Constitutionally Right

The only way to predict the future is to create it.

Location: Yardley, PA (Bucks County), United States

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Making of a Penn Stater - Philly Burbs

I was transported 30 years back in time while watching the Memorial Service for Joe Paterno from around midnight to well into the morning until turning off the DVR upon its completion.

There were a few familiar faces, but it was the environment that many spoke of that was most familiar; an environment that was at least in part created by Coach Paterno that extended way beyond the football field.

The selected speakers arrived at Penn State their freshman years as superstars and left as ultra superstars. The profound impact of their Coach was clear, but was there a similar effect on the average student throughout the campus?

My own story is a pretty common one. Many kids arrive to University Park pretty squared away. Others, like me, lacked a well-defined direction and purpose and were occasionally judgment-challenged. To be honest, I sort of cringe when I think back to the early days, but my friends assure me that I wasn’t too far from normal. I do still sometimes cringe, though, nonetheless.

Penn State and Joe Paterno are synonymous. I just have to give credit where credit’s due. His influence not only attracted a certain level of talent, but also encouraged it to excel under an umbrella of integrity and values that were new to me. It all converged to an apex of clarity and purpose once embraced and internalized. I actually remember the exact time and day of this epiphany that assuredly happens on a daily basis somewhere on campus as the endless examples of world-class performance leave their mark. The transformation is from participant/observer to achiever.

All colleges and universities have their culture and we have ours. It’s something that we all just know and cherish binding us into one massive grateful community of alumni.

I didn’t want the integrity training to end with graduation so just to ensure its continuance I pursued the most challenging military experience possible. Our initial training class lost 60% to failure of one kind or another, but the other two Penn Staters and I had a 100% success rate and we wore our Penn State pedigree proudly.

Once even while driving down Route 5 in California with my bald head and little car with its big Penn State sticker the PSU Volleyball Team sped up in a van with everyone literally jumping out of the windows at over 60 miles per hour. I really couldn’t believe that they were carrying on about me when it really should have been the other way around. I think it was because they saw me first.

But I wouldn’t be writing any of this if it wasn’t for the backdrop of charges and allegations. I can’t even repeat what I read in the various reports which would imply that others were also unable to grasp what was going on. I view the entire situation as one where no one knew what to do from start to finish. I know that I’ve also been in critical situations where I did the wrong thing or didn’t know what to do and all we can do is improve. It’s not criminal to be human, but many do seem to be pointing fingers everywhere except at the alleged perpetrator.

I wonder if it’s just human nature to try to increase our own moral barometer by attempting to lower one of a known height. If we must point fingers maybe we should look into a justice system that doesn’t make it any easier for a victim to step forward; particularly if those hurt are children. The whole thing goes beyond what a rational human being can comprehend and I don’t think we can hold an inability-to-grasp against someone. It’s nice and safe here behind our computer terminals, but none of us know the full extent of what happened.

What did happen, though, wasn’t right. Kids were hurt, inaction ensued and the wrong people were blamed. Nothing can take away the contributions of a good person whose heart of an angel now has wings to match doing even more important work with a proud family looking up along with countless others who also grew up under his careful guidance.

All we can do now is say “thank you” although he might say the same right back at the rest of us.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home