And, of course, five years later, Mandela was freed, and apartheid was abolished. Justice was served. Now that seemed impossible when I got here in 1981. But as we know, it always seems impossible until it’s done.
Now I never let go of the ideal to try to do what’s right over what’s easy. My legal education only sharpened this sense of fairness and inspired a pursuit of justice. And this kind of came in handy a few years ago, in 2010, when we at Google decided to move our search engine out of China. Now Google prides itself on using its unique place in the world to do what’s right, to use our voice for the causes of freedom and openness for the world’s people. And the Chinese government, in charge of an absolutely huge market for our business, didn’t believe in any of that. Google’s openness makes us who we are. To bring the flow of information to everyone on earth, to give them the tools to lead happier, more meaningful lives—that’s why we exist. And China was blocking all of it, controlling it, censoring it. Let’s just say that they probably don’t study the First Amendment in Con Law over there. But after years of trying to negotiate with a very stubborn regime, we had to make a call. We had to do what’s right. So we pulled out of China, and that cost us a whole lot of money. But it gave us the comfort of knowing we did the right thing by our principles. That we lived up to the values that infuse everything we do at the company. That we used our voice to make a strong statement of who we are, what we believe, and what we will and will not tolerate.
So that’s what I ask of you all. Use your voice. You have something special that only a legal education provides. You spent three pretty difficult years—I’m guessing—getting it. You now have an innate sense of fairness that needs to be expressed. You understand justice in ways that many others don’t. So when you see it under attack, speak up. Because no matter how loud the beliefs roil inside of you, if you don’t speak up, no one will hear you. And you don’t have to be shouting from the outside, either. You can, of course. But plenty of change can, and often is, sparked from the inside.
Now I work for a big corporation. Make no mistake, we’ve got pinball machines and free lunch and massage rooms, and I never have to wear a suit. But that doesn’t mean I can’t fight—because it’s a big company doesn’t mean I can’t fight to make sure that this big company sticks to its principles. That its continual march toward openness and progress and fairness mirrors the marches I participated in 30 years ago on this campus.
The truth is, you don’t even know at this point how much you’ve learned, how much you’ve gained, by spending time on this magnificent campus. But you will learn in the years to come. I promise that you’ll see it. It’s in your DNA now. We’re Broncos. We buck. We disrupt. We challenge the status quo, right? That’s the spirit I still carry with me to this day. And I will as long as I’m able to keep fighting for it.
And I ask you to do the same, wherever you go, whatever you do. Some of you will go into corporate law, some into family law, some into IP—that’s a good choice. Some into PI. Some are going to go to firms, some to nonprofits, government. Some of you may not even be sure what’s next. But no matter what, you’re all on your way down a different path. But you’re coming from the same place—a place with a strong history that has led you all into what’s going to be a special future.
Whatever you do, make sure what you do doesn’t supersede how you do it. Make sure that your beliefs and your values and the special dignity you gained from the three years you’ve been here guide you always. Make sure that the halls of justice are a real thing, that your taxi driver knows it. And that so does everyone else. And recognize that there will also be times that your conduct falls short of these ideals, times when, faced with the challenges and complexities of the world, you’ll make mistakes. I certainly have made more than my share. Indeed, far more than my share. But never stop trying. It’s not easy, and it won’t ever be. It seems impossible, but once again, it always seems impossible until it’s done.
Santa Clara Law graduates 2013, go out and get it done. Thank you. Congratulations. Go Broncos!