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Message from the Director: One Man’s Power

Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon E. Panetta on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Having begun my career in public service during the 1960s, I saw how one man—through the power of his ideas, the poetry of his words, and the strength of his convictions—brought America closer to the destiny envisioned by our Founders. Their dream was his dream: a republic whose citizens are born with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If that does not seem particularly controversial now, it is because he compelled us to live up to our aspirations as a nation—not by threatening violence, but by appealing to our conscience.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. renewed the promise of America’s dream. We might have gotten there without him, but the path would have been longer and far more costly in terms of lives—lives lost to political violence, and lives spent unfulfilled while our country remained less than free. It is hard to imagine an America not enriched by his courage, eloquence, and humanity.

One of my proudest moments as a congressman was when I voted to set aside a day dedicated to his memory. This weekend, I hope each of you will think about just how much Dr. King’s life and accomplishments mean to our country. The nation we work so hard to protect is a better place because of him.

Leon E. Panetta


Historical Document
Posted: Jan 14, 2011 09:34 AM
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2013 01:28 PM