Santa Clara Mag Blog
On campus: National security and ... motorcycles in Kenna Hall?
Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
It was a full house at the Mayer Theatre on Friday evening when Leon Panetta ’60, J.D ’63, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, kicked off the fifth annual President’s Speaker Series as part of the Grand Reunion celebrations on the Mission campus.
“It's hard to believe that I am celebrating my 50th graduation anniversary,” said the CIA chief. “I made some special friends at Santa Clara and we did some crazy things.” Those included motorcycles on the first floor of Kenna Hall and “infamous” dances in San Francisco. (How infamous? He wondered if his classmates were still barred from the Palace Hotel.) “It was a special time.”
In his reminiscences, Panetta also fondly remembered a very special friend in Paul Locatelli, S.J., ’60, former University president and chancellor who passed away in July.
“He made Santa Clara what it is today,” said Panetta of his classmate. “He truly embodied the Jesuit ideals of academic excellence and public service. We have lost a friend but gained a saint.”
As he addressed his fellow classmates, SCU faculty, students, and staff, Panetta took everyone down memory lane. “Few of us could have imagined the events that would engulf us as we graduated from this university,” he said.
Among the highlights: the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dr. King’s marches, the Vietnam war, the tragic death of another Kennedy, Dr. King’s murder, the various movements – civil rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, Watergate, 9/11, Katrina, the gulf oil spill, two wars, and a recession.
“From Beatles to Bono, from typewriters to computers, from the telephone to the iPhone, from facts to Facebook … we have seen a lot of change,” he said. “ Yet, America has survived.”
As he expounded on the various ways the world has changed, Panetta shared the four key areas that inform the Central Intelligence Agency’s operations: counter terrorism, counter proliferation, cyber security, and global responsibility.
“We know that terrorists will come at us any way they can,” he said. “Good intelligence is more vital than ever. We have to know many different languages and we have to have diversity in our agency. Our technology has to be on the cutting edge, we have to be ahead of our adversaries, and we have to be agile.”
But, he stressed, given all of these challenges in a fast-changing, cyber-aware world one must not compromise on the values that this nation stands for.
“We have to protect our people, gather intelligence, and conduct all operations in a way that upholds our laws,” he said.
It’s no easy task leading the charge of the country’s premier intelligence agency … for Panetta, the beliefs and principles he formed as a student at Santa Clara have been a guiding force.
“I am grateful for the education I received here,” he said. “The Jesuits not only gave me knowledge, they gave me an understanding of life. I learned that you have to question … and you have to have a willingness to fight for what you believe in.”
There’s lots more; watch the full video of Panetta’s talk on campus.