President Obama Bids Farewell to Leon Panetta

Obama thanks departing defense secretary for more than 40 years of public service.
9:49 | 02/08/13

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Transcript for President Obama Bids Farewell to Leon Panetta
In the -- Between the world wars. Young married couple in Italy packed up what few belongings that they have. And border. A ball. For a new world. The past under the statue -- liberated. And went through the lines of Ellis Island. -- home and karma -- Panetta. Have no money. And spoke little English. The -- to drink. -- a better life. -- worked hard. They went west. To California. They started a family and -- their sons that if they studied and worked. If they gave back. To this country. Debate too could share in America's problems. Today we pay tribute. -- -- -- Leon Panetta. The man who hasn't simply lived up. -- the American dream but has helped to protect -- for all us. -- on our presence here today. Members of congress. Deputy secretary Carter. General Dempsey and the members of the joint chiefs. Service secretaries. And the men and women. The greatest military that the world -- ever known. All this is a reflection. From our personal appreciation to you. And the gratitude of a nation that you have helped to keep strong and -- -- -- And by the time I came to office Leon Panetta was already regarded as one of our nation's finest. Public service. With an extraordinary career across more than four decades. He and Sylvia -- settled into the good what. A beautiful Monterey. Their beloved walnut farm. Liotta -- deny it but. I hear he was growing restless he wanted less time on the tractor and -- good weather and more time in the office. West I'm in California more time in Washington. Interacting with. The west way again. Members of congress. Who wouldn't. And so we gave him his -- Leon I'll always be grateful that you agreed to return a public service and and -- -- I am so grateful that you put up with a your leadership of the CIA it will forever. Be remembered for the blows that we struck against al-Qaeda. And perhaps the greatest intelligence success in American history. Delivering justice Osama bin Laden. By then. Leon had every right to expect that he could return home. And I'll admit when we first asked him to stay on only the Pentagon. Is. Answer was simple. -- But I kept asking I am persistent that's how Michelle married me. -- just kept at a and as a testament totally ons patriotism. To his sense of duty that he agreed to serve on this one last war. Perhaps it was the memory during World War II of his parents opening up their homes to GI's headed for the Pacific. Perhaps it was because Leon served himself. As a young lieutenant. In the army. Perhaps it was the experience of watching his youngest son deployed. To Afghanistan. What we do know -- this. As our nation's 43 secretary of defense. Every action Leon -- take. Every decision that he has made. Has been -- one goal in mind. Taking care of ourselves and our daughters and uniform. And keeping America safe. And just think. Of the progress under his watch. Because we ended the war in Iraq and -- winding down the war in Afghanistan. Our troops are coming home -- next year or war in Afghanistan will come to and it. We've put the core of -- -- on the path to defeat. And we've been relentless against its affiliates. Because we have a sacred obligation to our troops to take care of them like they've taken care of us. We're improving treatment for our wounded warriors stepping up support. For our military Fam yes and doing more than ever to help our newest veterans transition to civilian life. And that includes the jobs are veterans need as we do some nation building here at home. Because we believe in opportunity for all Americans. The tenure of secretary Leon Panetta. The son of immigrants to this first generation. America. Will be remembered for historic progress in welcoming more of our fellow citizens. To military service. For the formal and final repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. For opening combat roles to our incredible women in uniform. In short for making our military and our nation. That much wrong. Because we forged a new defense strategy will be -- are better prepared for the future. Better prepared to meet the threats. That we face without larger military -- us. Better prepared against cyber attack us. Better prepared to advance. Our interests in the Asia Pacific region. And after more than a decade of war better prepared for the broadest range of contingencies. Keeping us prepared will be the mission in my nominee to be the next -- defense. -- combat veteran with the experience. Judgment and vision and our troops deserve Chuck Hagel. And since we are now just weeks away from deep automatic cuts to federal spending including defense. Let me say this there is no -- No reason for that's -- hat. Putting our fiscal house in order calls for a balanced approach not massive indiscriminate cuts -- could have. -- severe impact on our military preparedness. So here today. For the sake of our across her. For the sake all these men and women in uniform and all their Brothers and sisters in uniform that they represent. Now's the time to act for Democrats and Republicans to come together. In the same spirit that Leon Panetta always brought to public service solving problems not trying to score points. Doing right for the country. Not. For any particular political agenda. Sustaining our economic recovery. Balancing budgets Leon knows something about. But also maintaining. The finest -- her in history. Leon. This two. Will be part of your legacy. For no one has raised. Their voices firmly. -- forcefully on behalf of our troops as you. -- served with integrity. And decency. And grace. Your a reminder of what for public service ought to be. You -- with heart. And -- -- with humor. Indeed. They say that you've never seen our. Wounded warriors smile was -- or heard them laugh as loud as when they get a visit from their secretary of defense. And -- the challenge Leon. You always give -- to a strike. Sometimes in words that can't be repeated here -- public. Today. We want to make sure to thank Sylvia and the entire. -- family for sharing their husband their father. And their grandfather. -- the rest of us. For sharing Bravo the first dog -- -- pentagon. -- -- -- service has also been your sacrifice. And we promise. This time he really is coming home. We have from -- first day in uniform until today. Your dedicated service to America has spanned nearly fifty remarkable years. And as you review these fine troops one last time. As you return home and walk -- farm. Know that the grand -- of your life speaks to our larger American story. For you can say with confidence. And with pride. That you fulfill the hopes. That brought Carmelo and Carolina Panetta. To these shores all those years ago. You made them proud. You've helped keep alive the American dream. For not only your children and grandchildren but for all of our children and grandchildren. And for that we will be eternally grateful. Solely on -- your parents would say -- God bless you and god bless these United States of America.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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