My topic today is not something I really want to talk about. However I feel compelled to as it is very much on my mind. It is disturbing and upsetting. I wish I could go to sleep, wake up, and have it not exist.
I attended and received my undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University. It wasn’t a tough decision to go there. My finances were limited and my grades were good not great so attending a state school was a certainty. I knew I wanted to go away and PSU offered me the opportunity to live at home for two years and save money and then go away for two years. Besides, I had family members go there, friends were going there, and they had a great football team.
I didn’t love college – not by a long shot. Part of it was the school’s fault. Or to be more clear my inability to take advantage of what the school had to offer. In retrospect, a smaller school would have been more appropriate for me. I was a shy kid who needed guidance. The school is tremendous with over 40,000 students at the main campus, Happy Valley. So, unless a student is aggressive or determined, it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle. Too often, I was lost and ultimately did not gain as much as I would have liked from my college experience.
However, there were a few days in particular that made the college experience rich. Football weekends were a spectacle. The town and the bars would start filling up on Thursday nights with alumni and others returning to old glory. The energy would continue through Friday and then Saturdays were even more energized. Getting to the stadium meant going through the parking lot and the fans — who are regularly voted number one in terms of tailgating. The game was a constant barrage of cheers and chants. By the time, Saturday night rolled around, especially if the team won, the town could have been lit up by the energy the fans gave off.
While the team was good when I attended, they were not number one, but that didn’t matter. They were a source of pride. Joe Paterno, legendary coach, was like the wise old grandfather who everyone loved. They were winners, and they did it the right way. Success with Honor was their motto. I believed it. We believed it.
When I graduated from Penn State, Jerry Sandusky was regarded as a top notch defensive coach who might have someday succeeded Paterno and become the head coach. What was he doing then when not on the sidelines? Was he unsuccessfully fighting his demons? It was only a little while later that he begun harming kids. These kids are not children anymore. What has become of them? What are their lives like now? How many more joined them as victims because the abuse was not reported? Maybe those who knew did not know the details or the extent of the problem, but they knew something had happened. They knew and did nothing. The famous Edmund Burke quote comes to mind, “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.”
I hope that the school I attended can handle this terrible scandal in the most professional, humble way possible as they start to make amends. Yes, this news story too shall pass but for me and others who were “Penn State Proud” something has been irrevocably damaged.