Friday, October 5, 2018




Panetta accepts Thayer Award on behalf of warriors who protect the nation

WEST POINT – The United States Military Academy honored the 61st recipient of the Sylvanus Thayer Award, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, on Thursday.

Panetta got the traditional USMA limousine ride as he reviewed the cadet corps before receiving the award (USMA photo)

In addition to Secretary of Defense, Panetta was also an Army officer, graduating from ROTC, a California congressman, Chief of Staff under the Clinton Administration and the Director of the CIA during Barack Obama’s presidency.

Panetta: “Your duty is clear, to serve America with honor"

Of his many accolades, Panetta is most known for his involvement in Operation Neptune Spirit, the operation that was responsible for taking down Osama bin Laden, during his tenure as Director of the CIA, as well as his work towards the successful repealing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the introduction of making all combat positions available to women, during his time as Secretary of Defense.

USMA Superintendent Lt. General Darryl Williams said Panetta embodies the principals of the academy and in a way that goes beyond the requisite for earning the Thayer Award.

“From the halls of Congress, to the Pentagon and many places in between, Secretary Leon Panetta has dedicated his life to selfless service to our nation, and truly embodies the principals of this academy: duty, honor and country,” said Williams.

Panetta, whose Italian immigrant parents instilled in him a sense of obligation toward the country that had offered them so much, said he was extremely humbled being chosen to receive the award, but wanted to accept it on behalf of the warriors who protect the nation each day.

“I receive this award, really, on behalf of all the men and women in uniform that I had the opportunity to lead when I was Secretary of Defense,” said Panetta. “They’re the ones that, frankly, should be recognized for their service.”

Recognizing the West Point Corps of Cadets as the country’s future leaders, Panetta offered them a piece of advice.

“Your duty is clear, to serve America with honor, to make sure it never ceases to be good, to protect that American dream of my parents, to make sure we give our children a better life in this country and to keep our great country of by, and for, people safe and secure,” said Panetta. “Very frankly, none of this means a damn thing if you’re not willing to fight for it.”

During his time at West Point, prior to the award ceremony, Panetta said he had a lot of time to spend with cadets, many of whom wanted to know about the values of leadership, seeing as he has held so many government leadership roles in his life.

Panetta said he wished his late parents were still around to see him receive the award, as he believed they would have been very proud to know their sacrifice and mentorship helped him achieve the American dream as they always wanted for him.


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