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Alumni Association Criticized For Withholding Franco Harris Speech Video

Update July 20, 4:37 p.m.: It appears the video has been taken down. 

Update July 20: Since Clifford and the Alumni Association remained reluctant to post the video, Franco Harris gave the people what they wanted all along. Harris published video of the critical speech himself earlier today. You can view the speech in its entirety here.

When Franco Harris received the 2016 Lion’s Paw Medal at Penn State’s alumni reunion weekend June 2, his acceptance speech didn’t go quite like Alumni Association Director Paul Clifford and some all-class luncheon attendees expected. Harris took a few more minutes than his allotted five to give an impassioned speech criticizing Penn State governance (transcript below).

The Lion’s Paw Medal, awarded annually by the alumni of the senior honor society, “honors those individuals who have contributed their time and efforts in service to the University above and beyond what is normally expected” and to individuals who have “contributed whole lives of service to better the lives of students, to enhance the quality of education at the University, and to foster the traditions of Penn State.”

Now — despite more than a few angry folks in his Twitter mentions — Clifford is standing by his and the officers of the Alumni Association’s decision to not release a video of the speech they never intended to record.

While we respect the opinions offered by this year’s Lion’s Paw Medal recipient, they were out of place at this event,” Clifford said. “The Alumni Association neither endorses nor opposes the content, but we can’t ignore the mixed response expressed by many in attendance and the distraction from the other honored guests in attendance, as well as from our 50th Reunion Class and Penn State Pioneers. Because there was a mixed reaction, we’ve decided not to release the video…we don’t want to do anything to further divide the Penn State family.”

The Alumni Association contracted WPSU to provide audio-visual support and to project the event on a large screen, but Clifford said he had no idea they were recording it until after the fact. “It was something we never intended to distribute in the first place,” he said, adding that the Alumni Association doesn’t typically record events like these or publish videos.

Despite this explanation, Clifford has received quite a bit of flak from alumni who want to see the video. To wit:

And it goes on and on.

You could always just read the transcript of the speech below and picture Franco Harris making very intense facial expressions:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” – Albert Einstein

Welcome everyone…friends…my family…my Penn State family…thank you for being here today. To the Lion’s Paw…thank you for letting your awardee have a few minutes of free expression… after the last 5 years this is like a breath of fresh air! We have been experiencing quite a time in Penn State history and all of us should learn and grow from it. When we Penn Staters look back over the last 5 years, the question that loomed over us is “Where are we headed?” Along the way there were a lot of twists and turns, all with challenges.

But right now at Penn State we are at a crossroad, facing one last big challenge. What direction we take depends on the working relationship between the Alumni and the current Board of Trustees; where we go from here is an in-house problem…a Penn State problem. No longer is our biggest challenge about the Freeh Report; everyone knows that was a sham from the start and the basis for nothing. No longer is our biggest challenge with the NCAA. Everyone knows they broke their own protocols and procedures and had no grounds to penalize Penn State so viciously. We know they were wrong and they know they were wrong.

No longer do we care about what the media puts out. They have lost their credibility in our eyes. They print allegations and then fan the flames, all without proof or validation and they have no accountability. On Nov 9, 2011 we saw the results of unchecked power here at Penn State. Beware of power that has no boundaries. Before that night, I did not know that the Board of Trustees could fire the President in the blink of an eye. When I heard that President Spanier was supporting Penn State and our Penn State people, I was confident that someone had a command of the situation. Then BOOM! John Surma led the firing of Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno. This made me realize that there were no checks and balances in place…this was unchecked power at its worst.

There were no checks and balances and Penn State lost….and we’ve been losing ever since. And let me point out that not one of those people on the board that night have been held accountable. I take that back, WE, the alumni, held our alumni elected trustees accountable and we replaced every one of them with people who DO represent us. That night the members of the board thought they could control and contain the damage they were doing, but they could not. And the damage continues to roll across our campus and will continue to roll if we don’t set up some checks and balances.

When you have a small group of people with money and connections and they know how to leverage power, they become detached and arrogant…they are above it all. So now we add arrogance and self-interest to the unchecked power and we have a dangerous situation. How did we get here? Where do we go from here? Right now we are divided and we need to start the healing. Where do we start? We start with a formal apology from those board members to Sue Paterno. Now. It’s already long overdue.

Let me tell you a story…I see a Lion’s paw scratching at the ground outside Beaver Stadium and it’s trying to find it’s home…trying to find where it belongs. The Lion knows it belongs here but he’s confused…something here isn’t right… something has changed. The Lion knew that our Board of Trustees made the decision to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and lawyer’s fees and the Lion knew that our Board agreed to the sanctions and the vacated games.

But the Lion didn’t know that the Board also took down Joe’s statue and the Player’s Wall. That’s why the Lion didn’t recognize his home…they had erased the Lion’s history and his home was empty. They erased the Lion’s history and tried to fill it with lies, lies and more lies. I ask you today, are we a lie? Is our Penn State history a lie? Is Success With Honor a lie?

Success With Honor — A game changing vision never before undertaken. It was not just about football or being famous  — it was about education — contributing to the world and making something of yourself. It was about having the greatest graduation rates for your athletes and being one of the best in Academic All Americans. This was unbelievable.

And to top it all off…409! The greatest number of football games won in NCAA history. So, you better believe that we will fight for our history and we will not let anyone rewrite it for us. No, this is not right. We know who we are. WE ARE LIONS. We will erase the lies. We will reclaim our home. We will rebuild our wall because this is our home. We hope the Paterno family will allow us to put Joe’s statue back in it’s rightful place because this is his home.

People are trying to destroy Success With Honor and everything we stand for, but we will fight for our history. Will you fight with me?

To the members of the Board of Trustees: Yes, right now you have Unchecked Power – but we know what we must do and we know who must do it. We, the Penn State Alumni, will do it. We see the goal line and we won’t stop until we cross it.

We have no deadline…and we are coming.

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About the Author

Sara Civian

Sara Civian is one of Onward State's three ridiculously good looking managing editors, a hockey writer at heart, and an Oxford comma Stan. She's a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in history, and living at Bill Pickle's Tap Room. Her favorite pastimes are telling people she's from Boston, watching the Bruins, and meticulously dissecting the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. She's seen Third Eye Blind live 14 times. If you really hate yourself, you can follow her at @SaraCivian or email her at [email protected]


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