USIP President Richard Solomon introduces Defense Secretary Leon Panetta before he delivered the 2012 Dean Acheson Lecture.

It's a special honor to have Secretary Panetta with us today. He is a unique and distinguished American who gives luster to the Acheson lecture series: an exceptional public servant, a longtime supporter of the Institute of Peace; and as Secretary of Defense, an ex officio member of our Board of Directors.

The Secretary, as a private citizen, was also a supporter of the Institute's permanent headquarters project. This facility – as Chairman West observed – is a monument to our national commitment to building a more peaceful world. Burdened as we have been this past decade by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is all the more important to remember that promotion of peace is a fundamental national purpose of our engagement with the world. Peacebuilding requires well-trained and committed professionals, it demands dedicated and risky work, and it requires partnerships. It requires the work of the Institute of Peace.

Before introducing Secretary Panetta, let me say a few things about the Institute's origins, our work, and our partnership with the defense community.

The national need for a "proper peace establishment" was envisioned by first president George Washington as early as 1783. Ultimately however, it took two centuries and the trauma of the Vietnam War to lead Congress to embody Washington's vision in the Institute of Peace legislated into life in 1984. One of the unanticipated aspects of the growth of the Institute, is the active contribution we now make to our country's national security.

Our work with the military today spans the full spectrum of what we do here at USIP– from practical training for service personnel in the skills of conflict management, to collaborations between civilian NGOs and military personnel as they prepare for deployments abroad, to on-the-ground stabilization and reconciliation programs in zones of conflict around the world.

The Institute's activities on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade have built strong partnerships throughout the military – among the ranks, with division, brigade, and battalion command staff, and with senior leaders such as Generals Petraeus and Odierno, Admirals Mullen and Roughead.

Senior administration officials, Members of Congress and others often make special requests of the Institute – taking advantage of our unique standing as an independent, bipartisan and agile organization– a center of innovation in matters of conflict management.  We are asked to undertake important policy assessments on issues such as reforming the United Nations, preventing genocidal violence, and reviewing the Quadrennial Defense Review process or our country's strategic posture. The Iraq Study Group was another notable Institute project, and Citizen Panetta was a distinguished member of the Group before he returned to public service.

One of our more recent contributions has been in collaboration with the U.S. Army's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. USIP compiled and published the first-ever army field manual on stabilization and reconstruction, a how-to guide for the military and civilians rebuilding countries ravaged by conflict.

The world of the 21st Century presents dramatically new challenges to our national security than was the case in the violent century now past. That is why I believe the most important work of the Institute is yet to come. In the 28 years since the Institute was created, our mission has expanded because the role of the United States as a world leader for security and peace has been transformed.

The Institute's contributions are ever more relevant as we partner with agencies of our government, with other countries, with non-government organizations and with the private sector, in building "whole of community" capacity for conflict management. Today we must deal with a world burdened with the challenges of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, failed states, ethnic and religious conflict, and the instabilities of economic globalization.

As Chairman West has noted, the Dean Acheson lecture series provides a podium for our most important national leaders. So let me say a few words about Leon Panetta.

There are few officials in public service today who have Secretary Panetta's exceptional range of experiences. His 16 years in Congress were followed by service in the Executive Branch as director of the Office of Management and Budget, President Clinton's chief of staff, and subsequently President Obama's director of the CIA and now Secretary of Defense.

Secretary Panetta's public contributions extend well beyond the halls of government. Before he arrived at the CIA, he and his wife Sylvia directed the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University.  The Institute is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit center that seeks to instill in young men and women the virtues and the values of public service.

Of all his public service, it is undoubtedly too much to say that the highlights of his career have been his contribution to the Iraq Study Group, and his support for the construction of a permanent headquarters for the Institute of Peace. Yet every day, as I come to work, I see from my office the hallowed ground of the National Cemetery. I see the roof of the Pentagon. And Abe Lincoln is watching us from his memorial – just across the National Mall, close by the Korean War and Vietnam Veterans Memorials.  This dramatic building and its special location, make us ever aware of the challenge and opportunity – indeed the responsibility – to better fulfill our Congressional mandate of making the United States a world leader in peacebuilding.

Secretary Panetta, thank you for giving us your time and wisdom today.  Please join me in welcoming the 23rd secretary of defense.

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