David Petraeus, who became one of the most decorated and respected military figures of his generation but who retired after an admitted extramarital affair, gave the keynote address on Tuesday night at USC’s annual dinner for veterans and ROTC students.
"I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now," Petraeus told the crowd gathered at the Westin Bonaventure hotel in Downtown LA.
Petraeus opened his speech with a mea culpa about his affair, his personal journey and a new chapter since his resignation working in the private sector in economics, energy and veterans issues.
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"I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led me to resign from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters," Petraeus said.
"Life doesn't stop with such a mistake," he added. "It can and must go on."
Petraeus received a standing ovation from the 600-plus attendees. He accepted the invitation to speak last year, before his resignation.
Petraeus served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from Sept. 6, 2011, until his resignation on Nov. 9, 2012, citing an affair with Paula Broadwell, the author of his biography, "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."
Petraeus reportedly ended the affair about the time he learned that Broadwell had been sending harassing emails to a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses, Jill Kelley.
It was reportedly an FBI investigation that led authorities to Broadwell’s email account.
Before that, Petraeus was a decorated four-star general, serving more than 37 years in the Army, including as commander of the International Security Assistance Force and commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.