November 29, 2020

Personal Responsibility and Penn State University

Personal Responsibility and Penn State University

DATE: 13 November, 2011  – PHONE: (410) 212-5181

The following statement may be attributed to Dr. Joseph J. Thomas, CEO, The Student-Leader Seminar:

We recently had the honor of addressing a group of high achieving student-athlete leaders from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley Conference near Allentown, PA. The area can be considered, in many ways, ‘Ground Zero’ for the developing tragedy involving the Penn State’s legendary football program.

The students and their athletic directors gathered for the interactive discussion of leadership, moral decision-making, and character were utterly overwhelmed by the developing story in nearby University Park.

They struggled to balance their understanding of the iconic Coach Joe Paterno’s impeccable reputation for honor and integrity with the thought that he may have failed numerous children impacted by heinous acts of sexual abuse. In doing so, they reasoned, he also failed his university, his beloved football program, and an entire nation who looked to him as an island of moral certainty and uncompromising integrity.

The thinking went ‘If Coach Paterno failed in such a spectacularly tragic way, is there hope for any of us?’ While the full story of exactly what happened with former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky’s ‘Second Mile’ children’s charity and who had knowledge of the alleged abuse of boys as young as eight, this much is known: something went terribly wrong with the moral courage, sense of personal responsibility, and overall common sense of all those associated with Sandusky.

Sadly, it appears the chain of abuse could have been broken at a far earlier stage by any number of people. Jerry Sandusky, if the allegations are only partially true, is a disturbed, evil man. His abuse of power and misuse of PSU facilities and reputation will ensure his name will forever be among the most reviled in the history of college athletics.

However, the larger lesson for students and educators alike is that we must all acknowledge our personal responsibility when we know of injustice and unnecessary suffering. While the PSU faithful and fans of college football nationwide may no longer be able to ask ‘What would JoePa do’? We should all ask ourselves ‘What would I do’? The next step then becomes quite clear. We must prepare for that time our leadership, integrity, and moral courage will be tested.”

The Student-Leader Seminar (SLS) is a team of nationally recognized thought leaders in the field of leadership, ethics, and character development specializing in high school and college students, teachers, and administrators. Seminars and speaking engagements can be arranged through or by direct contact with the following SLS partners

Contact Information for Student-Leader Seminar Partners

In Maryland:

Joe Thomas (410) 212-5181 or

In Ohio:

Steve Robbins (740) 975-6658 or

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