30 January 2012

LEGACIES: Old Reputations, Young Lives

My father attended Penn State on the GI Bill after serving in World War II.  Throughout his life, he never stopped expressing his loyalty to the former and his gratitude for the latter.  Other family members have attended that fine university, have lauded its educational standards and cheered for its teams.  So I write this commentary with a long-time sense of how a school can shape generations.

It is deeply sad that Joe Paterno's last months were overshadowed by his firing because of what happened on his staff, in his domain.  By all accounts, this was a man of integrity, intelligence, love for his atheletes, and a generous loyalty to his university that he made manifest in how he managed his salary as well as in the gifts he made to school and students. 

It is infinitely heartbreaking that so many boys' lives are now overshadowed by the evil perpetrated upon them by Sandusky and all those who allowed it to go unaddressed.  By all accounts, this horror was known by most of the persons with power to stop it, and all of them chose to protect their own and the school's legacy rather than that of these vulnerable boys.

Let's put this into perspective.

I am sad for Mr. Paterno and his family.  I am outraged for the boys and their families.

Mr. Paterno will ever have an asterisk attached to his otherwise wonderful legacy.  The abused and then ignored boys will ever bear in their hearts and minds and bodies a torturous indignity that is the legacy of sexual abuse.

Mr. Paterno suffered greatly, I have no doubt, after the firing from his job in what turned out to be the last months of his life.  The abused and then ignored boys suffered  and will suffer greatly, I have no doubt, in the long years ahead of them that will be fraught with mental and emotional anguish.

"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." (Attributed variously to Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill and others)

As long as we place our reputations, our work, our institutional stability, the sports we follow, our wealth, our power and whatever else we hold valuable before the protection of the least among us, we are not a great people.

' "Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or needing clothes, or sick or in prison did we not help you?"  He will reply, "I tell you the truth: whatever you did not do for the least among you, you did not do for me."' (Matthew 25:45)

I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment link below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

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