Breakfast with Leon Panetta: Defending the US and Challenges Ahead

January 9, 2015

Syverson Strege and Company | Sherpa Investment Managem

This morning I was able to have breakfast with Leon Panetta while attending the TD Ameritrade national conference in San Diego.  Mr. Panetta has an incredible background, one in which he has served our country in myriad ways.  This includes his tenure as Director of the CIA (2009-2011) and the US Secretary of Defense (2011-2013).  One of many career highlights includes oversight of the mission that took out Osama bin Laden.

As Mr. Panetta put it, being a leader requires risk taking, which is something he’s done with some success.  He believes the challenges facing the US requires our leaders to face risks head on, as opposed to dealing with crisis by crisis.

Here are a few of the risks our country faces in the 21st century:

  • Political stalemate – a lack of leaders truly governing
  • Terrorism coming at us from many segments of the world
  • Cyber threats against our national infrastructure, both physical and financial

How we handle these issues will determine whether Americans experience a Renaissance in the 21st century, one in which we have new and greater numbers of jobs, energy independence, and an agile defense force.

As Mr. Panetta put it, politicians can choose to govern by leadership or by crisis.  We’ve seen too much of the latter, which wasn’t true during his time in Congress.  Today leaders shuffle from one crisis to another, which causes people to lose trust, and democracy is built on trust.

How do we move forward constructively?  We need politicians to believe that good governing is done through agreement, not by blocking the opposition.  We need to tackle undue financial influence from corporate interests, a “sound bite” mindset in the media, and redistricting that creates a political incentive for candidates to become more extreme as opposed to consensus-building.

Let’s seek out true LEADERS, those who debate and discuss, are willing to put every issue on the table for negotiation, those willing to take risks to see that our country prospers in this new century.  

-Lance