American Heritage Lecture

American Heritage Lecture

Leon E. Panetta Named 22nd William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecturer



Feb. 17, 2016

Buena Vista University has announced that Leon E. Panetta, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2011-13, will be the 22nd William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture laureate on Friday, Oct. 7.

Panetta joins a list of preeminent American Heritage lecturers that has included former world leaders, heads of state and others who have reached the highest levels of accomplishment and recognition in their fields. He will be the first former U.S. Secretary of Defense to lecture in the American Heritage Series.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for our students to hear from an individual who led the Department of Defense during a pivotal time,” said BVU President Fred Moore. “We look forward to hearing his candid insights on global politics and world affairs, U.S. intelligence, defense and cyber security strategies and the global economic challenges of the 21st Century.”

While on campus, Panetta will participate in an afternoon question-and-answer program with a panel of BVU students which will be followed by a formal evening lecture to invited regional leaders in the fields of business, law, politics, education and religion.

Students have had the opportunity to pose questions to the American Heritage speakers, including Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush; Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, Shimon Peres, Benazir Bhutto, and Tony Blair; Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; and Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State.

Students are selected for the panel in the spring through a competitive process. They work with a faculty moderator and faculty coaches to research the speaker, and when they return to school in the fall, develop a list of questions for the event.

Panetta was the 23rd Secretary of Defense, serving under President Barack Obama. He also served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2009-11 and was Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from 1994-97.

As Secretary of Defense, he oversaw the final removal of American troops from Iraq, as well as the beginning of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. He led the effort to develop a new defense strategy to advance greater agility, protect national security and meet fiscal discipline, while conducting critical counter-terrorism operations and strengthening U.S. alliances.

Panetta helped to open new opportunities for serving in the military with the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the announcement of an assessment phase that would allow women to enter all combat jobs in the military. He also worked to protect benefits for wounded warriors and their families.

During his time as Director of the CIA, he was responsible for overseeing the operation that resulted in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

Before joining the CIA, he spent 10 years co-directing the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University, Monterey Bay, with his wife, Sylvia. Today, he serves as chairman of the Panetta Institute.

Panetta holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree, both from Santa Clara University. In 2014, he authored an autobiography, “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace,” which chronicles his life in public service and is a reflection of his personal values.

The William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series was endowed by the late Dr. Harold Walter Siebens, an Iowa-born entrepreneur and philanthropist, and named in honor of his son. This series was established in 1989 to provide the BVU campus community, Iowa and the Midwest with access to prominent world figures discussing current issues underlying American freedoms.