By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2013 – Like the character Prospero in Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has imbued a sense of public service in generations of men and women, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during a farewell ceremony for Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall today.
“And like that knowledgeable duke, he now asks us to let our indulgences set him free,” the general said.
In his nearly 50 years of public service, Panetta has mastered the balance of service and self, Dempsey said.
Dempsey noted that Panetta’s mother wanted him to be a concert pianist, but he chose instead to orchestrate in a different way, advocating for the “purity of public service.”
“And then the nation called again, and you answered again,” the general said. “So for the past four years, you have led those in the intelligence and defense communities, those trusted with protecting our nation and our families.”
Prior to serving as defense secretary, Panetta was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from Feb. 13, 2009 - June 30, 2011.
Panetta has led the fight for resources and balanced the threat of external attack with the threat of internal insolvency, Dempsey said.
Referring to the defense secretary’s historic tenure, one in which combat jobs were opened to women and “don’t ask don’t tell” was repealed, Dempsey said Panetta did more than talk about diversity, he took action.
“You have ensured that our forces will be able to draw upon the very best this nation has to offer,” Dempsey said. “You've overseen the fielding of new commands and necessary capabilities to meet the threats of tomorrow. And you have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to our families and to our troops wherever they are in the world. Your many trips to Afghanistan dedicate that only too well.”
A retelling of Panetta’s career would read like a spy thriller, Dempsey said.
“But here's some advice: Get it cleared first,” the general joked.
For nearly five decades, Panetta never yielded to cynicism, Dempsey said. “You've always believed in the goodness of governing well, and your character and competence have set the example.”
“Mr. Secretary, you have made our nation safer,” the general said. He credited Panetta with making America's men and women in uniform stronger and preparing the country to meet the challenges ahead. “And for that, you've earned our eternal esteem.”