[Editor’s note: Leon Panetta compiled a strong pro-abortion voting record while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1976 to 1994 from California’s 16th Congressional District. In 1990, he was a co-sponsor of the federal Freedom of Choice Act, and later, as President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff, Panetta defended the then-president’s veto of a bill that would have prohibited partial-birth abortions.]

Saying our nation is “at a crossroads,” former United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ’60, J.D. ’63 told the  Santa Clara University School of Law Class of 2017 that democracy will mean nothing if Americans aren’t willing to fight for the rule of law.

Panetta addressed the more than 180 graduates and their family and friends at Santa Clara Law’s commencement ceremony, which began at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Mission Gardens.

He said America could go one of two ways: an “America in renaissance”—building on our technological and defense leadership—or “America in decline,” careening from crisis to crisis amid eroding trust in democratic institutions due to fears, prejudices, and political attacks.

“The story of the last election was the story of lost trust, angry voters who felt that no one in Washington, no political party, was working to deal with the problems they were facing,” he said.

He said such divisions are surmountable, but “you cannot be a good leader or a good citizen if you do not respect our Constitution and the institutions responsible for enforcing the requirements of that sacred document.”

Panetta is the son of immigrants, and he told of how his parents traveled thousands of miles to give their children a better life. “We are a nation that builds bridges, not walls,” he said. “And most of all, we need to respect the truth.”

Full story at SCU.edu.

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