Monday, December 5, 2011

The speech I wish Joe Paterno had made

In the speech Joe Paterno actually gave on November 8, 2011, he said, "The kids who were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. It’s a tough life when people do certain things to you." And then Paterno indicated he was resigning effective at the end of the season: "I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can." I can't find a link to the full text of his speech, but if someone sends in to me, I'd like to include it.

Here is the speech I wish he had made instead, on November 6, the day after the Grand Jury indictment against Jerry Sandusky was made known:

[Scene: press conference on the lawn of Joe Paterno’s house. November 6, 2011. Joe Paterno approaches the microphone]

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming. This will be my last press conference as the Head Coach of Football at Penn State.

In 2002 I made a terrible mistake that has haunted me to this day and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.

As you now know, I was informed by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary that he had observed our defensive coordinator at the time, Jerry Sandusky, perform “incidents in the bathroom” with a young boy. The next day, I informed Athletic Director Tim Curley of what I had heard from McQueary. I also subsequently informed Gary Schultz, director of business and finance, who oversaw the University Police. At the time, I considered that by informing my supervisors, I had done what was legally required of me.

Of course, there can be a large gap between doing what is legally required and doing what is right.
It is clear that I should have been far more aggressive in questioning Mike McQueary about exactly what he saw. It is clear that I should have not only informed my supervisors, but should have ensured that the police were immediately informed and that the incident that McQueary reported to me was fully investigated.

Jerry Sandusky has now been indicted by a Grand Jury, and it is alleged that he molested other boys after I was informed of this bathroom incident in my program’s own locker room. If I had acted with more moral courage, if I had done what was right, these boys would not have been molested, I am convinced.

It is difficult to live with myself, knowing that I could have, and should have, prevented the harm that occurred to these boys.

Throughout my career at Penn State, I have always sought to follow the highest ethical standards, even when not absolutely required. I have taught my players, and believed myself, that there is not a trade-off between following the more difficult, more ethical route and being successful on the field or in life. In fact, I’ve taught and believed that doing the right thing is not only the right thing to do, but the best way to win.

So I’ve worked to run a program with high graduation rates, because I believe that students should come to college to get an education, and not just play in a minor league for the NFL.
So I’ve kept our uniforms free of doo-dads and endorsements and stickers, because I want the team to play as a team, not an advertisement.

So I’ve adhered to the spirit and not only the letter of recruiting requirements, even if it meant we lost a player we would have liked to have had.

And now, with my failure to act in 2002, with my failure of moral courage, I’ve disappointed the many people who I’ve tried to inspire with my own example over the past five decades.

Why did I fail to act?

I have wrestled with that for nine years now.

There are reasons, none of them adequate.

It was difficult for me to believe these accusations against Jerry Sandusky, who was not only an important part of my team, but a good friend.

I am ashamed to say that I must have been influenced by a fear of tainting my program if word of this crime were to get out.

Within days or weeks of learning about the incident, I quickly came to believe that I should have done more. But then it became even harder to act. People would have asked me, “Why did it take you five days, five weeks, five months to come forward?” The more time passed, the harder it became to ensure these allegations were properly addressed.

For years I have known that this day would come, when word would get out, when Sandusky would be caught, when my failure to act would become known. I have dreaded this day at the same time I could have taken action to prevent it.

And now that my own failing has come to light, I have no choice but to resign as Head Coach, effective immediately. I can no longer effectively serve as the leader of the program and as a role model to my players.

While this step is obviously a deep disappointment to me, I would ask that no one write or think that it is a shame that my career has ended this way. What happened to those boys that Jerry Sandusky molested is far, far worse than the feelings of an old man.

I hope that my resignation today, in my last act as Head Coach, will serve as one final lesson to the players that I’ve coached and the fans that have supported our team.

If you are informed that someone may be molesting a child – don’t just inform someone. Follow up and make sure that the monster is stopped. Do not relent.

More broadly, when you have a choice of following the letter of the law or doing the right thing, do the right thing. There are very few times in your life, really, when you get tested in this way. It is a difficult thing to prepare oneself for. Perhaps the example of my own disgrace will help my players and fans find the courage to act when they themselves face this test.
These are my plans now:

Once the media circus has died down, I would like to be able to apologize, in person, to each of the boys that Sandusky molested. I want to look them in the eye and tell them how deeply sorry I am that I did not prevent what happened to them.

I plan to transfer a significant portion of my estate to a fund that has been set up to provide some compensation to the victims of Jerry Sandusky. While my attorneys assure me that I am not legally liable, as I did what was strictly required, I think that I am morally liable to these boys. While money won’t take away what happened to them, it’s the best way I can think of. Put your money where your mouth is, as the saying goes. While I will be providing the initial funding for this fund, I will not be in any way associated with the management of it.

I’d ask supporters of the Penn State Football program to consider adding a contribution to this fund.
To current students: don’t rally in my support. I failed to stop a child molester. When you have kids, you’ll understand.

My last request to the University is that inside Paterno Libary a display be set up with the facts of this case, as a reminder to current and future students that your moral integrity is something you need to work at maintaining every day of your life.

I’m an old man, with not much time left on the clock and no time outs. I’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer.

In life, as in football, you can’t control the timing of when a replacement is sent in and you get called off the field. But when it is your time to go, go.

My resignation is effective immediately.

I won’t be taking questions today.

Thanks for your attention, and goodbye.

[Paterno walks back into his house.]

After I wrote this, when I was searching for the full text of the speech Paterno gave, I found that right after the another writer had the same idea of writing a "speech he should have given."

1 comment:

  1. Will,

    This proposed speech you've created contains false information. One example: You claim that Joe Paterno is good friends with Jerry Sandusky (implying Paterno was blinded by loyalty to a "good friend"). That's patently false and just a few minutes of real research would have shown that. When Jerry retired, Joe was barely even on speaking terms with Jerry. The facts surrounding this case aren't all known yet and until they are it's wise to refrain from public persecution of anyone involved. Furthermore, if you're going to try to put words into the mouth of a man that has done a tremendous amount of good on this Earth, you should at least get straight the facts that are out there.



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