Three Thoughts for Our Students
Editors Note: This post was submitted by Penn State graduate and professor of Kinesiology Dr. Jim Pawelczyk. He plans to shares these thoughts with his students at the start of classes.
As our students return to campus and the classroom it will be impossible for us to educate unless we acknowledge the events that have shaken our University to its foundation. Students, faculty and staff are struggling to reconcile shock, shame, and pride — a complex set of incongruent emotions.
We owe our students a measure of wisdom to help them begin the academic year on their best footing. Now, more than ever, they deserve our very best.
As I reflect on the event of the past year and contemplate what thoughts I can impart to students, these three truisms rise to the top:
Leaders prioritize integrity over convenience or popularity. They’re motivated to do the right thing rather than what they think others might want to hear or see.
Status doesn’t make you a leader. True leadership requires attitude and action.
Ask yourself this: As the Sandusky story unfolded, who have been the real leaders? The answer is those who represented mission, service and integrity in their actions. The best I’ve seen have been students. Think about the vigil; the football team hand-in-hand in prayer; THON; the Blue Out for victims of abuse; and recently, the football players who proudly articulated their reasons for staying.
Leaders consistently do the right thing for the right reasons. We are fortunate to have them.
For Good or for Bad
As we dissect and debate the facts, speculations and conclusions in the Freeh report, one point is so obvious that it’s often overlooked: The fortunes of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno were intertwined for 43 years – more than half of coach Paterno’s storied life. You simply cannot escape this fact.
There were unmistakably good moments in their association, like the 1986 National Championship, and unmistakably bad ones. Who knew or did what, when, is a discussion for other times and places. The point here is that the reputation of each man indelibly affected the other – for good or for bad.
In that fact is a message for all of us: Like it or not, you will be defined in some way – for good or for bad – by the company you keep. Choose wisely.
The Power of One
Penn State has crowds — lots of them. We tend to like them. They’re fun to be in, and they’re easy to hide in. However, one thing we’ve learned from this tragedy stands clear: Whether you’re in a crowd of 10 or a crowd of 100,000, one person can make all the difference.
Jerry Sandusky has proven this point beyond all dispute. And he’s shown the world that The Power of One can be either good or bad. With callous disregard for the human spirit, he violated the fundamental human principle that we protect those least able to protect themselves.
True Penn Staters acknowledge The Power of One when they abide by the words that Fred Lewis Pattee penned more than a century ago: “May no act of ours bring shame ….”
It is one of our most deep-seated expectations that you will use your Power of One for good.
When you get down to it, defining the principles that guide your actions requires you to answer a few simple questions:
Whether you lead from the front, middle or rear, is the path that you select helpful or harmful?
Will you use your Power of One for good, or for bad?
Fame, whether fleeting or enduring, is not always a good thing. Anyone who seeks it has either forgotten their principles or never had them in the first place. Acting with integrity, conversely, is always a good choice.
The future of Penn State will be determined by 90,000 people – our students. A single act won’t be enough to heal the damage that has been done. But, over time, the random acts of excellence you exhibit every day just might.
Do not underestimate the Power of One. Do not underestimate your ability to do good – or bad – for yourself, Penn State, and the world.
Take a stand. Make a statement. 90,000 voices make a roar.