One point I often make when speaking to groups about leadership is that stepping up and being a leader takes courage. That statement has become even truer with what has been going on the past couple weeks at The Pennsylvania State University.
I want to take this opportunity to say that I am very sad and appalled about the crimes Jerry Sandusky is being accused of committing. I pray for the victims and hope they can someday find peace.
Sadly, the majority of the media and public outcry from this story has been about what legendary coach, Joe Paterno did not do. I must say that I am ashamed by how people have reacted towards him, but I am not at all surprised. That is the world we live in. We constantly search for reasons to tear people down. Joe Paterno was and is a great man. He is a leader. But yes, according to reports it seems he could have done more. He made a mistake. But haven’t we all?
Joe Paterno’s mistake, his lack of action proves why stepping up and being a leader takes so much courage. Look how easy it was for people to turn on him. Yet, so many who crucify him know nothing about what he has done not just for college football, but for our country.
Joe Paterno helped shape the lives of thousands of young men as the coach at Penn State. He served as a father figure, a second father, a disciplinarian, a motivator, a friend, and a leader to so many. And yet, this is how we as a society repay him? We judge him without knowing all the facts? We condemn him for lack of action when we have no idea how we would have acted in the same situation?
Many years ago when I was just 15 years old, after JoePa (as his fans call him) won his 324th game as a head coach passing Bear Bryant on the all-time list, I wrote an article for the Waco Tribune-Herald about the Legend of JoePa. In my opinion, it was one of the best articles I have ever written. At the time, I wanted to be a sports writer. I wrote the article because I had the utmost respect for JoePa. He was one of my hero’s and I wanted to celebrate in public his greatness. After the article was published I sent it to JoePa and a few days later I received a handwritten note from him thanking me for writing the article and encouraging me to keep writing. He made my year with that little action. I will always remember that, no matter how the public remembers him.
Being a leader takes courage and Joe Paterno has answered the call to leadership over his 62 years of coaching and his nearly 85 years of life. His legend will forever remain with me. I just hope that we as a society can focus on who allegedly committed the crime. That man’s name is Jerry Sandusky, not Joe Paterno. Sandusky is the one who it seems has failed as a leader.
Joe Paterno has succeeded time and time again. Let’s try to remember that. Let’s remember and pray for the victims. And let’s try to remember what Jesus, the Most Valuable Leader of all taught us: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”