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Leon Panetta came to town last week with observations that apply not only to the national scene, but also to local government. He was the final speaker in the Ringling College Library Association's Town Hall 2014 Lecture Series held at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on Thursday, March 20. The former Secretary of Defense and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), among his endeavors in public ser- vice, stated that in a democracy the "ultimate power lies with the people." But, he cautioned, the "key to democracy is being informed" and discussing the issues. He is concerned that Facebook and other social media venues fail to provide a broad perspective, that they rein- force views rather than increasing knowledge and exploring differing ideas. He is also critical of a media that is more "interested in sound bites" than in pursuing in-depth reporting. The message is that citizens, at whatever polit- ical level – local, state and national – need to take the time and make the effort to know the issues and the views of the candidates for office before casting their votes. Further, they must communicate to their elected leaders the action they want those leaders to take. Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta chats with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts from across the United States during the group's visit to the Pentagon in 2012. Photo by Glenn Fawcett via Wikimedia Commons LEON PANETTA'S OBSERVATIONS COME FROM A CAREER THAT TOOK HIM TO HIGH LEVELS OF PUBLIC SERVICE LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM By Vicki Chatley Contributing Writer

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