I had a conversation with astute Onward State reader Anthony the other day about Joe Paterno’s political history and activism. I’m certainly no Andrew Kaczynski — a Buzzfeed writer once dubbed the Oppenheimer of archival video research — but I can find my way around the C-SPAN library now and then. A quick search for Joe Paterno turns up two gems.
The first video comes from 1988, with a fiery Paterno on the floor of the Republican National Convention in New Orleans to second the nomination of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush for president on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic region. Flanked by “Joe-Pa for Bush” signs, Paterno is introduced as a “teacher of character, “coach of champions,” and a “coach noted for his commitment to excellence” by convention chairman Rep. Bob Michel.
“I know a lot of people are wondering what an Italian-American football coach from Penn State is doing here….so am I!” Paterno quipped. “However, I hope that after 40 years of trying to help young men and women reach their potential as human beings, I’m here as an educator…I’m here because I believe George Bush will be one of America’s great presidents.”
“I’m here because like President Ford, I’ll be DAMNED if I’ll sit still while people who can’t carry George Bush’s shoes ridicule him,” Paterno said to a raucous applause that had to be gaveled to order. “After a lifetime of being around great competitors, I know a winner and I know a leader. I know the difference between bravado and the quiet dignified confidence of a Joe DiMaggio…a Walter Payton…and a GEORGE BUSH!”
All four minutes are worth watching for a glimpse of classic Paterno in a non-football setting.
The second Paterno C-Span video comes 18 years later, this time at a George W. Bush rally in York (the first five minutes are relevant):
“LET’S…TELL…OUR GREAT PRESIDENT WHAT WE THINK OF HIM…ONE MORE TIME!” Paterno screams, almost exasperated, egging on the crowd. “We live in a world where it takes GUTS…and INTEGRITY…and CONVICTION…AND WE HAVE A PRESIDENT IN GEORGE W. BUSH WHO HAS ALL OF THAT! WE’RE GOING TO WORK OUR BUTTS OFF TO GET HIM ELECTED!”
That wasn’t the only time Paterno campaigned for Bush in 2004. Here are a couple pictures from the College Republicans’ archives from a rally at the HUB featuring H.W. Bush and Paterno just days before the election:
Regardless of your political affiliation, these videos are both hilarious and historical, particularly for a younger generation at Penn State that never had a chance to see Paterno at his best.