Panetta: ‘I Have Successfully Been Dodging Nuts All of My Life’

November 21, 2012 - 1:05 PM

Leon Panetta

CIA Director Leon Panetta is interviewed on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, June 27, 2010. (AP Photo/ABC, Fred Watkins)

(CNSNews.com) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking at the Center for a New American Security, said Tuesday that he has been “dodging nuts” all of his life.

“When I got elected to Congress, my father said, ‘You know. You’ve been well trained to go to Washington, because you’ve been dodging nuts all your life.’ And I have successfully been dodging nuts all of my life,” Panetta said.

Panetta began his speech to the Center for a New American Security talking about his father, an Italian immigrant, who owned a walnut orchard.

“I’m always reminded of my father, who as I’ve said to many people was an immigrant from Italy with my mother and came over and then eventually ran a restaurant in Monterrey during the war years. And my earliest recollections were washing glasses in the back of that restaurant. My parents believed that child labor was a requirement,” Panetta said.

“And then he bought this farm in Carmel Valley after the war and planted walnut trees, and I remember working in a walnut orchard. And my father would go around to all of the – when the walnut trees got older – would go around with a pole and hook and basically shake each of the branches, and my brother and I would be collecting the walnuts underneath the trees,” he added.

“When I got elected to Congress, my father said, ‘You know. You’ve been well trained to go to Washington, because you’ve been dodging nuts all your life.’ And I have successfully been dodging nuts all of my life.

Panetta succeeded Robert Gates as Defense secretary when Gates retired in 2011. Before that, he served as director of the CIA under President Barack Obama. He also served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1977, where he served until 1993.

Panetta served as chairman of the House Committee on the Budget during his last four years in Congress until Clinton tapped him to head the OMB.