TGIF February 6, 2015

Last week I had the privilege of spending time with former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. He was also Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. It was one of those life experiences where I found myself drawn into his world and his mind. Panetta is a brilliant individual and a great American. He is not too pleased with how our political process is functioning and was quick to use the term dysfunctional when it came to Washington. But he has great visions of a better America for generations to come, provided we get things right today. Now a Democrat, Leon Panetta was a Republican first, but switched parties in 1971 because he felt the Republican party was moving too far from the center.

Leon Panetta is a native Californian, and a first generation American: born and raised in Monterey, the son of Italian immigrants. His father was 1 of 13 siblings. He came to the US after World War I. He opened a restaurant during WWII in Monterey, near Fort Ord. He served the soldiers and invited them over during the holidays. Leon worked in the kitchen, washing dishes, at an early age. He learned work ethic from his dad. “Child labor was a requirement”. That got a laugh. Later, his father sold the restaurant and put all his money into a walnut farm in Carmel Valley. Leon lives on that very farm today. Upon telling his father he was going to run for office, his dad retorted Leon was “well trained for Washington because he’s been dodging nuts his whole life”. That got another laugh.

Panetta really believes the purpose of life in the US is to make people’s lives better. It’s the American dream. He’s living it. His parents came to the US with no friends and scattered family. “There was no Google or GPS, just a dream of a better life”. His point was, dreams are just dreams unless you act. Whatever the dream is, it requires hard work, sacrifice, risk taking, and fight for survival. American values still matter and the future depends on it.

Panetta sees “unprecedented challenges” today both at home and abroad that will challenge our fate. At home bipartisanship is destructive. Abroad, we’re dealing with dozens of “flash points”; Brutal terrorism, rogue nations, failed nation states, cyber attacks, to name a few. But there’s no question that the US is the global leader. The rest of the world counts on it, whether they admit it or not. Panetta believes there’s no question the US is safer now than on September 11, but the world is more dangerous. Panetta said he’s seen Washington at its best and worst. “Statesmen look to the next generation while politicians look to the next election”. Panetta believes the November election was clear that Americans are fed up with both parties and Washington needs to wake up.

Leon Panetta is enthusiastic about our future: An American Renaissance led by innovation, education and hard work. The prospects of true renewable, energy independence is a key goal in American security. Today, Panetta works with his institute for public policy and is connected with Cal State Monterey Bay. His time is very focused on working on cyber security, collaborating with Washington and Silicon Valley. “It’s the weapon of the future and we need to get it right”. We absolutely agree, and are invested in cyber security software. Leon Panetta has long been an advocate for preserving our oceans, and is active with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He also enjoys cioppino at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. I’ve been going there since I was 12 years old.

The DOW was up 4.5% on the week, erasing January’s decline. This has been the strongest week for stocks in 4 years. The DOW slid back in the green for 2015.

By: Mike Frazier

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