After President Barack Obama made his nominations for secretary of defense and CIA director on Monday, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made it clear he would be spending more time away from Washington.
Specifically, Panetta said he's looking forward to spending more time on his family walnut farm, "dealing with a different set of nuts," he told a crowd of reporters at the White House.
Panetta — also a former congressman, White House chief of staff and CIA director — got a good laughwhen he made the tongue-in-cheek remark. After 50 years in public service, the son of Italian immigrants said he is ready to relax on his family's legacy in Monterey, California.
"As for me, after close to 50 years of serving the American people — began in 1964 when I served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army, and then in both the legislative and executive branch positions in Washington — the time has come for me to return to my wife Sylvia, our three sons, their families, our six grandchildren and my walnut farm," he said, according to Politico, before adding: "Dealing with a different set of nuts."
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Panetta's parents arrived in the US in the 1930s and planned on visiting his two brothers — one in Wyoming and the other in California. After staying in Wyoming for a winter, the family headed to California, where they opened a restaurant. Panetta remembers washing glasses there as a boy. "My parents believed that child labor was a requirement in our family," Panetta said. "So we worked there, and then my father sold the restaurant after the war and bought a place in Carmel Valley — a farm — and planted walnut trees."
He may be putting up his feet now, but taking care of the Carmel Valley farm with his parents and brother was no easy task. According to US News, Panetta once told a convention of Asian-American professionals in San Francisco, not too far from his walnut farm, about getting his hands dirty to help out his family.
"In those days, in order to get the crop, you had to go around with a pole and hook and shake each of the branches, and then you collect the walnuts underneath the tree. And so my father would go around with the pole and the hook and hit the branches. My brother and I used to be underneath, picking up the walnuts," Panetta said. "When I got elected to Congress, my father said, 'You know, you've been well-trained to go to Washington. You've been dodging nuts all your life.'"