David Petraeus apologized on Tuesday to an audience of many veterans for the conduct that led to his resignation as head of the CIA following the disclosure of an extramarital affair.

“Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago,” Mr. Petraeus said. “I am 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 me to resign from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.”

Mr. Petraeus received applause and a standing ovation before he began the evening’s program by cutting a cake, a task reserved for the highest ranking person in the room.

At the time, Mr. Petraeus told his staff he was guilty of “extremely poor judgment.”

“Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” he said.

As the military leader credited with reshaping U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Petraeus expected a friendly audience at the ROTC dinner.

At least one expert in crisis communications said that if his apology comes across as heartfelt and sincere, the public will indeed be seeing much more of him.

“America is a very forgiving nation,” said Michael Levine who, among dozens of other celebrity clients, represented Michael Jackson during his first child molestation investigation.

“If he follows the path of humility, personal responsibility and contrition, I submit to you that he will be very successful in his ability to rehabilitate his image,” he said.

Another longtime crisis communications expert, Howard Bragman, said Mr. Petraeus has handled the situation perfectly so far and he expects he’ll continue to do so. He noted that unlike former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards and other public figures caught in extramarital affairs, Mr. Petraeus didn’t try to lie his way out of it, immediately took responsibility and moved on.

“I think the world is open to him now,” said Mr. Bragman, vice chairman of the image-building company Reputation.com. “I think he can do whatever he wants. Realistically, he can even run for public office, although I don’t think he’d want to because he can make more money privately.”

Ahead of the speech, Mr. Petraeus drew lavish praise from USC’s president, C. L. Max Nikias, who called him “arguably the most effective military commander since Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

“In our post 9/11 world, Gen. Petraeus’ influence on our military is unmatched, and his contributions to the CIA are far-reaching,” Mr. Nikias said. ”

While at USC, Mr. Petraeus also planned to visit faculty and students at the Price School of Public Policy, which administers the ROTC program, and USC’s School of Social Work, which trains social workers in how to best help veterans returning from war.

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