USI, Evansville communities invited to virtual keynote by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

Dr. Ronald S. Rochon, USI President, to assist in moderating Q&A session

Image copyright: USI Photography and Multimedia

Members of the USI community, USI alumni and local community members are invited to attend a virtual address by Leon Panetta, former United States Secretary of Defense, at noon CDT Thursday, October 29.

Panetta’s speech, “Challenges of Leadership in Democracy,” is part of the We Stand Together Speaker Series organized by the New Presidents Academy. As a member of the New Presidents Academy, Dr. Ronald S. Rochon, President of the University of Southern Indiana, will join Nora Roberts Miller, President of Mississippi University for Women, to moderate a Q&A session with Panetta following his presentation.

While online registration is not required, it is encouraged and allows attendees to submit questions for Panetta in advance. The virtual event is expected to conclude at 1:30 p.m. CDT.

Former White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton, Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama, and long-time congressman Leon Panetta co-founded The Panetta Institute for Public Policy with his wife Sylvia in 1997. He co-directed it with her until 2009, when he left to serve as CIA Director and then Secretary of Defense. He returned to the Institute as chairman in 2013.

A Monterey, California, native and Santa Clara University School of Law graduate, Secretary Panetta began his long and distinguished public service career in 1964 as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, receiving the Army Commendation Medal. Upon discharge he went to work in Washington as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senate Minority Whip Tom Kuchel of California. In 1969, he was appointed director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, where he was responsible for ensuring equal opportunity in public education, and later he served as executive assistant to the mayor of New York City. He then returned to Monterey, where he practiced law until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976.

Serving his Central Coast district in Congress for 16 years, Secretary Panetta became a respected leader on agriculture, federal budget, ocean and healthcare issues. From 1989 to 1993 he chaired the House Budget Committee and won passage of the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988, Medicare and Medicaid coverage of hospice care for the terminally ill, and numerous measures to protect the California coast, including creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

In 1993, Secretary Panetta left Congress to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget for the incoming Clinton administration. There, he was instrumental in developing the policies that led to a balanced federal budget and eventual budget surpluses. In 1994, he accepted appointment as the president’s chief of staff, and is credited with bringing order and focus to White House operations and policy making.

Upon leaving the Clinton administration in 1997, Secretary Panetta joined with his wife Sylvia to establish and co-direct The Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay. Reflecting the Secretary’s ideals and personal example, the nonpartisan, not-for-profit study center seeks to attract thoughtful men and women to lives of public service and prepare them for the policy challenges of the future.

Founded in 1965, the University of Southern Indiana enrolls more than 10,700 dual credit, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in more than 130 areas of study. A public higher education institution, located on a beautiful 1,400-acre campus in Evansville, Indiana, USI offers programs through the College of Liberal Arts, Romain College of Business, College of Nursing and Health Professions and the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education. USI is a Carnegie Foundation Community Engaged University and offers continuing education and special programs to more than 20,000 participants annually through Outreach and Engagement. USI is online at