In his first public speech after resigning as the CIA director, David Petraeus apologized Tuesday for his extramarital affair at University of Southern California.
Petraeus was invited to address the students at the university a year ago. Despite remaining elusive from the public eye after the revelations of his affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer, the retired four-star general decided to keep this appointment.
Petraeus’ romantic liaisons with Broadwell surfaced after Florida socialite Jill Kelley, complained to the FBI of receiving harassing emails from Broadwell. The investigation by the FBI brought to media attention a string of emails indicating an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell.
As the keynote speaker before 600 guests at the University of Southern California, he said, “It truly is a privilege to be here with you this evening -- all the more so given my personal journey over the past five months. I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago … I'm also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing.”
“So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret and apologize for the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters,” Petraeus added.
Petraeus then emphasized that the evening was “not about me,” but the cadets, active-duty military, veterans from USC and efforts to support them.
According to the retired four-star general, 9/11 generation of veterans deserved to be known as America’s greatest generation. He also felt that more could and should be done to help veterans, especially those with physical injuries and mental health problems.
As the US Army commander, Petraeus was largely credited with salvaging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and helping the US develop an effective counterinsurgency strategy.
In the US, he is considered as one of the one of the most popular military commanders in modern history. There were even speculations about his future presidential candidate.
Reportedly, Tuesday's speech seems to be an attempt by the 60-year-old Petraeus to rebuild his reputation.
With the revelation of the extramarital affair, Petraeus in a letter to the CIA, acknowledged “extremely poor judgment” and said, "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."
Following Petraeus’ resignation, President Barack Obama defended Broadwell integrity of office and declared that there was no reason to believe the ex-CIA director compromised national security or divulged classified information to Broadwell, who had unprecedented access to Petraeus while writing his biography.