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Leon Panetta touts ‘real grit,’ blasts congressional gridlock at Launch celebration

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Undergraduate and graduate student projects share the limelight as education, research, ingenuity, and facing the future are highlighted.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta fired up a crowd of 275 people with shout-outs for ingenuity and “real grit,” jabs at congressional gridlock, and a strong emphasis on education during his keynote address at “Launch! A celebration of the UCSC student experience” on Friday evening, featuring a dinner and exhibitions of student work.

The festivities, held at University Center, focused squarely on hands-on immersive learning, a key initiative of the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz, a $300 million fundraising effort to provide critical resources to help students and faculty pursue their projects.

Panetta took aim at government gridlock. “In 2014, 100 years after World War I–the war to end all wars’–our democracy is being tested by gridlock here at home,” he said. “In my 50 years of public service I have seen Washington at its best and worst, but have never seen Washington as partisan and divided as it is today.

In the face of congressional standoffs and global turmoil, Panetta emphasized the importance of education to address the needs of the future, along with the need for hard work and tough decisions. “If our brave men and women (in the armed forces) have the courage to put their lives on the line for this country, surely the rest of us can summon a little more of that grit …” he said.

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