Sometimes, in a moment of crisis, a community bonds together with a sense of commitment and focus that allows it to achieve goals that under normal circumstances they may not achieve. This I believe was the case over the past year at Penn State.
Using the national media’s apparent motivation to label an entire community as complicit with child abuse so far as its football program did not suffer any shame, Penn State’s athletic teams performed superbly both on and off their respective fields of play.
The numbers speak overwhelmingly well of their collective accomplishments. National Titles, Academic All-Americans, Big Ten Champions, Academic All-Big Ten standouts, and a record amount of fundraising for events like Lift for Life and THON.
Still, you quickly learn that the past is fleeting, that the world is not concerned what you did yesterday, but what you’re willing to do today.
And all of a sudden, you’re back at the bottom of the hill.
In the coming months, the talking heads will pick back up with Sandusky scandal with the looming trials of Gary Shultz and Tim Curley. They will talk about how Penn State failed, and why its football team will fail in the years to come due to the heavy sanctions placed on it.
Perhaps they will mention the accomplishments of the past year, but to be sure it will be in passing. I say this because the economic penalties of this scandal are beyond the amount settled on by the victims, the sanctions by the NCAA and the lost revenue of empty seats in Beaver Stadium. They go to Penn State graduates possibly being turned down for jobs. For research looked at with skepticism and bias and being turned down for grants.
And that is why we as a community, as athletes past, present, and future, we must respond again. If you were successful last year, in whatever it was you were doing, challenge yourself to not only maintain that high standard but possibly improve it. If you were unsuccessful last year, find the will to pick yourself up and try again. And if ever the struggle becomes too much to do on your own, there are other members of Penn State community that are there to help.
Here in this small rural area in Pennsylvania, there are future scientists, poets, professional athletes, politicians, scholars, engineers, writers, and more all under the Penn State umbrella. It has always seemed to me to be a safe haven for progressive ideas for the future as well as understanding and recognizing the impact of the past. Now as a whole community, WE will write the PRESENT of our community. Will we be disjointed, uncivil and belligerent? Or will we chose to be persistent, focused, respectful and unified?
The challenge for Penn State and the entire State College community, was never going to be as simple as to respond for just the one year following the sanctions, the challenge is in the focus and drive to do it all again, and to respond to any perceived failures in a positive manner.
We as a community took a very big step over the past year and should feel a sense of pride in that. I am also hopeful that we will never stop yearning to become better. I hope that we are never completely satisfied and continually challenge ourselves and each other to improve. That is what Penn State always has been to me. That is who I believe we are.
Fight On State.