Dear Penn State Undergrads,
You have just been hit between the eyes with a hard dose of the real world. I notice that you are not handling it very well so let me try to give you something to think about besides your folk hero and the game on Saturday. As i have listened to your comments ,i am reminded of the time many moons ago when my world consisted of Wildcat football games, painting the "A" at the University of Arizona, boondockers with a keg or two and once in a while a thought or two about what i wanted to do if and when i got out of that bubble with some kind of education and took on the responsiblity of paying my own car insurance. Who thought about rent or groceries at that point. Fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be, nobody burst my bubble prematurely so i eased into the real world.
What has come to light at Penn State this week is something you will never forget. It has shown you a very ugly side of the world right in your own bubble. So consider this, instead of holding pep rallys and protests to support your hero and whining about what those mean old regents did to you that messed up your Saturday, think about one choice that was made or perhpas the same choice by several different people. One choice by your hero and his bosses to cover up a depraved act. A depraved act that resulted in the destruction of lives that didn't have to be destroyed if your hero had made a different choice.
It's a small side effect, very small, that your college experience has had an ugly turn.. You have a right to be upset but let's take a step back and look at who deserves to be the focus of your ire. Who made the choice to do little or nothing that has resulted in what is happening to you and Penn State. Think about one choice that has clouded the legacy and destroyed the careers of several people. It isn't over yet and there may be criminal charges that really end things for your hero on a sad note. A 60 year career blasted to hell by one choice is really very minor compared to the destruction of at least nine lives that we know about now. Don't ignore who made the choice.
I hope as you start looking for jobs, lauch your careers, start your families you will remember that one choice and what it meant for so many people. As you start your careers I hope when you are faced with ethical decisions that could have an impact on you, the people around you and the people you love you will remember the one bad choice made by a man who was a legend. It only takes one bad choice to destroy your whole career no matter how wonderful you have been for decades. Is that fair as you have been screaming while you are mad at the media, the board blah, blah? Fair my young friends is a kindergarten word. I have heard you say over and over, "It's a tough call". No, you are dead wrong. There was only one ethical, moral call and it's not enough to just report it and ignore it from then on. That was not a game where the next play could eliminate what happened to that one kid and many more. No one involved will ever get over it. If you saw someone being beaten would you make the choice to report it to your dad and buzz on off to the football game? I hope not. It's not a tough call to make a choice then take responsibility for your actions if you made the wrong call.
In the real world it only takes one bad choice to blow up everything. Perhaps that should be Joe Pa's legacy to you. Ethics are not situational. Get over your young "this is not what i want" priorities and take strong notice of what has happened here. The more you protest and tweet and facebook about how wrong and unfair it is to fire Joe remember that when you start interviewing for jobs in a few months or a year recruiters and hiring managers will take note of what you are saying now and will wonder, as i do, do i really want this person on my staff who could not see that it was the bad and unethical (maybe criminal) choice of someone i admired that caused this..
Choices made in a moment can and do affect lives forever. He made his, now you must make yours, think about the lives that have been destroyed and don't add yours to the list. One choice matters.