Lee H. Hamilton Lecture As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta

Thank you Jane for that introduction and for your leadership, thank you for the commitment to serve this nation that you’ve demonstrated throughout your career – as an outstanding member of Congress from my home state of California, and now as President of the Woodrow Wilson Center.  You and Sidney always represented the very best in citizenship and the very best in commitment to America.

I am also pleased to be able to participate in this lecture series named in honor of my dear friend, Lee Hamilton.  I had the privilege of working very closely with Lee during my time as a member of Congress and in the Clinton administration, and then I had the opportunity to work with Lee as a member of the Iraq Study Group in 2006.  His leadership on issues of national security – in particular the tireless efforts to ensure that our government drew the necessary lessons from the 9/11 attacks and took the steps necessary to make sure that would never happen again – have rightfully earned Lee Hamilton a place among the great statesmen of our time. 

It is appropriate that the theme of this lecture series is “civil discourse and democracy” because, over the course of Lee Hamilton’s extraordinary career, Lee developed a reputation as someone who speaks thoughtfully, directly, clearly, and honestly about his views.  It is in that spirit that I come here today, to share my views on the challenges and the threats, the choices and the risks, and the opportunities, facing the United States and the institution charged with defending it, the armed forces. 

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